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What's Cooking?: Holiday Wintry Drinks

As the holidays approach, preparations get underway as we think about what to serve at seasonal get-togethers.  We check our menu list of appetizers, main and side dishes and desserts.  We tend to overlook those inviting wintry drinks to welcome family and guests, taking the bite out of the cold.  There’s nothing like being greeted with yuletide cheer of toasty mugs filled with spiced cider, mulled wine, or a hot toddy.  Before my guests arrive, I prepare a big pot of mulled spiced cider simmering ready on the stove filled with rich apple cider, cinnamon sticks, orange peels, and whole cloves inserted in wheels of orange slices.  The aroma fills the house luring travelers to the comfort of home.

 Mulled cider derives from the term “mull” which means to flavor a drink by heating it and adding spices.  This hot drink is also sometimes called the wassail punch.  It is typically made of ale and beer, drank at festivities toasting or wassailing to one’s health.  So that children can enjoy the party too, it can be made with apple cider or cranberry juice or a combination of both.   Its soothing comfort is phenomenal so be sure get extra bottles of cider and spices as you replenish that pot.  Your guests will surely ask for more.

To the rest of the family and friends who enjoy a more adult drink, the mulled wine and hot toddy will satisfy the parts of you that are chilled to the bone as well as help initiate the merriment.  Mulled wine has its roots in Scandinavia for centuries known as glögg.  One can use any dark wine heated with spices such as cardamom, whole cloves, nutmeg, bay leaf, and allspice and citrus fruit peel.   It is best to let the spices steep for 24 hours in the refrigerator and then warm it on the stove before serving.   The basic hot toddy or “totty” is a mixed drink made of any brown liquor, boiling water with twists of lemon.  In addition to its drinkability, a hot toddy is known for its curative effects.  We can forget about the sinus medication, the hot toddy will clear it all and then some.  The variations seem boundless when you think of all the types of liquor you can try such as Irish or rye whiskey, brandy, bourbon, rum and even the option of adding an ounce of juice to each glass (only a suggestion).   With any of these drinks, experimentation is versatile in developing your own personal tastes and favorites.  By the way, don’t forget to include other favorites such as eggnogs, creamy hot chocolates, hot specialty coffees and teas to your wintry beverage options.   Cheers!

Wishing you Happy Holidays, a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

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Hot Toddies by Christopher B. O’Hara

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The Ultimate Party Drink by Bruce Weinstein

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