A holiday in Madeira in the early autumn well and truly introduced me to the concept of the “mocktail” – and I must say it was a delightful experience. Every bar and restaurant had its own specialities and the combination of flavours was invariably highly original, and in many cases, highly successful, based mainly on fresh fruit juices and garnished flamboyantly with slices of pineapple or kiwi fruit, bunches of red currants, whole strawberries, pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs and even a wedge of dragon fruit on one occasion.
Our preferred evening haunt became The Golden Gate Café in the middle of historical Funchal which served Sous-Chef’s favourite choice, the Virgin Nikita: a mixture of pineapple juice and vanilla icecream, terribly rich and horribly sweet, but he loved it. The star for me however was discovered in the seaside bar of a glamorous hotel along the promenade on the outskirts of Funchal. I don’t remember its name but the listed ingredients included berries, lychees and ginger – it was deeply coloured and flavoured, with a good hint of background warmth and an exotic, almost enigmatic fragrance from the lychees.
I was longing to recreate it on my return home but fresh lychees proved elusive. However, with the Christmas festivities well under way, my local supermarket has turned up trumps so here is my reconstruction of my favourite Madeiran mocktail with which to celebrate Christmas.
And what about the mocktail’s nutritional talents? It is high in sugar of course because of the honey required to sweeten the berries, but it is Christmas after all and the nutrients contributed by the fruit and ginger are more than enough to assuage any feelings of guilt! Berries are packed with Vitamin A, C and K and antioxidants such as anthocyanins and polyphenols; lychees are also very high in Vitamin C and polyphenols and have anti-viral properties; and ginger is powerfully anti-inflammatory, can reduce muscle pain and stiffness, and helps to balance blood sugar levels. So drink up and celebrate!
A MADEIRAN MOCKTAIL TO CELEBRATE THE FESTIVE SEASON
Makes 500 ml/1 pint, enough for 4 champagne flutes
300 g/11 oz fresh lychees
150 g/5 oz frozen mixed berries, defrosted
30 g/1 oz fresh ginger, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
Clear honey, to taste
4 champagne flutes
4 drinking straws
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup chilled sparkling mineral water or as needed
For the optional garnish:-
4 fresh raspberries
4 fresh blackberries
8 large blueberries
Peel the lychees and slice the flesh from the stones. Place in a food processor or blender, add the berries and ginger and blend to a smooth purée. Strain through a nylon sieve, scrape into a jug and refrigerator until very cold.
For the garnish, thread a raspberry and a blackberry onto a cocktail stick, followed by a blueberry at each end.
When you are ready to serve the mocktail, stir in honey to taste – the quantity will depend on the sharpness of the berries and the sweetness of the lychees – and one cup of sparkling mineral water. Give it all a good whisk and add a bit more water if it is too thick – it needs to be runny enough to drink through a straw.
Pour the mocktail into champagne flutes, add a straw and garnish with the skewer of fresh berries.