One of my favorite sensory pleasures is a good, event-appropriate drink. And I don’t mean necessarily alcoholic; drinking a glass of ice-cold water after a long run is one of the best, most refreshing, most satisfying experiences in life.
Drinks are essential to life (we need water to survive) and also part of frivolous-yet-essential human activities like celebrating. Champagne makes a celebratory event even more special. Hot chocolate with a peppermint stick makes a cold day perfectly cozy. Coffee with a bit of Kahlua makes a mid-morning feel both productive and mischievous. Welcoming guests with a crafted, thematic cocktail (alcoholic or no) adds an air of cohesion and specialness to a dinner party. A perfectly chosen wine brings out all the best elements in a food dish. A cup of tea with a good friend makes the intimate sharing even more special. The aroma right before the taste, bringing the drink up to your lips and taking a moment to inhale the scent before sipping the goods, makes drinking a bigger-bodied experience rather than just a mindless, singular imbibing.
I love what drinks can add to our daily lives, the way they complement the small and the big moments.
The holiday season offers almost too many drinks for my little reptilian brain to handle. Luckily, I find an excuse to celebrate in even the most mundane of days, so I am up to the challenge. In case you need some motivation, here are some of my favorite drink recipes for the holidays. To be enjoyed over several months and usually with a fluffy blanket.
Hot Chocolate Station
ESSENTIAL TO A SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAY SEASON. I set this up every December 1st and indulge almost nightly until January 1st. Or until supplies run out. Whichever comes first.
- Hot Chocolate mix (I enjoy Safeway brand, so I’m not picky)
- Mini marshmallows
- Candy canes
- Tray, bottles, and mugs for station
- Optional: sprinkles, chocolate chips, ground cinnamon, mini bottles of Peppermint Schnapps, Kahlua, and Baileys.
Instructions: Fill separate containers with hot chocolate mix and mini marshmallows. Add card with serving suggestions. Decorate with Christmas elements as desired. Set out for easy access through the snowy days!
Ok, I think mulled wine is also essential for the holiday season, but I know not everyone drinks alcohol. If you do, you need this in your life. (Ignore the reflection of my arm in the photo — but then again, someone’s gotta document these guns!) I also find this makes a lovely little foodie Christmas gift for friends, family, and coworkers, so keep that in mind.
- 1 bottle (750ml) red wine (fruity blends are good)
- 3 cups unsweetened apple cider (optional, but definitely recommended!)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 4 cinnamon sticks, 1 tbsp whole cloves, 1 star anise, 1 tbsp whole allspice berries, 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 cup cranberries, whole or halved
- 1/4 cup brandy
- Optional: vanilla bean; cranberries, orange slices, cinnamon sticks for serving
Combine wine, cider, honey, spices, orange, and cranberries (and vanilla bean, if using) in a pot over low heat for 25 – 30 minutes. Make sure it does not come to a boil. Stir after 10 minutes to fully dissolve honey. Just before serving, add brandy. Ladle into mugs, garnish with cinnamon stick and orange slices, and enjoy with a good book in front of a lit Christmas tree.
(This recipe can also be adapted for non-alcoholic hot apple cider — just use a jug of cider and eliminate the alcohol. Consider adding molasses and extra vanilla for amazing depth. Mulled Apple Cider is actually my Thanksgiving non-alcoholic welcome drink of choice.)
Holiday White Wine
Sometimes you just need a little dash of holiday with your EOLAWD (end-of-long-ass-work-day) glass of white wine. Sometimes you also need to use up leftover herbs and sundries so you don’t have to throw away $1,000 worth of now-brown rosemary as purchased-in-Hawaii (only a slight price exaggeration). This is not worth a formal recipe, just a nudge to creativity: pour a glass of red or white wine and simply add a sprig of rosemary and some cranberries to the glass. Even if the rosemary and cranberries don’t infuse the wine very strongly, the scent every time you take a sip is enough to send you into relaxed holiday bliss. (Other options: orange slices, lemon slices, lime slices, apple slices. It’s like lazy sangria.)
And to finish it off, the easiest of suggestions! A couple drink-as-purchased options for the holidays…
Oh my goodness, I love champagne, and life is too short not to celebrate the little moments. (Sometimes surviving a Tuesday qualifies.) Buy a decent bottle and salud with your loved ones.
Sparkling Apple Cider
As deep as my love for champagne runs, so does my love for sparkling apple cider. It’s the taste of my childhood Christmases and tastes and experiences just as celebratory as champagne to me. Plus, it has the benefit of being incredibly budget-friendly. Don’t shy away from the sparkling apple cider love.
Silk Soy Egg Nog
Confession time: I HATE REAL EGG NOG. OMG BLECH. It is so rich, and I just can’t stomach it. I adore Silk Soy Egg Nog, however. It’s perfectly sweet and rich enough to feel indulgent, but not so thick that I compulsively start chewing. Get you some in most milk aisles across the U.S. (And, if you are so inclined, it also tastes great with a bit o’ bourbon. No judgment here.)
So there you have it — my favorite drinks to celebrate and accentuate the holiday season. Keep these in mind as you move through your holidays, and let me know if you add any to your major or minor celebrations!