‘Tis the season to celebrate! And what better way to be jubilant this holiday season than indulging in time-honored winter drink traditions … especially if they include bourbon. Whether enjoyed during a holiday party or while cozying up to a fire, these concoctions have been bringing good cheer to celebrants for centuries. You might have heard of these warm cocktails before, but do you know where they came from? Better yet, do you know how to make them?
“Here We Come A-wassailing” might be a classic holiday carol, but few people know what wassailing is, let alone that wassail is a thing in itself! Wassail is a hot mulled cider that medieval feudal lords in southern England would give to the peasants in exchange for blessings on their house on the 12th night of Christmas, hence wassailing. Eventually, the tradition of giving wassail was expanded to singing and contemporary wassailing is more synonymous with caroling. This is a great drink choice for holiday parties, since wassail is meant to be shared among friends and used to toast good tidings.
In the late 1600s and 1700s, “nog” was a kind of beer in England’s East Anglia that had a particularly strong taste. However, our contemporary version of egg nog probably came from the medieval drink posset, a heavily spiced mixture of alcohol and hot milk. Modern eggnog combines dairy, eggs, sugar and spices, along with a good deal of booze. Rum was used most often when eggnog became first very popular in Colonial America, but bourbon tends to be the alcohol of choice for most nog-makers today.
The hot toddy has been traced back to India, where the toddy was made with fermented coconut tree sap. The theory is that the drink made its way through the trade routes up to Europe; the Scottish version of the drink traditionally tends to have hot water, lemon, whiskey, spices like cloves or cinnamon, and either a simple syrup or honey to finish it. Toddies can also be made using bourbon, brandy, or rum – there are many variations on the more classic recipes. Fair warning, though: while this relaxing drink has the reputation for curing what ails you, it can’t actually get rid of your cold (although it might help soothe your sore throat).
Rum punch is truly a drink that’s been around the world. India originated this concoction, but in the 1600s, British sailors picked it up and took it with them as they sailed west, and eventually the punch made its way to the Caribbean, where it became very popular. Jamaican rum punch combines lime, sugar, rum, and either water or ice, but there are many variations and additions to that basic recipe both in the Caribbean and throughout the world.
The name might sound like a character out of Lord of the Rings, but have no fear! Glogg is actually a traditional Scandinavian spiced wine that’s served warm on the cold, cold nights. As it simmers on your stove, the flavors of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, orange peel, and ginger all meld together nicely with the wine and aquavit. Glogg is just perfect to enjoy by the roar of a fireplace.
Tom and Jerry
A thick, frothy holiday drink that’s said to taste a little like Christmas sugar cookies, the Tom and Jerry was a Christmas celebration go-to for Americans for decades. Eggs, sugar, spices, and liquor are beaten to form a sort of batter – when ready to serve, a tablespoon or so of the batter is put into each cup along with a little extra brandy or bourbon stirred in. Hot water or milk is then added into the cups and the drink is topped with grated nutmeg. This drink was so popular throughout the 20th Century for the presentation along that special Tom and Jerry cup sets were sold throughout the country. If you’re planning on serving this old-fashioned drink for your upcoming holiday party, check antique shops or eBay for a cup set for a Tom and Jerry set of your own.
Looking for another way to indulge this season? Check out our take on how restaurants are expanding the decadence of dessert:
Get your dessert on
Remember that you must be at least 21 years old to drink in the USA and to always drink responsibly. This information is intended for informational purposes only, and not to promote the consumption of alcohol.