By Joy Neighbors
The holidays are upon us! It’s the perfect time to celebrate with family and friends before the long, cold, dark winter months begin.
Our ancient ancestors celebrated the winter solstice, which usually falls on Dec. 21 or 22, with stories, food and festivities, much the same way we now celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and Yule.
And its interesting to note that our holiday beverage preferences are usually passed down from one generation to another. Take Champagne; this is a classic drink choice for the holidays. If
we want to add some ‘”sparkle” to an evening, issue up heart-warming toasts, or make an event extra festive, we tend to celebrate with a glass of bubbly.
Mulled wine also entices us to sip during celebrations, and it’s so easy to make. Just pour a red wine, usually Syrah or Zinfandel, into a slow cooker, add some spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, or anise along with some citrus, even a few drops of vanilla, before mixing in a splash of sherry, port or brandy for an added kick. Pop a cinnamon stick in the glass for stirring and enjoy a toasty drink.
Hard cider has that wonderful sweet-tart taste that sums up the flavors of autumn. Crafted from the unfiltered juice of fermented apples, this drink varies in alcohol levels. A hard cider produced in the U.S. can range from 3.5% to 12% ABV (alcohol by volume), but an English cider may contain only 1.2% to 8.5% ABV giving you the option to chose your “level of influence.” (A cider without alcohol is known as a “soft” cider.)
While we celebrate autumn with cider, in England and France the season is celebrated. with a centuries-old drink called Perry. Crafted from fermented bitter pears mixed with sugar, this tart beverage has an effervescent quality similar to Champagne. The drink has been marketed for years to women due to its more floral nuances and bubbly nature.
You’ve probably heard the traditional English Christmas carol; “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” Well, it refers to the drink known as a wassail. Wassailing denotes going door-to-door, singing carols that wish the residents good health and good fortune. In return, the householder offers carolers a drink from his wassail bowl, and allows them to warm up by his hearth. Wassail contains ale or cider mixed with apples, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, and is served hot in a mug or bowl It is the perfect warm-up on a cold winter’s night.
There’s eggnog. and then there’s EGGNOG! This holiday staple can be non·alcoholic or loaded with holiday cheer. Traditional eggnog contains milk, sugar, raw eggs, and various spices – but
always nutmeg. For the festive version, add a liberal pour of whiskey, brandy, rum, bourbon or cognac. And if you’re searching for another reason to imbibe, look no further. Christmas Eve is also
National Eggnog Day so celebrate with a glass of sweet, silky cheer.
Another old fashioned holiday drink is popular only in the Midwest. The Tom and Jerry cocktail is a variation of eggnog made up of egg whites (beaten stiff) with vanilla extract, hot water and rum added before folding the egg yolks and sugar back in and topping with nutmeg. During the 1950s, special Tom and Jerry bowls and cups were sold for serving this special holiday drink. And. no, the name has nothing to do with the Hanna Barbera cartoon characters, Tom and Jerry. The beverage was actually created in the 1820s and mentioned in the book Life in London: Or the Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom.
Hot chocolate is the winter beverage we all grew up drinking so it’s no wonder this old favorite also has an adult version. Spiked hot chocolate combines milk, cream, sugar and chocolate before adding a kick of your favorite liquor. Old standbys include Amaretto, Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream, Southern Comfort, rum or whiskey. Top it off with marshmallows, or some spray canned whip
topping – go ahead, we wont judge – add a sprinkle of nutmeg, and you have a comforting cup of holiday cheer.
The American Colonists celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Twelfth Night with a rousing mug of hot buttered rum. Since rum was one of the cheapest liquors available in the colonies, it was
plentiful, and by adding some molasses, butter and spices to sweeten the taste, this becunc the drink of choice during those cold, snowy winter months. It’s a drink that has withstood the test of time and is still a perennial favorite.
The hot toddy is a super-simple holiday drink to make because you can use whatever you have on hand. Made with any alcohol; bourbon, whiskey, run, cognac, all you add is boiling water, sugar
and spices along with honey and lemon, if desired. In Scotland, the Hot Toddy is believed to help relieve the symptoms of the cold or Bu. In other words, “it’s good for what ails you.”
Originating in Britain, the ever-popular holiday rum punch should be heavy on the rum with sugar, apple cider, cloves, and lemons or oranges added. (The original meaning of the word “punch” is “five,” and only five ingredients are used. to make this drink.) For some added Ho! Ho! Ho! ignite the rum before serving.
Dress up your next party with a Holiday Tuxedo! This classy cocktail includes dry gin, dry vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur and orange bitters. There’s some controversy regarding who first developed.
the drink: the founders of the Tuxedo Park Resort in New York City or Prince Edward VII. Either way, a few sips will make you feel positively dapper this holiday season. Celebratc the season by gathering friends and family together, then make some drinks, pass the mugs and pour some traditional festive beverages to toast the holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Solstice Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa, Blessed Yule! And may all your holiday wishes come true.
Joy Neighbors, from eastern Illinois, knows the wine industry will. She writes a weekly wine blog, has judged national wine competitions, and speaks nationally and internationally. Follow her blog at http://joysjoyofwine.blogspot.com.