Christmas is undoubtedly a strange time of year – previous routines of day to day life are put to one side with little regard in favour of an alternate reality in which bringing trees indoors and convincing children that an old man broke into your house in the middle of the night is completely acceptable. But for all its weird and wonderful traditions, Christmas is also a great time to try something new or rediscover an old favourite, especially when it comes to drinks.
While the festive period is the ideal opportunity to take a break from the lager, wine or spirit you’ve been sipping for the other 11 months of the year, it’s worth noting that Christmas drinks are also a topic of hot debate. For some, the selection of tipples that resurface every December are one of the best, or worst, aspects of Christmas. It’s important to know your facts when it comes to Christmas drinks, so you can decide which one is best suited to your tastes – for this reason, we’ve put together all the information you need…
This warm, unusually sweet drink is a stalwart of Christmas, originating in Medieval times as a display of generosity and wealth towards household guests. In recent years though, mulled wine has steadily waned in popularity, but this is perhaps unfair, at least in part.
The fact of the matter is, mulled wine is made to be given away, and signs displaying words to the effect of “Come in for a free glass of mulled wine!” are not an uncommon sight in shops and Christmas markets throughout Britain in December. Unfortunately, this often leads to most people’s first experience of mulled wine being a drink made with the cheapest ingredients possible. However, when made with carefully chosen combinations of spices and flavours, mulled wine can become a very comforting winter warmer.
Add sugar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, orange peel, cardamom or ginger (depending on your tastes) to your favourite brand of full-bodied red wine as it begins to heat up, and leave it for at least 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours for the best effect, ensuring not to let it boil. Sieve the spices out before drinking, and the result is a mulled wine bursting with flavour. The Swedish version of mulled wine, known as Glögg, also mixes in spirits such as vodka or rum – take inspiration from this for a winter tipple with a real kick.
A reddish coloured liqueur made by combining gin with the sloe fruit (the plum’s smaller cousin), sloe gin is somewhat of a forgotten classic, and is traditionally made in the depths of winter as a warming drink, when the sloe berries are at their ripest.
The berries taste dreadful on their own, but when soaked in alcohol result in a rich, slightly tart drink that’s perfect for Christmas. The process of making sloe gin is fairly slow, but also simple and rewarding, and no cooking is required. Mix 450g of sloe berries in a large jar with 1l of your favourite gin and around 225g of caster sugar, and shake every other day for two months.
The sloe berries themselves, which grow naturally around the hedgerows of Britain, can be bought or picked wildly depending on how truly homemade you want your sloe gin to be. If you don’t want to wait a full two months, plenty of great sloe gins can be bought ready-made.
Perhaps the most controversial of the three choices on this list, egg nog is truly a divisive drink. A chilled, sweetened dairy-based drink with a frothy texture, egg nog is believed to have originated from a medieval British drink known as posset, a hot milk mixed with wine or ale and flavoured with spices and often used as a form of medicine. The recipe and name of the drink evolved in America in the late 18th century to become the egg nog we know today.
While egg nog can be bought ready-made, it’s at its best when it’s home made by whisking eggs with caster sugar, before stirring in milk, double cream and a rum or bourbon of your choice. Refrigerate the mixture for 2 weeks, then add whisked egg whites, more sugar and nutmeg to serve.