The best party drinks for 2023: taste tested

Christmas drinks on the cards? Expert Susy Atkins picks the best wines, including boxed wines for big gatherings, and spirits for festive parties, special bottles that would make great gifts, and plenty of grown-up non-alcoholic choices so no one feels left out. Cheers!


The best party drinks for 2023: taste tested

The best wines for parties

Lighter white: Specially Selected Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Loire, France 12%

Dry white delivering mouthwatering lemon and grapefruit with a dab of mint. Great on its own or with light salads and seafood snacks. £7.99, available from Aldi

Richer white: Finest Chenin Blanc 2022, Stellenbosch, South Africa 13.5%

There’s a subtle hint of toasty oak on this fuller-textured chenin blanc, with ripe yellow apples in its wake. It can take on quiches, cheeses and more. £8.75, available from Tesco

Juicy red: Co-op Spanish Garnacha 2022, Campo de Borja 14%

Brightly fruity unoaked red, soft enough to be poured without food. It would still suit a charcuterie board though. And a bargain to boot! £6.25, available from The Co-op

Fuller red: Taste the Difference Western Australian Shiraz 2021 14%

If you’re serving spicy snacks or red-meat feasts, this is the red for them. Blackberries, dark chocolate, a twist of black pepper and rounded finish. £9, available from Sainsbury’s

Party pink: Exquise Prestige Grenache Rosé 2022, Languedoc, France 12.5%

Southern French rosé with red cherry and victoria plum flavours. Rosé is drunk all year round now, so bag it for your festive parties. £7.49, available from Lidl

Bargain fizz: Extra Special Crémant de Loire Rosé Brut NV, France 12.5%

I like the delicate strawberry note and lively but soft bubbles in this fizz. It’s more interesting than most proseccos and good value. £11, available from Asda

Celebration bubbles: M&S Collection De Saint-Gall Champagne Premier Cru Brut NV, France 12.5%

Gorgeous fizz with ripe apple and tangy grapefruit notes as well as bready, yeasty depths. £28, Marks & Spencer and via Ocado

The best boxed wines

Hacienda Albae Tempranillo 2020, Tierra de Castilla, Spain 14%

Three bottles’ worth here and a soft, rounded tempranillo with bags of bramble and cooked strawberry fruit, plus a dash of wood spice from a short spell in oak casks. Doesn’t require food but could take on party classics such as pigs in blankets. £33.62 for 2.25 litres, available from The BIB Wine Company

Taste the Difference Coolwater Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2022, Marlborough, New Zealand 12.5%

There are two bottles’ worth of succulent, tangy NZ sauv blanc in this handy box; my tasting notes include passion fruit and gooseberry, and there’s a fresh minerality. Not as strong as some NZ SBs, so it’s a moreish party white. £20 for 1.5 litres, available from Sainsbury’s

The best mixers & soft drinks

Pentire Coastal Spritz, Cornwall

The latest release from Pentire is a cerise-hued no-alc botanical drink in which juicy blood orange takes centre stage, with a bitter twist. A light, refreshing aperitif, especially with cold soda water and a citrus slice. From £22.80 for 50cl, available from Pentire Drinks and Waitrose

Fever-Tree Classic Margarita Mixer, England

There’s plenty of zingy lime, plus blood orange and grapefruit in this new mixer from Fever-Tree; I like the salty dab on the finish too. Add tequila – or not, if you want to keep it booze free. £4.50 for 50cl, available from Waitrose, Ocado, Sainsbury’s

Fentimans Botanically Brewed Ginger Beer, Northumberland

Well balanced ginger beer with plenty of sweetness and a good kick of peppery ginger behind it. Made from fermented ginger root and other natural flavourings including pear juice and capsicum, it’s perfect in a Christmas cocktail. £3.50 for 750ml, available from Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda

Belvoir Farm Non-Alcoholic Lime & Yuzu Mojito, England

A spritzy canned mocktail with a refreshing streak of tangy citrus – the sugar is in check and it’s good value, too. £4.49 for 4 x 25cl cans, available from Sainsbury’s and Amazon

Wave Length Ruby Aperitif, Cornwall

Brilliant ruby-red softie that’s best topped up with cold tonic and ice. Complex and satisfying with flavours of wormwood, herbs and citrus zest, it’s all natural and made by a clever system of fermentation and infusion. £19.99 for 70cl, Wave Length Drinks and Amazon

The best drinks gifts

Patrón Silver Tequila, Mexico 40%

Beautifully balanced tequila from Jalisco, west Mexico, made from 100% blue agave. Fresh, citrus-edged with a subtle sweetness and twist of white pepper, it’s the base for terrific cocktails. £48 for 70cl, available from Waitrose

Cygnet Welsh Dry Gin 40%

Opera singer Katherine Jenkins founded Cygnet recently and its Welsh Dry is a clean, pure delight, with subtle, elegant juniper, coriander seed and orange botanicals. Stunning daffodil-engraved bottle too. From £35.99 for 70cl, available from Cygnet Distillery, Harvey Nichols and Amazon

M&S Collection Bajan Estate XO Rum, Barbados 40%

A jewel in M&S’s new spirits range, fresh on the shelves from this month. This is deeply aromatic and rich, with layer after layer of demerara, gingerbread, chocolate and dried orange. A gorgeous sipping rum to give and share. £30 for 70cl, available from M&S

The best ready-made cocktails

Heston Lazy Mandarin Negroni, England 22%
I love this easy pour, a blend of gin, red vermouth, bitters and mandarin extract. The orange sits nicely, lifting the sweetness, and the bitter is subtle. Pour it neat over ice or top it up with cold sparkling wine, adding a twist of mandarin. £20 for 50cl (five servings), available from Waitrose

Bar Buoy Cocktails Mai Tai, Devon 15%
A Tiki treat: a punchy, lip-smacking ready-made mai tai in a bottle from cocktail wizards Bar Buoy. Two rums – spiced pineapple and white – are mixed with triple sec, orgeat (almond) syrup and lime. Chill it and serve with ice and a citrus wedge. £19.95 for 50cl (five servings), available from Bar Buoy

Goldling Moonlight Organic Vodka Soda, London 6%
This amber-hued canned cocktail, based on organic vodka, is on the lighter side, and has an appealing strawberry streak, with pomegranate juice and a subtle cayenne hint on the finish. £17 for 6 x 33cl cans, available from Goldling Drinks

The best spirits for mixing

Waitrose Vodka, England 37.5%

It might be a modest own-label supermarket vodka, but this smooth spirit won a silver award in the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2023. It’s distilled five times, and I like its fresh, vanilla-tinged character – perfect for a cocktail base. £13.75 for 70cl, Waitrose

Haysmith’s London Dry Gin, England 40%

There’s no need to splash out on premium gin for most cocktails. Aldi’s own label also took silver at IWSC 2023 and is in the classic London dry style with plenty of aromatic juniper and citrus, plus a peppery note. £15.49 for 70cl, available from Aldi

Something different…

Beesou Bitter Aperitif, London 11%

There’s a buzz (sorry) around honey-flavoured drinks at the moment and this is my firm favourite, a bright yellow-amber liqueur whose soft sweetness is gently cut through with bitter orange, grapefruit and spicy bark botanicals – try it chilled, topped up with twice as much sparkling wine (cava is best) for an instant cocktail. £29.99 for 70cl, available from Beesou

Celebrate Christmas in style with our festive cocktail recipes.


More to discover

Subscribe to our magazine

Food stories, skills and tested recipes, straight to your door... Enjoy 5 issues for just £5 with our special introductory offer.


Unleash your inner chef

Looking for inspiration? Receive the latest recipes with our newsletter

We treat your data with care. See our privacy policy. By signing up, you are agreeing to delicious.’ terms and conditions. Unsubscribe at any time.