Wynne's Winter Warmers
Winter is a time for indulgence, the arrival of the long nights and cold days gives everyone an excuse to wrap up and prepare your favourite seasonal pick-me-up. Here are a few things to look forward to the most and some of the best locations to indulge in them.
If ever there was a classic winter cocktail it would have to be a hot toddy. This is something that is simple and timeless and has been enjoyed in the same way for hundreds of years. For maximum enjoyment wait until after dark and curl up next to a peat fire like in Ceol na Mara and slowly savour the sweet mixture of single malt whisky, hot water and honey.
A day outside in the snow when you are staying at Woodlands, whether it be sledging, skiing or snowball fighting can be a tiring experience. As soon as your activity ceases you can start to feel the winter chill. The best guard against this is some mulled wine prepared in the way that alpine nations do at this time of year. Spices, brown sugar and a shot of brandy will transform the most ordinary of red wines into a rejuvenating tonic.
It’s cold outside and you can hear a storm raging from the warmth and comfort of your bed. An excuse then for a little bit more of a lie-in. When your beloved finally brings you breakfast in bed then as its Christmas, there is only one way to start the day, Bucks Fizz made with proper champagne and freshly squeezed orange juice. From the cosiness of the bedroom in the Old Salmon Bothy you can watch the storm pass and put off getting dressed that little bit longer.
Mincemeat pies are a festive institution and nobody needs further excuse to tuck in. The perfect pie is rich and soft and is perfectly complemented by something thick and creamy. The kitchen at Burn Cottage is so well equipped, making your own is a breeze. My ideal accompaniment for when they are fresh out of the oven is a Baileys hot chocolate with loads of extra cream.
For a Christmas get together in a big house like Couldoran then nothing gets the party started like a massive bowl of rum punch. A good quality dark spiced rum makes a great base along with Bacardi, Malibu and tropical fruit for that authentic Caribbean flavour.
Scotland’s mountains are at their best in winter but a day’s climbing in sub-zero conditions can take its toll. Brandy was for many years carried by mountain rescue teams in the Alps and the kick it gives you is by far the best way to re-energise when you are feeling depleted. Samuel Johnson famously said “Claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.”
From Clashindeugle Farmhouse right in the heart of the Cairngorms then you can easily reach a huge number of peaks on a day trip, so go on, be a hero and return to a hero’s welcome of hot cider with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and calvados.
Breakfast on New Year’s Day can often be synonymous with suffering the after effects of a highland Hogmanay. Stornoway is the centre of some of the fiercest Hogmanay partying I have ever witnessed. You can be close to the centre of the action but still make an easy escape when it gets too much if you stay at Peninsula Cottage. For the morning after, the best revival cure is a classic Bloody Mary and a long soak in the hot tub.
Although known as an Irish coffee I would only ever put a single Scottish malt in my favourite bedtime nightcap. It just seems to taste so much better by an open fire with a book and a blanket for company. Some cocktails are sociable but this is my favourite to savour and indulge alone. Somewhere by the sea like Thistledown would make it taste even sweeter.