WHEN they said it was the season to be jolly, over-indulgence in drink probably wasn't what they originally had in mind.

But, just as Christmas dinner is not the same unless each plate is whimpering under the weight of sprouts, so there is a festive obligation to make serious inroads into the drinks cabinet.

But a Christmas tipple needn't just mean glugging non-stop, particularly in the light of warnings earlier this month over the dangers of binge drinking. Instead of going for quantity, the sophisticated reveller can opt to splash out and go for style, in the shape of a cocktail.

A glass full of paper umbrellas, straws, fruit, and even sparklers, can't fail to hit the spot, regardless of the liquid contents. And when the drink itself is special, then you can forget the sweet sherry.

But while this is all very well in a cocktail bar, recreating that experience at home poses a bit of a problem. Unless you have a well-stocked drinks cupboard, an unfailing memory for recipes, and a keen eye for measures, then it could end up like something you wouldn't even pour over the turkey.

And this is where Brian Shaw comes in. Bar manager of Hollathan's caf bar in Durham City, he has put together recipes for five Christmas cocktails, as well as handy hints on how to make sure your concoction makes the party go with a swing, not a thud.

Hollathan's & the Ivy

Red frosted cranberries swirl in the refreshing sparkling juice and are complemented by the green midori.

Blend two shots of midori and 5 oz of cranberries, topped with cranberry juice. Serve over ice in a 14oz highball glass, top with sparkling water.

Festive Frapp

A delicious blend of Baileys, chocolate sauce, milk and ice with a swirl of cream forms this cocktail version of the yuletide log.

Mix 100mls of Baileys with 3oz of milk and cream and a spoonful of chocolate sauce. Blend the mixture together with crushed ice and serve in a wine glass.

Santa Sling

Shaken lemon juice and gin create this traditional treat, topped with cherry brandy.

Squeeze half a fresh lemon, one measure of gin and one measure of cherry brandy together and serve in a 14oz highball glass.

Cathedral Classic

The classic JD, sours and coke.

Pour two shots of JD, half of a lemon, 50mls of coke and ice into a cocktail shaker. Strain into a 14oz highball glass and add fresh ice.

Rudolf Royale

Bubbling champagne and Pimms topped with a red nose (kirsch cherry)

Fill a 5oz flute glass with four parts champagne and half a shot of Pimms. Serve with a cherry floating in the glass.

And for the drivers or the under-aged...

... a special long ice-cream smoothie, a Hairy Hollathan's. It's a monster drink of ice cream, chocolate sauce and milk, topped with cream. It has two Maltesers for eyes and a slice of red cherry for lips.

Blend one part ice cream, with two parts milk and a spoonful of chocolate sauce. Top with whipped cream and decorate with two Maltesers and a slice of cherry in the shape of the face.

According to Brian, to make the perfect cocktail at home, the right tools are essential. Make sure you have a cocktail shaker, as stirring won't blend the ingredients properly. Shake the ingredients sharply and briefly for no more than a few seconds. Also try a strainer - the most popular being the Hawthorn - this is used to hold back the ice back in the shaker after the drink has been prepared.

* Test each of your glasses to see how many spirit measures of fluid they will hold. Fill them with ice and count how many units of water they will hold in each case. From this you will determine how many units of spirits to use to make a single cocktail that will fit the glass exactly.

* Always mix the cheaper ingredients first (orange juice, etc.) so you don't lose spirits if you happen to spill it or make an error.

* Never shake fizzy drinks. Lemonade, soda, coke, etc., should be stored in a nearby fridge, ready for putting into the drink.

* Having shaken a cocktail containing cream, wash out the shaker more thoroughly than usual, as the cream will stick to the inside of the shaker, which is obviously unhygienic and could discolour the next cocktail you make.

* All ingredients should be of the best quality - especially fruit juices and fresh fruit garnishes.

* Try to garnish your drink with slices or wedges of fresh fruit to enhance the look of the drink. Use fruit that is compatible with the juice in the drink, such as orange slices with an orange-based drink. If the drink looks pleasing to the eye it is generally pleasing to the palate.

* Ice is essential for making all cocktails. Make sure it is clean and clear and that you have a plentiful supply.

* Measure quantities accurately, especially drinks containing strong flavours such as Pernod and Crme de menthe.

* Many recipes can be made in advance before people arrive, but not those containing cream or eggs as these will curdle and separate.

* Finally, a cocktail is usually at its peak of appeal when it is poured. The guest should wait for the cocktail, rather than the cocktail for the guest.

Bearing all these in mind, it's difficult to see how you can go wrong. Unless, of course, you have too many.