Leeds nostalgia: M&S shows us the spirits of Christmas past... how home drinking has changed down the years

editorial image
Have your say

Christmas and cocktails go together like fish and chips, peas and pods, Bake Off and Paul Hollywood... actually, maybe not that last one.

Still, a festive tipple has been par of our annual winter celebrations going back to time immemorial. Of course, we’ve moved on somewhat from the rudimentaries of drink but it was the 1970s which saw the rise in popularity of the cocktail.

Thanks to the M&S Company Archive, we are able to take a step back in time to revisit our favourite tipples throughout the decades.

Sherry has always been Santa’s favourite but it’s been the M&S customer’s top choice too since the 1970s. In 1973 the M&S wine departments opened across 12 stores and included a range of four sherries, along with eight wines and a small selection of beers.

The festive cocktail craze began in the 1980s and customers wanted to impress family and friends with their weird and wonderful creations.

As a result, M&S produced the ‘Cocktails, Punches and Cups’ recipe book. It was so popular with customers that in 1983 a more detailed book of cocktail recipes was on offer for shoppers to ensure that their own Christmas parties were a roaring success.

The cocktail trend has gone from strength to strength. This year M&S has a huge range of cocktail ingredients, pre-mixed cocktails and even cocktail sets, complete with shakers. For example, the Gold ‘Gin and Tonic Cocktail’ Gift.

In the mid-1980s M&S made giving the perfect gift super-easy for customers and introduced the first boozy Christmas gift packs, including ‘The After Dinner Selection’.

M&S has given these traditional favourites a modern twist, and this year is launching a Port & Mint Selection, along with Prosecco & Chocolates and Whisky & Truffles.

Making your own alcoholic drinks was also a popular choice in the 1980s. Following the success of the previous cocktail recipe guides, M&S produced recipe books for homemade beer and wine. The trend for making your own festive drinks shows no sign of slowing down. Infusing gin and vodka has grown in popularity in recent years. This year for the first time M&S has launched ‘Create Your Own Blueberry Gin’ and ‘Create Your Own Cranberry Vodka’.

A trend which we are still familiar with today is pre-mixed drinks, designed to be quick and hassle free. In 1986 M&S launched the ‘Perfect Partners’ range of pre-mixed drinks in bottles. The launch included Rum & Cola, Gin & Tonic and Scotch Whiskey & American Dry. This Christmas, customers can enjoy pre mixed cocktails such as ‘No Big Dill’ and ‘Christmas Cobbler’.

Boozy chocolates have long been a customer favourite, and in 1987 a new range of delicious liqueur chocolates were launched, with delicious fillings including raspberry, cherry and plum.

This Christmas a new wave of drink inspired treats include English Sparkling Wine Truffles and The Mixologists Box, inspired by cocktails from around the world.

In the late 1980s, M&S’ range of Christmas bubblies included Frizzante, Lambrusco, Sparkling French Wines, Asti Spumante and Champagne, and allowed customers to ‘Uncork some exuberant Christmas Spirit’. The range included an ideal Asti for making Buck’s Fizz and a sparkling white wine.