“Doctor says to a man, ‘You’re pregnant!’ The man says, ‘How does a man get pregnant?’ The doctor says, ‘The usual way, a little wine, a little dinner…'”

Henry Youngman

'Tis nearly time for the chubby chap in red to slide down the chimney folks and I thought perhaps as its been a really bad year, we could leave him a glass of gin or vodka with his mince pie and hand sanitiser this year. Apologies for the use of the word chubby by the way, perhaps I should have said ‘slightly lardy’. Mind you, if you are bothered, what on earth are you doing reading this column?

Anyway, gin and vodka, two of my favourite things, but let's get the air cleared right away ladies and gents. If it's got toffee, or orange or vanilla or pot bleeding pouri in the bottle and it’s about 20 per cent alcohol, it ain't gin or vodka, it's a liqueur.

Let's do gin first as that's the way I often go after a long day. Gin has often been called vodka with a better marketing contract or vodka with lipstick, but the comparison ends with the fact that they are both clear alcohols at heart.

Gin is heavily juniper-based, which is what gives it that fabulous love it or hate it perfume, and the rest of the botanicals are just incidental. Consider them accessories on a decent car, but juniper always has to be the backbone of the drink.

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Gerard Richardson is a wine columnist for Newsquest

Vodka on the other hand is an unusual alcohol in that its quality is measured by its smoothness and clean finish rather than any altering effects such as oak ageing, botanicals or the distiller being a vegan activist with a particular love for insects. Yep, the smooth delivery of its punch is how you measure a vodka and you've got to love the simplicity.

Neither of these wonderful drinks is ideal on its own, by the way, but the great news is that they both take to mixers like a duck to water. All I would say is keep it simple unless you're mixing a cocktail, in which case camp it up for Great Britain folks.

The trend for flavoured drinks wound me up a bit over the last few years so here it is again: it's a gimmick! If you want a lemon-flavoured vodka, buy a good vodka and some lemons and take your flavours the natural way rather than via E numbers.

The same goes with gin, and this way, you can make each glass different rather than investing in several bottles. Imagine the Christmas fun you can have with that, especially as you can't play Monopoly with gran this year!

Ableforth's Bathtub Gin

Basically a dry London gin with a bit of it used to steep orange peel and some spices before being added back in. Ableforth's version is gorgeous, with just a hint of natural sweetness.

Oxford Wine Co £34.95

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Grey Goose Vodka

Why alter perfection? Grey Goose is not only a superbly smooth vodka but the presentation will grace any table.

Majestic £39