The holiday season is here and you are the hostess for a dinner party of 8. You could always open several bottles of very good wine, but you want this festive occasion to be special and you want to serve traditional holiday drinks.
Selecting and preparing your main course is not your challenge. Google becomes your best friend leading you to tons of recipes and ideas for traditional holiday drinks. Your head is spinning and you have consulted too many people. Your partner thinks you should serve something fancy with whiskey because there’s something about whiskey that makes people feel warm and fuzzy.
You recall a thought you’ve had in the past that if you ever threw a holiday party again, you would include mulled wine (the English love it, maybe we will too). But your best friend loves eggnog despite all the calories and you have your mom’s favorite champagne punch that you can only serve with a good sized crowd. What will you do?
After much consideration, experimentation, taste testing (this, of course,is the fun part) you make a startling discovery. All the traditional holiday drinks that appeal to you have healthy ingredients, in addition to alcohol, which makes it easier to come up with your final recipes.
Starting with a whiskey cocktail seems like the way to go, but making it more festive than straight up is the name of the game and you decide to end the meal with Irish Coffee in order not to mix too many grains. In between will be food offerings, an additional traditional holiday drink together with the usual wines, beers and soft-drinks you have on hand.
Cinnamon-Infused Whiskey Cocktail
This Pin shows you how to make a DIY version of the traditional party starter Fireball Cinnamon Bourbon. But because it needs a while to infuse we’ve included a quick recipe below that you can use to make a delicious cocktail in time for the holidays. It’s easy to make and includes some beautiful Fall and Holiday flavors of cinnamon, clove, and apples. That’s gotta be good for you, right?
- 1 cup Whiskey
- 2 Cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole Clove
- 1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 2 cups Apple Juice
- Apple slices for garnish
Do this step at least 1 day in advance: Put the whiskey, cinnamon sticks, clove and red pepper flakes in a jar and let it sit for a minimum of 24 hours up to 72 hours.
Next, strain and discard the spices. Combine the 1 1/2 ounces of the infused whiskey with 4 ounces of apple juice. Pour over ice and garnish with fresh apple slices.
Mulled wine is a traditional winter drink, especially around Christmas. If you have never tried it, you should. Essentially it is hot, sweetened red wine made aromatic by adding citrus fruits and warming spices. It is usually made with red wine and mulling spices, served hot or cold, with or without alcohol.
The first record of heating and spicing wine is attributed to the Romans in the 2nd century and was spread across the continents by legionnaires. Others date its history to the Ancient Greeks. Mulled wine is still very popular and traditional in the United Kingdom at Christmas time, but has not gained much popularity in the US.
Recipes have evolved over time and commonly use a combination of orange, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, fennel seed, cloves, cardamon, and ginger. Once again we see a plethora of healthy herbs and spices. You can vary the amount of sweet, spice or fruit and the end result will always get you nice and warm. And it doesn’t have to be a very expensive wine. The only time I had mulled wine it tasted like spiced sangria.
Again traditional mulled wine needs to be prepared ahead of time, but the recipe below can be done in 20 minutes in a slow cooker! Follow the recipe from the Pin or our slightly tailored one below.
- bottle of red wine
- an orange
- 1/4 cup brandy (optional)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star-anise
Tie all the spices up in a cheesecloth if you have one.
Bring the bottle of red wine to the boil with the orange, brandy (optional), honey or agave, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star-anise in a non-aluminum saucepan.
Simmer over a medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes or for hours in your slow cooker.
Strain the mixture to remove the spices or pull out the cheesecloth ready.
The added benefit to this recipe is the way it infuses your home with the wonderful aromas of the holidays.
You really can’t serve drinks without something to eat so let’s take a look at some ideas to complement the aforementioned drinks.
I like to make my life as easy as possible and everyone loves cheese and crackers. If serving mulled wine I’d select a stilton, gorgonzola or a manchego for a salty option.
Mini quiches, pâté, hummus, baba ganoush, olives, guacamole, mixed nuts, figs are other go-tos and are easy to beautifully serve straight from the store.
If you enjoy a bit of food prep you might also roll a log of chèvre (a creamy, soft goat cheese) in dried cranberries and walnuts and serve that with crackers.
These will definitely sate the hunger pangs, whilst people mingle and chat casually before the main event.
Again during the holidays I would select something that I can set and leave – consider a roast with rosemary potatoes or a beef stew with vegetables on the side. If you don’t want to fuss with getting potatoes crispy perhaps swap them for warm baguettes and a mixed green salad with dressing on the side.
Dessert is the show stopper and the course that everyone remembers. If you’re serving Irish Coffee, then I would go for something dark and chocolaty – think Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes, Chocolate Pots or even a real dieter’s downfall a Chocolate Peanut Butter Roulade!
No meal is complete without a good cup of coffee. Be prepared and offer an Irish Coffee to stay with the theme of traditional holiday drinks and serve them up with Christmas cookies on the side.
Ingredients (per person):
- 1 1/2 ounces Rye Whiskey
- 1/2 ounce pouring cream
- 1 tspn brown sugar
- 5 ounces coffee
- 1/4 cup whipped cream
Add the sugar to the bottom of the serving mug. Combine 1 1/2 ounces of Rye Whiskey, 1/2 ounce of cream and stir together and add to the mug. Pour in hot coffee and top with whipped cream and cocoa powder.
Prepare as much of the meal as possible ahead of time, so you can enjoy time with your guests. If at all possible to hire a helper or barter with a teenager, do so. It makes clean-up so much easier. If guests are close friends or family and they offer to help, let them. You can have tons of fun singing holiday songs, as together you put left-overs away. Remember, it is holiday time and what matters the most is the love you share with those you invited to your table. Give and receive and if partaking and one more glass will send you to sleep with a glow and a smile on your face, go for it.
Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Please share in the comments.
Happy, Happy holidays to all.
Roz and Beth