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Celebrations: Christmas is always a blast at our house

I’m a real sucker for Christmas. I still have home-made decorations, angels and hanging ornaments made by the children 35 years ago. Our old wheelbarrow, rusted and full of holes, nonetheless gets a coat of red paint each year to turn it into Father Christmas’s cart. (The reindeer that pulls it is a rocking horse

Freddy Gray

Cider: How I made my own pear cider: it’s called Fred’s Perry

When we moved into the new house, we felt lucky to have a pear tree in our garden. How grown up, we thought. Then September came and the tree started raining fruit. Masses of fruit. Our green and pleasant lawn transformed into a carpet of greeny-yellowy-brown pears, which squelched gruesomely underfoot. I invited my children

A cure for Christmas: the pleasure (and perils) of preserves

My family knows that once the flaming pudding is on the table, late on Christmas Day, all meals will be picnics. Bar a few potatoes flung into the oven to bake, all cooking stops and eating becomes a forage into a squirrelled hoard of treats: the jars, tins, balsawood boxes and less pretty but functional

Whisky: A new star in the East to rival Scotch whisky

There’s a dirty Scottish secret. Nothing to do with the price of Brent crude, or who votes for Nicola: it’s that our global triumph, whisky, is now done rather brilliantly by others. Your reviewer is no bigot. I have gurgled and gargled Canadian, Swedish, Welsh and American whisky. These days, winter isn’t winter without Woodford

Join the preservation society… drink fortified wine

The sherry industry always used to admit that 75 per cent of its UK sales occurred in the weeks before Christmas. A large proportion of this was to teetotallers, who needed something to offer the family, or the vicar, or Father Christmas, or whoever happened to drop by over the holidays and was in need of

The office party should not be hard work

Is anything worse than the office Christmas party? It is almost always a horror show. Colleagues who are cheerful all year round turn into angry drunks. Usually benign bosses become second-rate pimps. The interesting become boring and the boring become interminable. The average office Christmas do tends to leave you wishing you didn’t have to

Cocktails: Talking ’bout milk and alcohol

A few years ago, I came across an interview with an illustrious French chef who had made his home in Britain. I’ve forgotten which chef, but I do remember him going to some lengths to impress on us rosbifs just how lucky we are with our dairy cows. When he moved here, he was astonished

English Cooking: Discover the true value of pie

We all know what we think of as the great English Christmas lunch/dinner — turkey (originally from America) or goose (a worldwide bird, first domesticated in Ancient Egypt), Brussels sprouts (from Rome via Belgium), potatoes (also from the Americas). So, in fact, there is no such thing as a great English feast. Or is there? While

The Christmas lunch

Illustrated by Carolyn Gowdy There was no soup in the freezer. She surveyed the jettisoned items and there, on a can of creosote, was a tub The early Christmas lunch party had been Bunny Wedgewood’s idea. But Bunny had pulled out the day before, having been sectioned by her daughter and son-in-law. Notification came from

The Servant

You will see, alas, that all of this is true. One morning, I awoke in a feather bed in a room in a tavern and reached, as I always did, for my purse of gold, but it was not there. I had been travelling on business for many months and weeks with only my faithful

Not all single malts from Islay are for peat freaks

Even in the driving rain, the Isle of Islay is a heart-stoppingly beautiful spot. High in the hills behind the Bruichladdich distillery, there are sweeping views east across Loch Indaal, and I fancied I could just about pinpoint Bowmore distillery across the foaming grey waters. The wind was gusting, the sheep were bleating, the geese

At last, trendy gins are tasting like gin again

I blame my mother. Although gin wasn’t her ruin, I have to admit, she did enjoy a gin and tonic. And as any student of the spirits industry will tell you, you never drink what your parents drink. The problem, I now realise, was that gin in the 1970s wasn’t very good. Tonic water was

Lloyd Evans

A critic’s guide to theatre bars

Head upstairs. That’s my tip for thirsty play-goers during the interval. Most West End theatres are sunken affairs built in scooped-out craters, and this quirk of their design places the stalls 20 feet beneath the earth’s crust (hence the belly-rumble of Tube trains that wakens sleepy-heads during Twelfth Night or The Winter’s Tale). So the

The uneasy marriage of Jamaica’s two greatest exports

Music and booze go together. Just think of Keith Richards in the 1970s with his Jack Daniel’s. There’s the love affair between hip-hop and luxury French booze: Busta Rhymes wrote a song called ‘Pass the Courvoisier’. And think of Puff Daddy and his Cristal champagne, though he later changed his name to P Diddy and

Seven apps to help you drink wine

After lots of practice, I’ve reached the stage where I can usually tell a good wine from a bad one. But there’s an awful lot of bluffing involved. If I’m asked for an assessment, I mutter something about ‘tannins’ and ‘structure’, while eyeing the bottle for the alcohol content and price. A good-looking label helps

Michael Seresin – from film noir to pinot noir

Michael Seresin claims, rather modestly, to ‘have no palate’, choosing instead to describe wine with light, colour and form. These are not your typical winemaker’s terms, but they make perfect sense given his unusual back story. Born and raised in New Zealand, Seresin emigrated to Europe in 1966 to pursue a career in cinematography. Movie