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Easy festive entertaining

As the entertaining season draws nearer, we thought we'd share some simple ideas for drinks and nibbles. Here, stylist Drew shakes up a fruity gin cocktail to serve with some festive spiced nuts, plus reveals a few cheat's tips for that ultimate Christmas dessert: the pavlova. 

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Gin, mint and blackberry Christmas crush
This refreshing cocktail has just the right balance of sweet and sour, and is the easiest Christmas cocktail to make. You will need a shaken cocktail kit for this recipe. One part is essentially the pour from one full jigger which is 1.5 ounces or around 2 tbs. 

1 part gin
1 part Chambord (a brand of black raspberry liqueur from France)
1 part lime juice
Sugar syrup, to taste
Ice, mint leaves and blackberries, to serve

Combine gin, Chambord, lime juice, syrup and ice in a shaker. Shake well, then strain into a glass. Garnish with mint leaves and blackberries to serve. 

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Christmas spiced nuts 
This would also make a fantastic gift. Make a few batches and place in glass jars tied with a ribbon. 

1 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, Chinese five spice and ginger
Ground chilli, to taste 
¼ cup sugar
375g bag of salted mixed nuts
Thyme or rosemary leaves, and pared lemon rind, to serve

Combine spices with sugar in a large bowl. Toast the nuts in a large frying pan for 2 minutes. Add the spice mixture and cook, tossing, until caramelised. Transfer to a lined baking tray, break up with a fork and cool completely. Garnish with thyme or rosemary leaves and lemon rind to serve. 

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Cheat's pavlova tips
- Take the heat out of the kitchen and use ready-made meringues from supermarkets and bakeries.
- For an impressive towering pav, sandwich two meringue bases together with a mixture of fresh cream and brandy custard, and your favourite summer fruit. Drew is a fan of mixed berries soaked in Chambord (a brand of black raspberry liqueur from France).  
- To make a festive topper for your pav, tie a couple of cinnamon quills and rosemary twigs together with twine. You can also use this as a decoration for place settings.

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