Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Frances’ Festivus Picks for an Alternative Christmas

The story of Festivus, as told by Seinfeld

Being the decent human beings that you are, you will be well aware of the tradition of Festivus, the Festivus for the rest of us (if you're not, read that link and watch the video above, or the joy of this whole post will be lost on you.)

Celebrated on 23rd December, it gives a good excuse for an extra day of getting popped up and falling asleep on a bathroom floor with your dignity and your tights at your feet. It’s still remarkably uncommercial, Diageo haven’t even got around to making Smirnoff Festivus Pole POS.

Typically, my family has celebrated Festivus with the usual case of Boddingtons and a good solid argument about who gets to choose what we watch. Having moved to Scotland from Manchester 8 years ago, I am now not able to get hold of Boddingtons, and McEwans Export just ain’t gonna cut it, so for the past 8 years I’ve improvised and done rather well with the upkeep of Festivus in my home (and I get accused of not growing as a person). If you’re in need of some guidance for this most magical time of the year, then you’ve come to the right place.



It’s important that you get the right drinks in for the Airing of Grievances tradition. I recommend bitters such as Amaro (£16.45, TheDrinkShop) or Cynar (£13.95, The Whisky Exchange) for this portion of the celebrations, the intense flavour and the savoury taste will work well whilst you explain to your nearest and dearest exactly why you’ve been so disappointed this year. 

If you can’t handle anything quite so bitter, you could try Campari (£15.30, Tesco) or Aperol (£14.50, Tesco), which both have the qualities of good Italian bitters, but are considerably sweeter. Add soda if you’ve got a lot of complaining to do, it’ll lengthen the drink beautifully. Don’t make the mistake of drinking gin during this portion of the celebrations as it tends to end in tears, and in some cases, badly made martinis.

The Feats of Strength tradition is always a bit of disaster in the my house, this is mainly because my father is built like a proverbial brick house, and it takes the other 4 of us co-operating to get him pinned to the floor and we HATE co-operating. What can help here is whisky, because although it can extenuate arguments, it often leads to wanting to embrace our fellow team members and ‘Just All Get Along’. 

My whisky of choice before a bout of wrestling is always Laphroaig Quarter Cask (£38.05, The Drink Shop). It has great intensity and complexity for such a young, inexpensive single malt. Peat smoke, leather and heather intensity with a bright, clear finish. If you can’t bear the peaty malts, try Talisker (Talisker Storm is on offer at Tesco for £31.70 down from £39.50 until 12/11), which whilst not peated has a lovely smoky aspect to it and is a good ‘learner’ malt for those interested in Islay malt.

Wine pairings with The Strike meal really prove the worth of any sommelier. The traditional meal, meat-loaf with spaghetti hoops is problematic because of the tomato sauce. At once sweet and acidic, it can be tough to get the balance right. Thankfully, the drive of the dish is the meat-loaf and this is relatively straightforward despite the variety of ingredients used. 

Merlot with a bit of spice to us would suit, especially if your meat-loaf, like thousands of meat-loaves that have come before it, is pretty bland and reminds you of polystyrene that’s been sat at the bottom of your bin for a week or so. Merlot from the US is a reasonable option, but you’d also get some good results with a Carmenere. Neither are too tannic, so would be able to cope with the spaghetti hoops well.

The Mont Gras Chilean Carmenere is available from Waitrose at £9.49 and is really rich, concentrated and appealing. It also allows you to sort from the men from the boys with the 'How do you pronounce Carmenere' game I'm petitioning to be added to the Festivus Canon.



Sadly I can’t help you with what to drink during your Fesitvus Miracles, as you don’t know what they are. However, I can help you prepare for some eventualities. In my emergency miracle kit I’ve got a bottle of Good Polish Vodka (tm), I like Cracowia (£20.15, The Whisky Exchange), U’Luvka (£32.95) and Wyborowa (£18.78, Drinks Direct) if I’m stuck in a Tesco and am losing the will to live. 

I’d also make sure you have some Pernod (£18.50, Tesco). You have to learn to love Pernod and other Pastis, but it’s worth it because then everyone leaves you alone and you don’t need to share and that’s the true spirit of Festivus!

Merry Festivus, Jerkweeds. I guess.

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