Food & Drink

What to Drink on Christmas Day… the Experts Spill

By Megan Osborne
20th Dec 2014

Aussies love to celebrate the festive season with, well, feasting, but who doesn’t love a good tipple while they’re at it? It seems a lot of thought goes into the cooking, but what about the drinking? What if your drinks menu was as thought out as your foodie extravaganza? Too much effort, stress and headache-inducing organisation and research you say? That’s where we’re here to help.

Well, not us exactly, more like the experts. We asked three awesomely talented, (and wildly different) maestros of the food and drink industry the best drinks to pair with some of your favourite festive feasts. 

Fiona Lim, Co-Owner of Wine Republic in Fitzroy, has created a decadent list of holiday-worthy cocktails that are good enough to be wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree, (but you’re more likely to down them before you’ve even found the cellotape!). 

Or, if wine is more your thang, and you appreciate a good drop, Tony Winspear, Winemaker for Balgownie Estate in Bendigo and Yarra Valley offers up his suggestions for the perfect vino matches.

And for the folks who like a frothy to get festive to, there’s some advice for you, too! Dave Bonighton, Co-Founder and Chief Brewer at Mountain Goat Beer, sheds some light on the best brews to bring to the Christmas table. 

BREAK THE ICE BEVVIE | A Good Drink to Start With


Lim has some pretty wise words on this matter. When asked what a good drink to start off the festivities with, she replied with gusto, ‘A good Champagne cocktail of course!’ Cheers to that, am I right, Listers? ‘The simplest way to make a great Champagne cocktail is to use a jar of Griottines Cherries in Cointreau. Pour a good dollop into a champagne glass and top up with your favourite dry Champagne,’ says Lim. Simple-as-sipping! 


Winspear is also on board the fizzy train, and suggests a Balgownie NV Cuvee or any good Tasmanian sparkling. Have a few sips and you’ll be set to giggle your way through your Xmas feasting!


Bonighton suggests setting your palate up (we like that he respects the undertaking of eating all that gourmet goodness) with something light, crisp and aromatic. ‘I’ll be starting on one of ours, the Mountain Goat Organic Steam Ale,’ he adds. Yeah, we’ll crack open one with you Dave!

TIPSY TURKEY | Traditional Roast Turkey with Veggies and Trimmings


Lim is a big fan of cocktails that stand out on their own two feet (something you won’t be doing after a few). ‘I love matching drinks that don’t just complement the food, but also evoke the feeling of Christmas,’ she says. Her recipe for I Dream of Christmas is beautifully vibrant with colours yellow, red and green creating a stunning Chrissie sunset in your glass!

I Dream of Christmas
In a martini glass: 
Add 60ml Gabriel Boudier Saffron Gin
Add equal amounts of cranberry juice ice cubes and blood orange juice ice cubes  
Garnish with a bay leaf


For a classic dish, Winspear recommends a classy drop, suggesting a Sparkling Shiraz or elegant cool climate Shiraz. ‘[These] will match the richness of the turkey and the sweetness of the cranberry sauce,’ he notes. For those that prefer a white, a full-bodied Chardonnay should also go down a treat.


Turkey can be a tricky one according to Bonighton. His advice? Keep it simple. ‘Bridge Rd Brewery’s Biere de Garde (Beechworth) has a subtle blend of spices (star anise, clove) that work well with stuffing, and the residual malty sweetness harmonises with the cranberry, gravy and roasted veggies.’ Even better? Bonighton is thinking of your inescapable food-coma-baby-tumor, as this beer’s carbonation will lift and lighten your otherwise rich and hearty meal! Thanks Dave!

FRISKY FISH | Cooked White Fish, Sashimi, Salmon, Tuna


To match the delicate flavour of cooked white fish, Lim has created a cocktail pairing that will complement rather than overpower your flakey…flake? ‘I love using limes and lemons with fish dishes, but you don’t have to add these in the cooking. Think a bit differently and go with a citrus-boosted cocktail to accompany.’ We love her suggestion of a light and fizzy accompaniment to your baked barramundi or fried fillet! 

Basque Breeze
Fill a pint glass with ice and:
Add 90ml La Guita Manzanilla
Take half a lime, quartered and squeeze the juice into the glass. Why not throw the limes in while you’re at it
Top up the glass with Fentimans Ginger Beer

For sashimi, Lim recommends a good Sake. ‘Sake and sashimi is a match made in the heavens of the Japanese food Gods,’ she enthuses, telling us to try the Chikuma Nishiki ‘Kizan Sanban’ 2013—Junmai Ginjō Nama Genshu Sake from Nagano, Japan, and to heat it up in a bowl of hot water (preferably decanted in a Sake jug) first! Or for your sweet tooth, ‘try Ōta Shuzō Dokan Umeshu, Plum Wine served simply on ice with a dash of soda water… It is simply the best Plum Wine available in Australia.’ 

But back to the cocktails! Because nothing goes better with an oily fish like salmon and tuna than a good sour cocktail according to Lim! ‘A personal all-time favourite sour of mine is Amaretto Sour. The secret is to use good quality Amaretto and egg whites! To add a bit more complexity, play around with your bitters instead of using the standard fare. I love the way the acid cuts through the rich fish and the garnishes of orange and cherry just scream Christmas.’ We’re all for screaming Christmas, so here’s a ripper Amaretto Sour recipe. 

Amaretto Sour
In a shaker:
Add 60ml Distilleria Berta Amaretto di Mombaruzzo 
Add 30ml lemon juice
Drop in 15ml of free-range egg white
One dash Dale de Groff’s Pimento Bitters
Shake that baby and pour into an old fashioned glass filled with ice
Garnish with a slice of orange and a glazed cherry (or Morello Cherry)


Winspear reckons nothing can beat a crisp white to go with your… crisp white! ‘A Semillon, Riesling or Fiano will love fresh white fish,’ although he recommends something fruitier for sashimi. ‘Sashimi needs a textural duet, with Pinot Gris and the sweeter Gris will cope with a (little) wasabi.’ 

If you’re going the salmon or tuna route, Winspear recommends a Balgownie Estate Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley, as it will go down perfectly with the richness of your dishes. There you have it! All your fishy fantasies can now be complemented with the perfect drop!


Bonighton loves him some cooked white fish, and he would serve up a baked snapper paired with a Belgian-style Saison, brewed by La Sirene (Mordialloc). ‘This is a yeasty, complex beer yet finishes crisp and dry, letting the fish shine through.’ 

For the tangy freshness of sashimi, he’s decided to break his ‘local rule’. ‘Japan’s Hitachino Nest White Ale is brewed with sashimi in mind by one of the great Japanese craft brewers.’ Well, we think that’s a pretty good reason—we’re all about trusting the experts! 

For salmon or tuna, Bonighton suggests a crisp Pilsner. ‘Holgate Brewhouse (Woodend) do a great one,’

SLOSHED SEAFOOD | Seafood Bonanza, Prawns, Oysters, Mussels, Crabs and Bugs


‘To be honest everything cold and spritzy goes well with a seafood bonanza,’ says Lim. ‘Everything from Singapore Slings to a good old Italian Aperol Spritz is perfect.’ We’ll get on board (the boat) with that! Here’s Lim’s option of a Spritzer, with a light and refreshing twist!

Summer Spritz
In an ice filled wine glass, add: 
30ml Vedrenne elderflower liquor
The juice of half a lime
A sprig of mint
Top up the glass with an extra dry Prosecco. Try Luigi Domenico Cosmo Extra Dry Prosecco.


Winspear reckons seafood is all about white wine. ‘Beautiful shellfish matches white wine to perfection. Fresh oysters and Champagne or Sparkling are a must. Prawns served with Asian-inspired spices want Riesling of Gewurtztraminer.’ He recommends a Chardonnay to go with mussels, crabs and bugs—full bodied if the food is served with a rich sauce. The Balgownie Estate’s 2011 and 2012 award winning Chardonnays are perfect for some all round seafood-seasonal-sipping!


Bonighton has some brilliant brew recommendations for your big seafood bonanza. For an all-round match, try the Mountain Goat Summer Ale, or the La Sirene Saison for some slightly sweet and low on bitterness brews! For more specific dishes, he suggests Two Birds Brewing ‘Taco’ (Spotswood) to go with prawns. This beer is inspired by the classic Mexican taco, and brewed with lime peel and coriander! Yum! Perfect to spice up some delicious prawns (add lime as you see fit). 

He also suggests that you need something ‘super light, dry and tangy’ to go with oysters, and recommends Moon Dog Brewery’s ‘Watermelon Weizen’ (Abbotsford). It’s brewed with watermelon, lime and mint. ‘It’s a great palate resetter after a big, briny summer oyster.’ 

For mussels, he opts for the Australian take on the Belgian classic dish, with Mornington Peninsula Brewery’s ‘Witbier’. It’s brewed with coriander seeds and citrus peel—fresh! For a bit of extra Bonighton-flavoured advice, ‘Don’t just eat your mussels with beer, but cook them in it as well.’

And if you’re waiting to sink your paws into some claws, wrap your greasy, greedy pincers around a light summer ale to match your delicious crabs and bugs. Try Mountain Goat’s Summer Ale, with fruity hops that blend with the slight sweetness of crab meat!

HAPPY HICCUP HAM | Baked Ham, Roast Pork


‘Christmas ham is often glazed with orange juice and cloves and I wanted to come up with a cocktail that will enhance those flavours,’ says Lim. There’s nothing better than some spiced fruit flavours for your festive season, so get excited for this sweet drink, that ‘will match particularly well with the ham, like a pig in mud’.

The Four Pillars of Happiness
In an old fashioned glass, add:
60 ml Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin
One very large ice cube
Two drops of leatherwood honey 
Garnish with a stick of cinnamon


Ham and pork are all about rich flavours, sauces and complete and total indulgence! Winspear proposes a complex, medium bodied Shiraz, such as the Balgownie Estate Shiraz 2010. Other options that would work swimmingly are the fine tannin structure of the Bests Bin O or Seppelts St Peters Shiraz.


Here you want something a bit hoppy and aromatic, says Bonighton, suggesting the Hargraves Hill Special ‘ESB’ from the Yarra Valley. Touted as an Australian twist on an English classic, Bonighton mentions that ‘the maltiness of this beer is the perfect weight to accommodate roast pork or baked ham.’ Okay, if you insist, pour us another then (and more crackling!)!

BUBBLY BBQ | Snags, Steak, Salads


‘An Aussie Christmas BBQ calls for a very Aussie drink.’ Truer words were never spoken, Fiona! Advocating for a good Shiraz to accompany your barbequed meats, Lim offers up a great Sangria recipe. ‘If you’re having a BBQ, it’s highly likely you are in the company of good friends. Something in a big cold jug does the trick!’

The Aussie Sangria
Take a large jug
Fill with ice
Add 120ml Maidenii Classic Vermouth
Drop in a dash of St Agnes Brandy
Fill up the jug with a full bodied Sparkling Shiraz. Try the Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Sparkling Shiraz.  
Garnish with cut fruit. Diced apples and sliced oranges work beautifully.


Red meat needs red wine, and BBQ style calls for some young vibrant reds with soft tannins such as Grenache, Mouvedre and Tempranillo. ‘[These wines] team beautifully with BBQ meats and take spicy chorizo sausages in their stride,’ says Winspear. If it’s a scorcher of a day, try a cold Balgownie Estate Sparkling Shiraz, a perfect accompaniment to some sizzling red meat!


‘Charred or caramelised meat calls for caramelised malt, and hops,’ says Bonighton. Makes sense to us (as well as having us salivating over some charred and caramelised meaty goodness!) ‘Brown Ales, Amber Ales and English Pale Ales all use moderately roasted malt to impart a soft, toffee/caramel-like flavour. These beers blend perfectly with a well-seared steak. The carbonation lifts and refreshes the palate, and quenches your thirst. It’s a great all-rounder. Try Cavalier Brewery’s Brown Ale (Derrimut).’ Oh we will Dave, once we’ve stopped dreaming of toffee, caramel and meat!

RED NOSED ROUND-UP | To Round Up the Day


Lim promises us she’s left the best for last! ‘This is one of my favourite cocktails to make and, to be honest, I do make it a lot. Like any great drink, quality ingredients are critical. Whether you have this with your Christmas pudding or just as is to finish off the day, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.’ We’re all set for this deliciously wicked dessert cocktail. Make sure you save room for this one, Listers!

Be My PX Tonight
Take an old fashioned glass
Fill with large blocks of ice
Add 60ml Bally 3yo Agricole Rum 
Add 60ml Cardinal Cisneros Pedro Ximinez
Splash with two dashes of Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Christmas Bitters 
Garnish with a slice of orange and green olive


‘Rare Rutherglen Muscat or Topaque provides the perfect sweet finish,’ says Winspear, and here at The Urban List we love a good sweet finish. Celebrate the end of the year with a sweet drop, and maybe a game or two of charades (we take no blame for family arguments that ensue!)


If cheese is more your thing, and you’re just not into the sweet stuff, Bonighton recommends the Boatrocker Brewery’s ‘Ramjet’ (Braeside). ‘A whisky barrel aged Imperial Stout, at 10.2% it’s a huge beer—and goes great with blue cheese. The perfect night cap.’

Speaking of night caps, once you’ve drunk yourself under the table, and celebrated, feasted and filled up with all you can, stay safe, Listers. And a Merry Christmas to you all!


Image Credit: Pineapple and Coconut.

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