As the holiday season approaches and party planning begins, you may find yourself shopping for classic seasonal beverages. But why are certain drinks associated with Christmas and the surrounding holidays? Read on to learn more about the traditions behind these five customary holiday drinks.
Many people are first introduced to eggnog through its non-alcoholic version. The original drink traces its roots to medieval Britain, where it was mixed with sherry or a fine wine. Rum, the modern standard for mixing, was introduced in the American colonies. Because eggnog could be made using common ingredients like eggs and milk, it soon became a holiday hit.
Wassail can be an all-day project, but the results are worth the effort. This traditional drink also began in medieval Europe. It has always been a shared drink, typically mulled mead or cider, heavily spiced and served in a large bowl with floating pieces of fruit. In more recent centuries, carolers stopped by the homes of wealthy landowners, expecting a bowl of wassail for their troubles.
Today, wassail is usually made in a slow cooker, allowing the cider, fruits and spices to mingle for several hours. Once the brew is ready, it is poured into a serving bowl for presentation. Guests may ladle the drink into cups or use it as a dip for breads — the origin of the term ‘toasting.’ Wassail is still a favorite for holiday gatherings and is a reminder of the importance of community throughout the ages.
Cider has long been a popular drink in fall and winter, following annual apple harvests. Apple trees flourished in North America, and settlers took advantage of that fact. During the 19th century, cider was more plentiful than beer in many areas. Johnny Appleseed himself was a planter of cider trees, always staying slightly ahead of the wave of westward migrants.
There are many ways to serve hard cider. It is frequently sold cold and sparkling, to be served like a chilled wine. Yuletide recipes typically call for warm cider, mixed with the usual holiday spices. However you prefer your drink, you’ll be participating in a distinctly American custom.
Hot Buttered Rum
Rum features in many of these traditional drinks thanks to the booming molasses trade of the early Americas, particularly in New England. Hot buttered rum, also known as a hot rum toddy, is still a favorite way to warm up on a chilly winter night.
When making hot buttered rum, choose your base ingredients carefully. Dark, aged rum will create a richer flavor but may be too intense for those not used to it. Lighter rums may be a less controversial choice among your guests. Most modern recipes call for cloves, nutmeg and a sweetener like sugar or honey. A final drop of unsalted butter adds a savory sheen and depth to the whole drink.
Mulled wine has likely existed for about as long as wine itself. It can first be found among the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used it as a way to avoid wasting extra wine. Spices helped to smooth over the taste of cheap wines, which were often all that was available. The drink, like many warm alcoholic beverages, eventually became associated with winter and arrived in the Americas through Britain.
As you prepare for the holiday season and all of the entertaining it brings, consider reviving these storied traditions for your friends and family. At Holiday Wine Cellar, we offer a wide selection of wines and spirits to meet all of your hosting and gifting needs. Bring some ancient cheer to your parties this year with the help of our diverse catalog and team of friendly experts.0