There’s a whole world of boozy Christmas drinks out there.
Though it can often be stressful, the holiday season boils down to one great big celebration of food and drink. A festive selection of dishes, desserts, and snacks are always within an arm’s reach. You may be familiar with a handful of Christmas food traditions around the world, but did you know that several countries also have a signature holiday drink? Cinnamon, spice, and everything nice help these traditional Christmas drinks deliver a hearty dose of holiday cheer. Bottoms up, because these boozy beverages just may inspire you to travel for a taste, or maybe even try your hand at whipping one up at home.
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Why settle for simply stirring a Christmas cocktail when you can light it on fire? In Germany, Feuerzangenbowle is a showy holiday drink that requires you set a rum-soaked cone of sugar on fire so it can drip into a flame-warmed bowl of spiced red wine waiting below. Traditionally, the sugarloaf was held in place by two tongs, giving the drink its name, “fire tong punch”. However, these days, it’s much more common to use a fondue-like contraption that is specially designed to prepare the drink.
INSIDER TIPSharing is caring; tackling an entire bowl on your own can easily bring on an abominable hangover.
Starting from early November’s Fiestas de Quito through Christmas, it’s canelazo time in Ecuador. This hot cinnamon drink is a festive favorite, and you’ll find its sweet and spiced scent wafting from holiday street vendor stalls and home kitchens alike. Made with a mix of passionfruit juice, lemon, and water boiled with cinnamon sticks, the drink is served hot with a boozy floater of Ecuador’s strong, sugarcane-based spirit aguardiente.
Poppy Seed Milk
Lithuania’s Poppy Seed Milk is a bit of an outlier, as it doesn’t use the typical warm spices like cinnamon or clove that dominate most other holiday beverages. Instead, this drink keeps it simple with just three ingredients: poppy seeds, water, and honey. However, crafting this cocktail takes patience as the poppy seeds need to soak overnight in hot water before being crushed (“milked”). Cooled water is added to the milk concentrate, along with a dab of honey to sweeten. Add a splash of Viryta (a spiced Lithuanian honey liquor) to spike and Sveikinimai!—you’ve got a Christmastime cocktail worth the wait.
WHERE: USA and Canada
In its simplest form, eggnog is made by mixing raw eggs, cream, milk, sugar, and a dash of cinnamon with whatever hard (usually dark) liquor on hand: Rum? Whiskey? Bourbon? Cognac? Go for it. In other words, it’s basically a boozed-up liquid custard that never made it into the oven that manages to polarize partygoers at every party. Haters can hate, but eggnog’s frothy rich goodness has been weighing down warm mugs for hundreds of years, and it remains one of the most popular festive drinks in both the U.S.A. and Canada.
With temps clinging to the 80s during the holiday season, it’s no surprise that Jamaica’s Christmastime cocktail is bright, refreshing, and served over ice. Sorrel Punch is basically a hibiscus (known in Jamaica as sorrel) tea brewed with spicy, fresh-grated ginger and warming spices like pimento (similar to allspice) and cinnamon. Red wine and white Jamaican rum give it that extra festive kick, while the combination of island ingredients help give drinkers of this tart dark red punch a taste of Jamaica in a cup.
Cola de Mono
While many popular holiday cocktails are backed by longtime festive tradition, Chile’s Cola de Mono, literally “Monkey’s Tail”, is said to have originated in the early 1900s. According to its origin story, this boozy coffee drink is a mixture of what was left at a party after all the wine had been drunk. A quick thinker threw together sugar, instant coffee, milk, cloves and a potent clear spirit similar to grappa, known as aguardiente to create this milky cocktail. It’s now a favorite at Chilean Christmas parties, and is akin to a holiday-spiced, coffee-infused White Russian.
Glögg or Gløgg
Go to Scandinavia during winter and you’ll be hard-pressed to walk a block without encountering hygge-inducing mulled wine. Known in Sweden as glögg and in Norway and Denmark as gløgg, this winter warming drink is a key player during Christmas. Though it almost always is made by warming red wine with sugar, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and cardamom, each country has its own take on this holiday classic. Swedes serve theirs with a spoon so you can scoop out all the alcohol-soaked dried fruits and nuts, while Norwegians often spike it further with a heavy pour of Aquavit. In Denmark, port wine is a frequent addition.
INSIDER TIPVisitors to Demark’s Tivoli Gardens amusement park might even find some muesli at the bottom of their gløgg.
Crema de Vie
This “Cream of Life” cocktail is specialty drink from Cuba resembling eggnog and seems even more beloved than its North American counterpart. Named in both Spanish and French, Crema de Vie has become a staple holiday drink for both Cubans and Cuban-Americans. Recipes vary, but typically include rich, sweet ingredients like condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, sugar, egg yolks, and white rum. Like eggnog, this drink is often served with a sprinkle or stick of cinnamon.
It’s not surprising that a country known for its beers makes hundreds of limited-run specialty brews just for the Christmas season. Think beer with a spiced twist, featuring flavors of orange peel, cinnamon, clove, and vanilla. Many of these beers are brewed near Antwerp in a town called Essen and are hard to find outside of the area.
INSIDER TIPEvery December, Christmas beer connoisseurs can sample over 200 Christmas and winter beers at the Kerstbier Fest in Essen.