Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
Published October 24th 2020
From chocolates to ciders, top independents for Christmas
Supporting small and independent businesses feels as important as ever this year but artisan companies also offer an array of distinctive and delicious food and drinks to make the festive season even more special.
Christmas cakes from Ginger Bakers - one of the artisan food companies to seek out
So whether it is for your own Christmas table or as a gift, here are some of the best artisan offerings that you can order online this festive season.
BEER AND CIDER
Hiver Beers offer a distinctive flavour as they are made using honey. There's a Honey Beer, a Honey Ale and a vegan version, mentioned in the vegan section further down. The honey doesn't make them sweet, just gives it a welcome unique flavour.
The beers have already won a Gold Medal for Hiver. The Honey Blonde is a crisp lighter beer that is brewed using apple blossom honey from Kent, London and Yorkshire heather.
Hiver beers offer a new type of drink to savour
While the Honey Ale is darker - a brown ale made with darker roasted malts and late season honey that has a gentle aroma of the nectar.
Hiver also makes artisan Fabal Lager - an English lager that is brewed with pressed as well as malted English barleys.
What's more, Hiver supports independent British beekeepers by donating 10% of its profits to pollinator charities and urban space projects.
Cider covers a range of tastes from dry to medium and sweet and Cider Is Wine brings together the highest quality cider and perry makers in one place. Among those on offer is a substitute for champagne in the form of Gospel Green Rosé. This elegant, light subtle pink would go great with canapés or smoked salmon.
Other offerings have bewitching names like Once Upon A Tree Tidnor Oak, which is a perfect match for turkey as it is a dry, full-bodied cider.
Finally for dessert, the Swedish Brännland Claim Iscider is a medium sweet ice cider that comes in an elegant tall bottle. There's an elderflower scent that accompanies this crisp drink as you wash it down with a mince pie or pud.
Could anything look more spectacular than this Snow Globe Gin. The bottle is even fitted with a bulb so it lights up and sparkles.
This orange and gingerbread gin liqueur is made with orange and spice and all things nice. It has the flavours that make it feel, taste and smell like Christmas. It's wonderfully warming for the winter season too. Plus it can double up as a decoration.
Caorunn Gin from Scotland is carefully handcrafted in the Scottish Highlands. Infused with five locally foraged gin Botanical along with six others, it has a fresh and winning flavour that stands out from the crowd.
Rowan berries, heather and bog myrtle are foraged to create this distinctively charming gin. Artisanal and small batch, the gin comes in original flavour and also a raspberry version that has a more fruity kick.
You can find it in Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Tesco stores for £28 and also available from the Caorunn website here.
Highland Boundary offers an exciting new range of spirits distilled on a farm in the heart of Perthshire in Scotland.
The wild Scottish liqueur comes in flavours from Birch & Elderflower spirit to Larch & Honeysuckle and a special edition Birch and Sloe spirit for Christmas.
The spirits work great as a frozen shot, over ice or with soda water garnished with a slice of apple for our perfect pour. It is a great alternative to gin or vodka in cocktails. Highland Boundary Spirits are priced from £25 per bottle, from its website here.
PURE is an organic vodka range, which offers a low-fat version of PURE LITE. At just 20% vol, the drink has half the calories of regular vodka.
PURE was founded by Essex boy Adam Player, who realised the need for a purer, cleaner spirit after reading the back of a vodka bottle on a trip to the pub.
This lighter vodka costs £30 and is vegan-friendly and gluten-free that is a great addition to a cocktail like a Martini. Find out more about the low-fat and regular versions of the vodka at the PURE website here.
Cocktails you can receive in the post? Bring it on during this Covid-era world of bars closing early and restricted gatherings.
Tom Savano Cocktails arrive in beautiful packaging that make ideal gifts too.
This multi award-winning cocktail range by Tom Savano is deliberately made with only small-batch, artisan spirits from around the world, making them the first company to deliberately shun the big distilleries, in favour of the passion and craftsmanship of small, regional distillers with great stories.
Inspired by his travels, cocktails on offer include Devon Coastal Negroni, Caribbean Dawn Mai Tai, English Garden Lychee Martini, Kentucky Winter Old Fashioned and Single Estate Reposado Margarita. Bottles range from £12 for a two-serving bottle or £27 for five servings.
Tom Savano artisan hampers help feed families in need
There are also handcrafted artisan food and drink Christmas hampers available with all proceeds going to charity, to feed families who need it most through the Tressall Trust. Get the cocktails and hampers from the Tom Savano website .
Whether it's because you are driving over Christmas or you want
a break from the excesses of the season, you can dabble with something more exciting with Pentire.
This non-alcoholic spirit is made by distilling plants native to the Cornish coastline.
Pentire is a spirit with a difference from Cornwall
It's a crisp, fresh drink that can be an alternative to gin and tonic or used as part of a cocktail. There's a taste of the coast in every sip but that's probably as it is made from a blend of rock samphire, sage, citrus, herbs and sea salt. Plus it is natural and free from added sugar, colourings and flavourings.
It's already got a following among famous chefs as Nathan Outlaw stocks Pentire at his Port Isaac restaurants, as does Paul Ainsworth in Padstow. Find out more about Pentire and buy bottled from its website here.
Whether you want to serve up some stylish snacks over an aperitif or bring out some tasty savouries while watching your favourite Christmas film, there are some delightful artisan offerings.
Edinburgh-based The Drinks Bakery makes snacks for the discerning palate that are ideally paired with various drinks. The award-winning range of drinks biscuits has distinctive flavours including Mature Cheddar, Smoked Chilli and Almond that matches Belgian fruity beers and ciders, to name a few.
The moorishly crumbly biscuits also come in Lancashire Cheese and Spring Onion; Parmesan, Toasted Pine Nuts and Basil and Pecorino and Rosemary and Scottish Seaweed, which is ideal with a gin and tonic.
Crumbly biscuits that melt in the mouth
Set up by restaurateur and food enthusiast Andy Murray in 2016, the Drinks Bakery aims to "end the tyranny of thoughtless snacks" and comes with a handy leaflet to help match your snacks to the right drinks.
The proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes, and there's a bounty of independent bakers across the country with puddings offering something extra special than the big supermarket brands.
Luxury mince pies from Lake District based Ginger Bakers
Ginger Bakers brings a taste of the Lake District to your home using locally-sourced ingredients. The Kendal-based company offers mouth-watering twists on old favourites like Iced Damson Brandy Fruit Cake and Brandy and Orange Mince Pies.
It takes the staple Christmas food to a whole other level and you'll be coming back for more.
Made by hand to an old family recipe, the award-winning puddings use 10-year-old Somerset Cider Brandy and a local award-winning Stout to make them really special. They're then matured in Mason Cash ceramic basins and wrapped in a traditional cotton cloth wrap.
The finished pudding is a million miles from the mass-produced supermarket version and brings the perfect finishing touch to a really extravagant Christmas dinner.
Puddings come in various sizes from £13.95 for a 340g small to a 950g, serving 8-10 people, for £24.95. Find out more from the Figgy's website here.
Hawkshead Relish Company in the heart of the Lake District is a small business that has won awards for its preserves.
It has a wide range of over 100 hand-made vegetarian-friendly relishes, pickles and preserves that are all free from nuts and gluten. They make products in traditional open pans and don't use artificial flavourings or preservatives and it shows in the intense flavour. Plus all products are suitable for vegetarians.
Christmas products include tangy Boxing Day Chutney, New Year Relish and Fruit Cranberry Sauce. If you can't decide, then you could opt for the festive hamper that is full of all the favourites including Christmas Chutney, New Year Relish, Boxing Day Chutney, Christmas Marmalade, Cumberland Sauce, Fruit Cranberry Sauce,Salted Caramel Sauce, Brandy Butter and Fig and Orange Jam for £37.50. Find products at the Hawkshead Relish Company website here.
Rosebud Preserves has been making its jams, marmalades, chutneys and jellies at Masham in North Yorkshire, since 1989.
The company was started by Elspeth Biltoft and her founding principles remain the same today - to source local produce whenever possible; to cook traditional recipes; and practice time-honoured techniques, without the use of additives, preservatives or pectin.
Gooseberry & Elderflower Jam is a new flavour that joins Christmas favourites from Boxing Day Chutney to Smoked Apple Butter and Red Onion and Port Marmalade. There's even a range of Kilner jars featuring its Old Yorkshire Chutney, Seville Orange Marmalade, Traditional Piccalilli and Almond & Orange Mincemeat. Great as gifts or for your pantry.
Slàinte Sauces come from the Oyster Croft business on the small Scottish island of Lismore. These cocktail-inspired drizzles each contain 25% of a tipple that can be poured over seafood, meats, burgers, salads and desserts.
Promising to 'bring the celebration to your table', sauces include Gin & Cranberry - a perfect match over turkey or ice cream - to Port, Cherry & Black Pepper - ideal over beef, duck, venison as well as fruitcake or Stilton.
For those with a sweet tooth, how about the Rum & Salted Caramel or the White Chocolate & Raspberry Martini. Buy sauces from the Oyster Croft website here.
Buttermilk Fudge is an artisan confectioner that was created in the food mecca of Padstow in Cornwall back in 1964.
Dreamy concoctions from the Buttermilk kitchen in Padstow
The Buttermilk kitchen has come up with a dreamy range of flavours that are fudge at its best. Plus on top of fudge, they also have crunchy peanut brittle, chocolate clusters of salted peanut and chocolate truffles - including dairy-free options.
The Christmas range even includes Mince Pie Fudge but there's the regular options for gifts too that include fudge in flavours of clotted cream, cookies and cream, caramel sea salt, chocolate, vanilla and more. Sweet treats start from £3.75 from the Buttermilk website.
Who can resist an adorable chocolate snowman? Montezuma chocolate company has come up with various flavours in their Chocolate Truffle Snowmen range.
Irresistable chocolate snowmen
These gloriously chunky and satisfying pieces of chocolate cost £5.99 per pack and include Milk Chocolate & Cranberry Truffle Filled Snowmen, 100% Cocoa Absolute Black Truffle and Dark Chocolate and Hazlenut. There's also vegan versions that you can see in the section below.
For white chocolate fans, look to the Snowballs in White Chocolate with a Salted Caramel centre or White Chocolate with a Milk Chocolate Orange centre Snowballs. Delicious.
Dorset-based, independent, artisan chocolatier Chococo has crafted a tempting festive range that ranges from selection boxes with its chocolates and truffles for £24.50 to chocolate biscuit cakes, fruit and nut salamis and new hamper bags to share.
The fruity flavours come from a mix of currants, apple puree, mixed species and brandy. Oggs are available in Sainsbury's supermarkets.
Hiver Beers offer a vegan-friendly beer, including a Fabal vegan lager. You can find out more at the website here.
Vegan-friendly chocolate snowmen
Montezuma offers a vegan selection of chocolate too including the Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut Truffle Filled Snowmen for £5.99.
Chococo also has a Vegan Selection Box for £25. It includes rich dark chocolate truffles made with 80% cocoa solids origin chocolate from Uganda along with clusters of Madagascar origin dark chocolate studded with candied orange, cardamom, cocoa nibs and crushed pistachios.
Artisan vegan chocolates from Chococo
There are plenty of vegan options - even a chocolate biscuit wreath. Visit the Chococo website here.