Gourmet: Holiday drinks

By: Editor-in-chief Lenush Lebedeva

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Santa Clause is coming to town and so are we with our hot cocktail list…

I am sure many of you share this sentiment: Christmas is my favorite time of the year! I just adore those beautifully decorated trees and front porches, the wreaths covered in red garlands and ribbons, Santa and Reindeer figurines ornamenting the different corners of the house. The pure joy on children’s faces anticipating the most important day of the year, working on their letters to the North Pole, and visualizing all the treats they will discover in the Christmas stockings and of course the genuine hope that they didn’t end up on Santa’s naughty list. Even I almost believe in Santa or wish he was real during the holiday season – tis truly is the season to be jolly. The whole of December is a month of suspense leading to my beloved 12 days. Preparing the hampers and gift bags is my favorite activity, in fact it is the main priority once the house is decorated, and the tree is up. There is something so special and sincere to me about spreading joy and happiness during this time. Every store plays their yearly Christmas playlist on repeat with the cheesiest and tackiest songs that put a massive smile on my face. Guilty as charged I am one of those crazy folks who plans their Christmas menu as early as September, hosts a yearly party and my table on the 25th of December is open to all. To give a better perspective I put Amy’s mom Ruth from ‘A Bad Moms Christmas’ to shame. Afterall, is this not the time of the year we all wait for in anticipation in order to spend precious time with our loved ones, make them happy in any way we can and consume all the deliciousness the food and beverage industries have to offer?? I think so… perhaps not everyone enjoys a Christmas on steroids or simply has the time nor the will to think it through, but I am certain, everyone is looking forward to a holiday drink.

The most wonderful time of the year’ bestows on us a selection of fantastic holiday favorites to indulge. ‘Eggnog’ being the most famous Christmas drink in western society, comes in a few variations my personal favorite is the Cognac based, however it can also be made with whiskey. Pretty easily whipped up by mixing a whole egg, milk, cream and sugar, add the alcohol of choice and voila! Of course, don’t forget to sprinkle cinnamon – my favorite spice. The process is slightly more complicated, but there are many different techniques to making the classic Christmas beverage. A more trouble-free recipe for a similar drink to the famous milk punch is the Italian ‘Bombardino’. The alcohol base is brandy and it calls for egg liquor instead of a whole egg, whipped cream and in this case cacao. We all know how Italians don’t like cinnamon. Nothing vegan here of course, so for all our friends who enjoy alcohol without the use of animal products, we have the ‘clementine punch’. An obvious choice when it comes to Christmas cocktails, as the fruit is widely associated with the holiday. The tale of St. Nick (after whom the character of Santa was created) tells of a man who could not afford the dowries of his three daughters to marry and spoke of this to him. Moved by his sad story St. Nicholas gifted the man three balls of gold by throwing them down his chimney into each daughters stocking. As a result, the little orange fruit symbolizes generosity, and traditionally in modern culture one clementine is placed inside the Christmas stocking of each family member. Of course, the clementine can also be placed in a mug. The warm zesty cocktail is made with Rhum (a particular type of rum) and doesn’t require much shopping – water, sugar and cinnamon are all you need besides the freshly squeezed clementine juice. It is delish! Since we’re talking rum… the next drink on this list will knock your socks right off. Even the name sounds somewhat scary… ‘The Grog’. Initially it was a water diluted rum that Edward Vernon a British Vice Admiral introduced to the navy, as a substitute for Whiskey, Brandy and other alcohol that the British sailors were consuming during their voyages to the West Indies. The horrendous name was a result of the Admirals nickname ‘the old grog’, due to the name of the fabric of his coat – grogram. Nowadays the grog is widely popular and a significantly strong hot alcohol beverage, made with a little more than just water. The modern version is a mix of triple sec liquor, cointreau, grand mariner, anise, cloves, cinnamon, sugar, orange and last but not least… water.

Christmas holiday drinks

This drink is reminiscent of men in their 50’s enjoying a Zacapa XO with a Cohiba cigar, which makes it the perfect Christmas alternative on a cold day for the older men of stature in our lives who enjoy their cocktails on the stronger side. In fact, I know many dads who would love it. A much lighter tasting and personally preferred alternative to ‘the grog’ for me is the ‘hot toddy’, even the name is so cute, playful and happy. Sounds like a fluffy teddy. But don’t be fooled, this cocktail is every bit the rival. The alcohol base can be a choice of whiskey or rum with lemon juice and honey. My introduction to this drink was a funny story. I was once having a drink at a members club in London, and had an incredibly sore throat, and the director of the club who I was well acquainted with suggested I try a whiskey based hot toddy, he was from Scotland so obviously it had to be whiskey. I instantly fell in love with the drink and have opted for it on many occasions unrelated to a sore throat since. Christmas, I find is perfect to serve a hot toddy as a clear and less sweet hot cocktail.

Obviously, we are not to leave out the utterly favored Gluhwein – otherwise known as mulled wine. Well, there is so much say about this amazing hot drink, aside from the fact that it is scrumptious and one of the best parts of the holiday menu. Including all the traditional Christmas ingredients, such: cinnamon, orange & lemon zest, sugar, cloves, anis, nutmeg powder and the central ingredient and an apparent must at any Christmas table – the red wine. Now many prefer to use a cheap bottle as the flavor of the wine itself is not the objective here, however a nice Cabernet or Merlot works perfectly for French wine lovers, or a nice bottle of Rosso di Montalcino, can also be an appropriate choice. Any preferred bottle of red is an acceptable option; however, I would suggest the wine in question be under 50euros. A delicious alternative of the traditional gluhwein for those who aren’t fans of reds, is a mulled white wine. Clearly, it is the same concept as the traditional gluhwein, although some recipes call for orange juice or other minor differences, either way it is an ideal way of offering one’s guest’s options at the Christmas table, it really is mouthwatering and softer than its red counterpart, despite the presence of brandy. The widely popularized Christmas drink is believed to have originated in ancient Rome and holds many variations around the World.  Coffee lovers, however, will appreciate the classic Irish coffee: basically, a simple black americano topped with whipped cream and brown sugar, add a splash of whiskey and you have got yourself an Irish.  A distant relative of the Irish coffee is the Calimero, an Italian cup of joe with egg liquor and cream. The Calimero is best enjoyed as a short drink, similar to a cortado or espresso. One would think that these drinks are likelier to be consumed earlier in the day, but plenty of cheery ol’ chaps take their coffees well into the late hours and would find this to be the ultimate Christmas cocktail.

 Needless to recap, your beverage menu for a Christmas movie night with friends and family has plenty of options so take your pick.

The coziest and merriest of times are to be enjoyed in a tight knit environment exchanging laughs, cheer, and sincere wishes. Taking pleasure in the simple things. Now more than ever it is important to pull out a pen and paper and jot down the grocery list for one or more of the above-mentioned holiday drinks – buy it, make it and down it.

Merry Christmas & Happy New year! xxx