If there was ever a time to eat, drink and be merry, then it's the holiday season for sure. And after much hypothetical planning this month, which has involved us mentally creating our perfect Christmas menus; salivating over imaginary roast hams and black forest trifles, what we've found to oft be overlooked is the ideal Christmas drink. Booze during this most festive of months isn't something you should neck as quickly as possible to make family interactions and obligatory work parties more palatable, no! They should be just a part of the idealised menu as the turkey, mince pies and even Brussel sprouts. This is about more than a warm glass of prosecco or some sickly flavoured cream liquor. So to get into the proper party spirit (get it?), here's our countdown of the most scrumptious sounding, odd and downright dangerous (for your head at least) Christmas beverages, along with recipes detailing how to make them for your own cheery get-together or cosy night in beside a roaring fire.
1. It may sound like something out of a fantasy story, but Poppy Seed Milk is a popular drink this time of year in Lithuania and the ingredients are pretty simple, it's also suitable for drinkers and teetotallers alike - perfect for a gathering where you're expecting some designated drivers.
- 200g of poppy seeds
- 2 tbsps of sugar
- 1 tsp of almond extract
- Place the seeds in a bowl, add enough of the boiling water to cover and leave to soak for ten minutes
- Transfer mixture to a blender and whizz until smooth
- Using a cheesecloth or square of muslin, squeeze the 'milk' from the blended poppy seeds into a decanter or measuring jug then stir in the sugar and almond extract
- Place in the refrigerator until chilled then serve with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg for that final festive flourish
2. On to the hard stuff now with this offering from Italy. Popular in Alpine ski resorts, Bombardino isalso a common sight amongst Christmas Eve revelries and makes for the perfect Christmas drink, being indulgent enough not to be drunk throughout the year and featuring a stiff shot of espresso to make sure you don't lounge in bed too long the next day.
- One-part Brandy
- One-part Advocaat (how large you want your drink is up to you!)
- One shot of espresso
- Whipped cream, to serve
- This one's pretty simple, just mix all the ingredients together, top with a generous squirt of cream e buon appetite! If you want to be extra fancy, garnish with a couple of fragrant coffee beans or a light dusting of cocoa powder
3. For the wannabe mixologists amongst you looking for a Christmas challenge, we're takin a trip to Central America for a delicious glass of Ponche Navideño - Mexico's answer to mulled wine.
Ingredients - makes enough for a good sized punch bowl
- 1l of water
- 120g brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 150g tejocotes (a specific Mexican apple that can easily be substituted with crabapples or braeburns)
- 4 guavas
- 120g prunes, chopped
- 120g of mandarins, chopped
- 1 pear, chopped
- 120g raisins
- 1 sugar cane stick, cut lengthways into 4 pieces (if you can't get hold of sugar cane sticks, a reasonable replacement is dissolving cane sugar granules in water then adding a dash of maple syrup. It's best to add this at the very end, to taste)
- 20g hibiscus flowers (or dried rosehips if hibiscus flowers are too difficult to come by)
- Rum, to taste
- Heat the water, brown sugar, cinnamon and tejocotes (or apples) together in a saucepan for around 15 minutes
- Add the rest of the ingredients, turn down the heat and simmer for one hour
- Decant into a punch bowel, perhaps adding some sliced oranges studded with cloves or a star anise or two for that extra kick - and don't forget to add an extra splash of rum for luck!
4. Our next offering won't be ready for the big day, but you could consider it a test run for next year, and there's nothing wrong with a little tipple or two in the later winter months to keep chills at bay! It comes from Romania where weary festive travellers are welcomed in from the cold with a warming glass of Țuică, a homemade spirit concocted from fermented plums.
- 2kg ripe plums halved, pitted and roughly chopped
- 450g sugar
- 750ml brandy
- Place the plums and sugar into a Kilner jar (or similar), stir until well mixed then seal
- Leave for two weeks before straining the liquid, through a muslin or cheesecloth, into another jar
- Top up with the brandy and seal
- Store in the fridge for at least one month before opening
5. You may well have had enough Christmas drinks by now, but we can't forget the biggest party of the year - New Year's Eve - when drinking is pretty much mandatory in advance of 'dry January'. This last hurrah is certainly worth the extra units and calories so let's hear it for America's Peppermint Bark Mimosas.
- 1 small bar of milk chocolate (for glass decoration)
- 3 crushed candy canes
- 180 ml of peppermint schnapps
- 1 bottle of fizz (your choice)
- As many candy canes as glasses (for serving)
- Melt the chocolate and pour onto a plate. Add the crushed candy canes before dabbing the rims of your chosen glasses into the mix. Leave to harden.
- Add approximately 30ml of peppermint schnapps to each glass then top up with your chilled bottle of bubbles
- Hang a candy cane on each glass (with the stick dipping into the liquid) and serve at midnight to raucous approval and applause!
Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years from everyone at Great Rail Journeys.