Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cool Yule Fuel to Fan the Flames of Holiday Festivities

Well, we've made it through Thanksgiving and are now into the Christmas section of the holidays, so I thought that an article on classic or forgotten Yuletide beverages would be warmly recieved on a cold Winter's day...

Cool Yule Fuel to Fan the Flames of Holiday Festivities

This is the time of year when we reflect upon our early childhood memories of joyous Christmas’ gone by and that trusty old Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, an Easy Bake Oven, some Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, or a game of Mystery Date.

Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I get all geeky when Thanksgiving gets near, and start watching every version of “A Christmas Carol” and all those Rankin and Bass claymation Christmas specials. I really get into the spirit of giving and making merry. I dream of sitting around the fireplace as the snow piles up outside, listening to carolers, while lights gently twinkle on the tree. The smell of holiday food simmering and baking sends aromas wafting through the house. I see visions of slipping into a hot buttered rum, some cidery wassail or some strong eggnog, to get me into a festive mood and chase away the chilling winter air.

As much as I love Christmas, every year it seems harder to get into the mood. However, I persevere in my search for those elusive holiday “spirits”. I believe that in our hearts, we all long for a traditional Dickensian or perhaps a Jean-Shepherd-like Christmas.

When I feel the need for a Dickens-Christmas-pub fix, I often head over to the Old Monk for a taste of jolly old England “Yule-tidings”.

To bring those traditional holiday “spirits” home, I offer a few historic holiday drink recipes. Their spicy goodness will warm the cockles of your heart or the heart of your cockles. These recipes should have even the ‘Scroogeiest’ of you singing White Christmas!

Mulled Wine/Glogg:

At Nick’s, the “alternate reality” bar in “It's a Wonderful Life”, Clarence the angel asks for a glass of mulled wine that’s “heavy on the cinnamon, easy on the cloves". Here’s a possible version of Clarence's Mulled Wine:

2 bottles of red wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
4 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1 orange
1 lemon

Put the zest of the fruit, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves into the water. Bring to a slow boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the wine and sliced orange and lemon. Warm on low heat for 40 minutes (do NOT boil). Strain and serve! Glogg is a similar Scandinavian holiday beverage that adds raisins and almonds. Recipes can be found online.


In Colonial America, rum was called "grog", so the name eggnog is likely derived from "egg-and-grog". George Washington was quite a fan of “the nog”, and his own recipe included rye whiskey, rum, and sherry! Atta boy, George!

From Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery by Eliza Leslie (1851)

“Beat separately the yolks and whites of six eggs.
Stir the yolks into a quart of rich milk, or thin cream, and add half a pound of sugar.
Then mix in half a pint of rum or brandy.
Flavor it with a grated nutmeg.
Lastly, stir in gently the beaten whites of three eggs (beaten stiff).
It should be mixed in a china bowl.”

*People have been drinking this for centuries, but you should heed all raw egg warnings.*


In English tradition, young women went "wassailing" with a bowl of drink, singing and wishing luck to the neighborhood. The drink was often spiced ale or cider with baked apples.

1 gallon apple cider
2 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
2 oranges
Whole cloves
1 apple, peeled and diced
3 cinnamon sticks (or 3 Tbs. ground cinnamon)
1/2 to 1 cup brandy

Pour apple cider, cranberry juice, honey, and sugar into a crock-pot set on low, mixing carefully. As it heats, stir so that the honey and sugar dissolve. Stud the oranges with the cloves and place in the pot. Add the diced apple. Add allspice, ginger, and nutmeg to taste. Snap the cinnamon sticks in half and add. Cover and simmer 2 - 4 hours on low heat. About half an hour prior to serving, add the brandy and lookout!

Hot Buttered Rum:

An authentic Colonial recipe (except for the slow cooker). It’s like drinking a cinnamon roll with a kick!

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 pinch salt
2 quarts hot water
3 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 cups rum
1 cup sweetened whipped cream
Ground nutmeg to taste

Combine the brown sugar, butter, salt, and hot water in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add cinnamon sticks and cloves. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours. Stir in rum. Ladle from the slow cooker into mugs then top with whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg.

Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Yule, or Christmas, these drinks should warm up your holiday festivities and take you back to a simpler time. May the holiday “spirits” find you well and happy. Have a very safe and Merry Christmas and “God bless us, every one.”