I’m not one to pass on the festivities, Christmas is a time for indulgence and fun. But all too often the fun is accompanied by hangovers and ultimately succumbing to various bugs that are hovering round at this time of year.

Having just come through an annoying cold and cough, sped on its way by intense ginger-infused hot toddies in the evenings, I thought I’d share a few festive tipples that won’t play havoc with your sugar levels, are delicious, healthy and actually support the immune system.

With drinking, it’s worth taking a few damage-limiting precautions. We don’t want to ruin all that hard work at the gym and don’t want to succumb to hangovers and sickness.

We know that alcohol isn’t that good for us and sugary cocktails are probably the worst offenders for calories and weight gain (you can see our guide to booze here). But its Christmas time and we’re going to drink them anyway so I thought I may as well make some that are more beneficial and actually provide us with powerful nutrients needed through the sleep-deprived party season.

Ginger syrup

ginger syrup 2
This recipe is central to my immune-boosting arsenal during the winter and I now have a constant bottle in the fridge. By day it works well as a syrup added to sparkling water or as a tea. By night it can transform drinks into festive-tasting, bug-busting cocktails. I make a large batch and keep it in the fridge for about a week:

Ingredients: 200g fresh ginger, ½ lemon, 2 star anise, 500ml water, ½ tsp cinnamon, 3 tbsp maple syrup (add to taste, you may need a little more).

Method: finely slice the ginger and roughly chop the lemon (including the peel), place all the ingredients in a pan, except for the syrup, and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, then leave to cool. Stir in the maple syrup until combined and strain the liquid syrup out and store in an airtight bottle. It keeps in the fridge for about a week.

Benefits: Ginger is great for aiding digestion, especially useful around Christmas time. It’s also a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Ginger is perfect for this time of year as it stimulates circulation, helping blood flow to the liver which increases detoxification. It also soothes the gut, reducing nausea and wind – useful if you’ve overdone the sprouts!

We especially love lemon peel as it contains a powerful compound called limonene which is super protective to our livers and has anti-cancer properties. The star anise is anti-viral (it’s the major ingredient in the drug Tamiflu) and cinnamon helps with blood sugar control.

So this syrup is like an herbal tonic, protecting on many levels and tasting fab too which is a bonus.

Ginger and pomegranate fizz

Ingredients: 1tbsp ginger syrup, 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or 30ml pomegranate juice), 1 glass Prosecco.

Method: combine the pomegranate molasses and ginger syrup in the bottom of a champagne glass. Add Prosecco and swirl until combined. Sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds (optional).


Hot toddy

The manuka honey is a great natural antibiotic and particularly soothing for sore throats. This drink is my first port of call when I am feeling under the weather and it’s really comforting at this time of year.

Ingredients: 30ml ginger syrup, 1 shot whisky, 1 cup hot water, 1/2 tsp manuka honey.

Method: combine the ginger syrup, whisky and hot water in a mug or heat-proof glass. Allow to cool a little before stirring in the manuka honey as high heat destroys some of the honey’s benefits.

Pear and ginger jig

This is a really refreshing drink, great for the afternoon or pre-dinner cocktails. This recipe also works well with fresh apple juice.

Ingredients: 2 tbsp ginger syrup, 1 shot vodka, 60ml pear juice, sparkling water or ginger ale to top.

Method: add ice to a long glass, pour in the ginger syrup, vodka and pear juice. Use a stirrer to combine and top with sparkling water.

Hot buttered rum

This is a classic drink from America. I’ve substituted the butter for coconut oil as it has a richer, sweeter taste and is also a potent anti-viral. Plus, the good fats in the oil help slow the rate the alcohol hits the liver so you can have a few of these without toppling over!

Ingredients: 1tsp coconut oil, 1 shot dark rum (whisky and brandy also work well), 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 cup boiling water, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise (or clove), fresh nutmeg.

Method: put the coconut oil, star anise and maple syrup at the bottom of a glass, add the rum then top up the glass with boiling water. Mix with the cinnamon stick until combined. Garnish with a grating of fresh nutmeg.