Wines and spirits to enjoy on Bonfire Night


A photograph of The King's Ginger against the backdrop of a fire on a beach

Bonfire Night is one of autumn’s glittering highlights. Delicious wines and warming seasonal cocktails are a must – because what’s in your glass should be every bit as spectacular as the skies above.  

Bonfire Night has always been one of my favourite occasions of the year. By now, we’re in the thick of autumn: the trees have turned properly golden, Halloween is behind us and Christmas lies ahead. Everyone is wrapped in warm layers, braving the cold night with good cheer. It must be one of the most low-key occasions of the year, meaning there is little to disappoint and much to unexpectedly delight. 

Sparklers have always been a must – ever since childhood, huddled in the cold darkness of my garden in West Wales. In those days, we often put on our own little firework display, watching them light up the sky in modest shoots of gold, violet and scarlet. But over the course of a decade in London, where personal gardens are harder to come by, I have made a tradition of seeking out proper firework displays. And, unlike the Bonfire Nights of my childhood, the question of what to drink becomes an important one.  

I tend to choose red wines over white, on the condition that they must be delicious out of a picnic glass or a portable mug. Given that they will be enjoyed outdoors, they needn’t be too heavy, as the cool air will chill them naturally. For that reason, I’d recommend fruity red wines that can take a little chilling – such as wines made from Gamay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Garnacha.  

Some of my favourite bottles include the old-vine Moulin-a-Vent Beaujolais from Louis Boillot, the Bourgeuil, Cuvée Prestige from Domaine Lamé Delisle Boucard or Luigi Giordano’s Langhe Freisa. For a real treat, I highly recommend Graci’s incredibly elegant Etna Rosso. But there are plenty of delicious choices in the Berry Bros. & Rudd Own Selection range too. I’m thinking of the New Zealand Pinot Noir from Greystone Wines, the Swartland Red by Eben Sadie or the Péssac-Léognan by Château Haut-Bailly. 

This is a night for the autumn cocktail to take centre stage, too. With the arrival of dark, chilly evenings, I am always excited that hot toddies are back on the cards. A blend of whisky, honey and lemon juice, pour it steaming out of a flask into outstretched mugs, and it’s just the thing to warm you up as you wait for the fireworks to get started. If you’re looking for a reliably delicious whisky, I recommend the Glen Elgin Speyside Single Malt, with its notes of burnt marmalade, apples and spiced cream. It will blend beautifully with the honey and lemon.  

Then, there’s The King’s Ginger – the original outdoor restorative, crafted to revivify royals and landed gentry through the ages on their winter outings. While I fall into neither category, I nevertheless enjoy the spicy notes of ginger blended with my hot chocolate or mulled cider. Fit for a king, but delicious for peasants too.  

Equally, there is nothing more warming than a simple dram of whisky. I’m a huge fan of peat smoke all year round, but it seems particularly appropriate on Bonfire Night. Kilchoman’s Sanaig, with its beautiful notes of caramel, toffee and gentle smoke, is utterly delicious. Or, try Ardbeg’s Wee Beastie for a real bonfire character.  

Whatever you choose, you’re in for a magical autumnal evening. All you need to round it off is a generous Tupperware full of Yorkshire parkin.