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The fire is roaring, the Christmas songs are playing, and you’re sipping on a...mulled wine, snowball or hot chocolate? Everyone has a favourite Christmas tipple, and the season just doesn’t feel complete without it. Here in the UK, we love our fruity, cinnamon-infused concoctions, but drinking traditions vary drastically around the world. Add some international flavour to your Christmas party by joining us on a tasty tour around some of the world’s most delicious traditional Christmas drinks.
Translating to “the bomb” in Italian, Bombardino is reminiscent of eggnog. It’s often enjoyed as an après-ski treat; while created in Lombardia, these days it’s found in cosy bars across the Italian Alps. The story goes that one day four skiers tumbled into a ski lodge to escape the blizzard and requested something warm and comforting. The owner quickly whipped together the only ingredients he had – milk, whisky and zabaglione, prompting one of the men to exclaim, “It’s a bomb” in Italian!
A sweet and spicy Christmas punch, Ponche Navideno is a bit like mulled wine, with more fruits and added nuts. Mexican local fruits, such as tejocotes, guavas, walnuts and raisins are all added to spices and sugar to make this hearty, festive cocktail. It is normally drunk on Noche Buena and in the 9 days leading up until Christmas, which in Mexico is referred to as Posadas. A simmering pot of Ponche Navideno, and the spicy scent it fills the home with are a sure sign of festivity in Mexico.
Milk, coffee and whatever alcohol you have to hand can be blended to make the Chilean beverage of Cola de Mono, which translates to “monkey’s tail”. The common theory behind this is that one too many may have you swinging like a monkey! Wherever this Christmas cocktail came from, it tastes best served in the traditional Chilean way: cold and strong. Smooth, creamy and sweet, Cola de Mono is almost like a caffeinated eggnog. Enjoy with pastries, a slice of Christmas cake or Panettone.
Sorrel punch is ubiquitous in Jamaica at Christmas time and heralds the beginning of the festive season. It’s made by combining gingerroot, sugar, a dash of rum, and bright red dried hibiscus flowers. The deep red colour just sings out Christmas, as does the spicy and fruity flavour, which manages to taste both refreshing and seasonal at the same time. A big pot is simple to make, and keeping it simmering on the stove will make your home feel homely and festive all evening long.
Here in the UK, we love our cider, but have you ever tried Wassailing? It’s a warm and spiced cider, which is laced with fruit and cinnamon and served in a big bowl. It’s named after an Anglo-Saxon ritual in which people sang and danced in the apple orchards, in the hope that this would help the trees thrive and bear fruit the following year. The actual word “wassail” can be translated to mean “good health”, meaning it’s perfect to make a toast with at Christmas time!
Glögg is essentially a hot mulled wine made from brandy, red wine and port, infused with a range of spices and fruits, and is very popular in Sweden. It’s perfect for warming hands and spirits on cold nights. Unlike the German Glühwein, glögg also includes a smattering of raisins and almonds. This festive tipple dates all the way back to 1500's when it was said to have healing properties. We don’t know about that, but it certainly tastes good when it’s snowing outside.
Forget Glühwein – a far more intriguing German Christmas drink is Feuerzangenbowle. Surging in popularity since the 1944 film, Die Feuerzangenbowle, part of the joy of this beverage is in the ritual of making it: it involves positioning a chunk of German sugarloaf over the wine, soaking it through with rum, and then setting it alight. The sugar is kept burning until it has all melted into the wine. Turn off the lights to enjoy the spectacle in all its splendour, and then enjoy!
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