The 12 drinks of Christmas

I'm a firm believer that there's a drink for every occasion, and the holiday season calls for a tipple more than most. Armed with the right beverage for the right moment, there's little you won't be able face.

Work Christmas parties. They have the tendency to escalate – to spiral out of control as a socially awkward assembly of people look to blur the lines of professional relationships by getting plastered. If you want to hold on to a sense of decorum, space your alcoholic beverages with water or Australian's favourite temperance mix - the lemon, lime and bitters.

A lower-alcohol mix I often drink is an Americano – a shot of Campari and sweet vermouth topped with soda. It's barely a standard unit of alcohol but has flavour in spades. You can be seen drinking a few of these without suddenly feeling that it might be a good idea to show your co-workers your breakdancing moves.

Let's face it – shopping at this time of year is a nightmare. And no matter how well prepared you are, there's always that one last item to pick up that has you wrestling with someone's nana on Christmas Eve for the last pack of fruit mince pies.

Take a moment and pour yourself a stiff G&T. There's a few options here, but a classic London dry - something juniper-heavy and resinous like the small pine tree in your living room (think Tanqueray) works a treat.

With Christmas-time being summer-time Down Under, we miss out on some of the great holiday drinks. I suggest that you crank up the airconditioning, switch off the invariably terrible Christmas Eve TV and give this classic 19th century American tipple a whirl.

I've laced this recipe with a little local flavour and whilst it takes a little practice to perfect, it's well worth the effort.

2 eggs 4 tablespoons castor sugar A bottle aged rum A bottle cognac or brandy Wildbrumby Devil's Tongue schnapps Milk Nutmeg

We always used to leave out a glass of port for Santa to help wash down his Christmas mince pie. But I think you can do better than that, especially if you're expecting a decent present. Balvenie have excellent 21-year-old single malt finished in port casks. Rich, creamy and fruity, it's the perfect dram for a thirsty Santa (or his local helper).

This is a tricky one – you hardly want to be seen boozing away by yourself at lunch, and you want to be in shape to escape by car if need be. The trick is to escape to the kitchen and fix the folks a drink to settle them and something stiff to boot.

50ml gin 20ml lemon 2 teaspoons castor sugar A handful of mint 10ml soda

Over-indulgence is a problem at this time of year so it pays to be armed with a powerful digestive liquor.  Few beverages will inspire the sort of fear required to get that turkey moving, but one of them is the Milanese-produced Fernet Branca.  It's an incredibly bitter, herbal, pepperminty drop that's taken neat, on ice or cut with cola, chinotto or tonic.

There are few better ways to get your dad to open up than by sharing a Scotch. You'll need something pretty serious – after a big day you'll need a big whisky. I recommend a malt like Talisker 10-year-old for this occasion – it's smoky and medicinal, but balanced by rich toffee and fruit. Having just been the headline sponsor for the Australian Masters, it's a handy segue into a golfing discussion if all else fails.

You're home after an epic day of family entertaining. You've survived nieces and nephews running about high on sugar, probing questions from relatives and a Christmas pudding heavy enough to sink an oil tanker. If you're feeling the need for a nightcap again, you might be leaning towards the whisky cabinet.

A peaty Islay single malt will punch you in the jaw with an uppercut of flavour, or for a more subtle, honeyed, fruit-driven approach, head towards a Speyside malt.

After all the rich eating of Christmas Day, Boxing Day calls for a refreshing change. Cocktails, whisky and other indulgences can be left for another day. A crisp, cold cider served over ice is the answer to the traditional Aussie blackened snag which will be served the length and breadth of the nation. My tip is to go for something dry to medium-dry and the only flavour written on the label should be the one it's made from – apples.

The Piña Colada is unfortunately not a beverage you can order seriously in many bars in this day and age. But it does have its place as a holiday beverage.  Blend up fresh cored and peeled pineapple pieces with a healthy dose of rum, a dollop of coconut cream (or coconut water if you're watching your waist), a squeeze of lime , a little sugar to taste and a scoop of ice. It should be a smoothie texture and not form peaks above your glass. Stick a cocktail parasol in there for an authentic holiday feel.

Few would argue that there's a better celebratory beverage than champagne, and fortunately for you there's a major price war going on at moment. Quality domestic sparkling wines will be suffering as prices for French bubbles keep getting lower, but that's something to worry about next year. In the meantime, pick up a bottle or two and keep well chilled until you start hearing fireworks.

It's New Year and whilst you've made resolutions to drink less and exercise more, you should save actually seeing those promises realised until tomorrow. It's a public holiday, after all. A Bloody Mary and a cooked breakfast will sort you right out.

240ml vodka, gin or blanco tequila 40ml pale dry apera 40ml lemon juice 350ml tomato juice 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce Fresh cracked black pepper A couple of pinches of salt Fresh horseradish (if you're that organised) ½ teaspoon smoked paprika

This story The 12 drinks of Christmas first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.