The thermometer dips, Christmas decorations abound, and gift-shopping is the norm. It’s that time of year again. Winter and the holidays are upon us. It’s also a time for warming drinks. Eggnog is the old standby; and in my culture we have coquito. Yet there are other winter drinks that are just as delicious and warm you all over. These beverages have been with us since anyone could remember. They have become winter solstice tradition. I cite three favorites: mulled wine; hot toddy; and hot buttered rum. So, while it’s bitterly cold outside, sit back in your favorite armchair, wrap yourself and your love one in a nice blanket or comforter, and savor one of these beverages.
This drink goes back to Ancient Rome, where it was first recorded. So, the idea of heating wine and adding herbs and spices is not new. It was very popular in Victorian England, and it still remains so today. The chintziest recipe I came across is noted in the fabled Mr. Boston Bartender’s Guide, which calls it “Mulled Claret;” and has sugar, lemon, bitters, nutmeg and cinnamon placed in a metal mug, along with the wine, and then a heated red hot poker is put in the liquid until boiling. Not many people have access to a red hot poker these days thus my recipe is more conventional.
In a large saucepan, combine one bottle (730 ml) red wine (Cabernet, Zinfandel, Burgundy, Merlot), 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup apple cider, 5 whole cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, 3 star anise, 1 teaspoon ground ginger or allspice. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure the honey had completely dissolved and the ingredients have been well blended. Pour into mugs and serve. If desired, you can add a thin, round orange slice to each serving. Serves about 4-6.
Another oldie. It was once touted as a sure-fire cure for colds and the flu. I don’t know about that, but it’s great for wet and cold weather. Supposedly, the toddy (or “tottie”) is Scottish in origin. The alcohol of choice for a toddy is whiskey; but you can substitute dark rum if desired.
In a 5-ounce glass put one lump or teaspoon of sugar. Add 2 ounces whiskey. Then fill glass with boiling water. Stir and decorate with a lemon slice, and sprinkle with nutmeg on top.
HOT BUTTERED RUM
The drink of hardened sailors in the old days. The drink traces its lineage to the American colonies, where it had been around since the 1650s.
In a mug put one lump or teaspoon of sugar. Add 2 ounces of dark rum, 1/2 teaspoon butter and 4 whole cloves. Add a pinch of nutmeg, fill with boiling water and stir to combine. Another variation is to float the butter on top (after adding the other ingredients), and include a cinnamon stick (which can also be used as a stirrer).