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It’s become a tradition in my little family to begin reading a small section of Christmas at Highclere, Lady Carnarvon’s beautifully written volume on how the holidays are spent at the world’s finest country home. 

Creating cocktails is a blend of inspiration mixed with a foundational understanding of but a few simple ingredients. With each menu I create, I find that the imagination becomes what really turns out something beautiful, especially at Christmas time.

The following are beverages from my very own journal that I’ve named Highclere at Christmas. I take the holiday cocktails quite seriously, and I also have reconciled with the fact that after a night of entertaining, storytelling, and cocktail quality control, if you please, I am unable to remember the ingredients and their particular amounts. The result is two years of drinks filled with holiday cheer and quite robustly fortified with my royal liquid retainer, Highclere Castle Gin.

Lord and Lady Carnarvon enjoy their cocktails at The Highclere Castle at Christmas time.
Cranberry Carols salad using Highclere Gin, Christmas at Highclere Castle

Cranberry Carols salad 

1 ½ ounce Highclere Castle Gin
¾ ounce Wild Moon Cranberry Liqueur
½ ounce lemon juice
½ ounce simple syrup

Shaken and poured into stemless wine glass
Top with 2 ounces sparkling wine

Holiday Hip Flask

This was created in honor of Lady Carnarvon’s Sloe Gin Recipe but can be made into an alcohol-free version for those who choose not to imbibe. This will be much richer than the flavor of a sloe gin, due to the cooking of the berries in a caramelized syrup

1 ½ ounces HCG
¾ ounce “Rosie’s Slosie” Syrup
2 ounces Grapefruit juice
Top Soda

Shaken and strained into a Collins glass
Garnish with a dried grapefruit and Rosemary Sprig

Rosie’s Slosie Syrup
250 Grams Sugar
259 Grams Water
Handful of Sloe berries
2 Rosemary Sprigs

Add all ingredients to small saucepan and allow to simmer below boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low for up to an hour (This is to taste) strain into holiday swing top bottles

Snow Covered Steinway Martini

This was inspired by a picture of The Earl (he told me to call him Geordie, which I think is rather cool) and Lady Carnarvon enjoying majestic looking martinis in The Drawing Room. These are reserved for those guests who will board for the evening as it’s quite strong.

2 oz Highclere Castle Gin
¾ oz Italicus Bergamot Liqueur
2 dashes orange Bitters
Thyme Sprig

Stir all ingredients until well chilled
Strain into large martini glass
Garnish with thyme sprig and lemon twist

Shooting Tea

At the end of Boxing Day’s shooting lunch, port wine is enjoyed with cheese and quince. This is certain to warm a weary gun for the afternoon’s final shooting drive. It’s a gin’s sendup of the Toddy with the port giving a foundation upon which high the gin and honey play. Nothing is better after rigorous activity in the cold than a cuppa, and true to American bombast, a double brew provides a lift to the senses and adds a pleasant note of tannic bitterness.

1 ounce Highclere Castle Gin
2 ounces Tawny Port
Scant spoon Honey Syrup (Lady Carnarvon calls it Runny Honey. I love it!)
5 ounces double brewed Black tea, piping hot.

Add all ingredients to handled teacup. Garnish with a blackberry and lemon slice.

I present these cocktails to remind us that during this season, we are blessed with these special flavors and tastes that transport the soul by way of the palate. Each page solidifies the grace and welcoming spirit of Lady Carnarvon and the castle at Christmas.

Though we may not be spending Christmas at Highclere, we are most fortunate to experience Highclere at Christmas, wherever we may be.