meIt’s easy to understand why the term “comfort wine,” or even a comfort drink, isn’t used: No one wants to claim that alcohol is a comforter (although it can be in moderation). Of course, many non-alcoholic beverages are comforting, not least tea and hot chocolate (I’d argue coffee doesn’t fall into that category, though it’s more stimulating, but lattes and flat-egg lovers would no doubt disagree).
To achieve convenience, the drink must be familiar and consistent, hence the popularity of brands such as Coca-Cola and PG Tips. You may remember your childhood: I still love pink lemonade, for example, which I can remember first tasting at about the age of two; These days, however, I prefer it in small form.
I think red wine is more comforting than white wine, although I strongly disagreed with a friend about this. He saw the thief was a relief, mostly on familiarity grounds, but I don’t agree with him, especially at the prices you pay for it these days. I insist that cheap, or at least modestly priced, drinks are more comforting than expensive ones, relieving them from being different from being satisfying. And despite the frequent quote from Lily Bollinger — “I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad” — Winston Churchill “In victory, I deserve it; in defeat, I need it,” I don’t find champagne particularly comforting. It’s more festive.
However, sweetness is comforting, especially if paired with strength, as in the case of a port, a rich whiskey or whisky. Is there anything more soothing than a hot dessert when you’ve got a cold? Perhaps a hot buttered rum or a drink that brought relief to injured soldiers in World War I, Benedict and Hot (two Benedicts with hot water), which is curiously good. And if you were given a bottle of brandy or Armagnac for Christmas and managed to keep it from the family, now is the time to enjoy it.
Some of the flavors are comforting, too—especially ginger. I love whiskeys (whiskey and ginger wine) at this time of year, and find wines as exciting, if not more, appealing after Christmas and during January as before; He studies apple juice as well, but they both fall back on hot drinks again. Not a bad idea, especially if you, like many of us, have turned down the heat.
Alcoholic reds aren’t usually my bag, but I really appreciate them this time of year, so I bring Malbec, Shiraz, and Zinfandel, as well as Douro and Languedoc reds. But keep in mind that this weekend will see the end of the Christmas promotions – next week, expect to see prices continue their unrelenting upward trajectory.
Five comforting drinks to see you through the new year
Ginger King £20 (50cl) Waitrose, £25 Berry Bros & Rudd, 29.9% off. A warm ginger liqueur was originally made to keep King Edward VII warm when he rode out in his carriage. She might do the same for you when you walk the dog.
Three-year-old Somerset Cider Brandy £27 for 50cl, £35 for 70cl, £32.25 for whiskey exchange, 42% off. I love all of the Somerset Cider Brandy range, but this one is the cheapest, with lovely pure apple flavour.
Villa Real Rabelo Red 2017 £6.35 co-op, 13%. From the same grape varieties used to make port, the hot and running red Douro is just what you need with the soup.
Morrisons Best Marquis de los Rios Rioja Crianza 2018 £8.50 (when you buy three, save 25% on offer until 1st January), 13.5%. Old-fashioned Rioja scores supreme in comfort. Good value for money too.
Carpe Diem “Bad Boys” 2018 £21.99 (or £18.99 on a mix of six) Majestic, 14% off. A wonderful Moldovan blend of Saperavi, Vityasca Negra, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It’s great to take it to a party and have people guess where it came from (and what grapes it is, if you’re feeling mean).