From hot tea and coffee to mulled wine and seasonal craft beers, festive drinks are as much a part of family holiday traditions as food and presents. Here are some traditional beverages – both kid friendly and strictly adult – that can add a bit of warmth and sparkle to your celebrations. The drinks are all easy to make and only take a few minutes – which leaves plenty of time for all those other holiday activities.
There are plenty of ways to make hot chocolate from scratch, but I admit: I generally use a packet. However, it’s easy to add a few items here and there to make it extra special, especially for the holidays. Everyone else can keep their peppermint; my favorite method is to add a bit of a kick, Southwestern style.
- Hot chocolate packet or mix
- 8 ounces milk (full fat)
- Chili powder
- Homemade whipped cream
Heat the milk. I prefer to do it on the stove, as it makes it easier to control the temperature. Remove it just before it starts to boil – it needs to be hot enough for the chocolate mix to dissolve, but not hot enough to scald. Pour into a mug nearly to top; add in chocolate mix and chili powder, and stir. Top with homemade whipped cream – which tastes so much better than the stuff in a can.
Homemade Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
- 1-2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional: make a grown-up version with a teaspoon of bourbon added to the mix
Chill a metal bowl and spoon for several minutes, then add the cream to the bowl. Whip the cream until it starts to form peaks, then whip in sugar and vanilla. Cover the top of your hot chocolate and sprinkle with cinnamon or chocolate shavings to make it fancy.
This is to coffee what a mimosa is to orange juice, but while mimosas pair well with brunch, Irish coffee goes perfectly with a late night of wrapping presents – and pairs especially well with a chocolatey dessert. Top off with some of that tasty whipped cream you’ve made for the hot chocolate.
- 1 cup hot-brewed medium-roast coffee
- 1.5 ounces Irish cream liqueur
- 1.5 ounces bourbon or Irish whisky
- Bourbon whipped cream
I’m one-quarter Irish (hence the name), but 100% Kentuckian, so our family uses our state’s finest bourbon instead of the traditional Irish whisky, but there’s nothing wrong with sticking with the full Irish version. While the coffee finishes brewing, pour bourbon into a large mug. Add coffee, leaving room for the Irish cream, and top off with regular or bourbon-flavored whipped cream.
As it turns out, tea was not the only beverage to cause a riot in the US, though the Eggnog Riot of 1826 at West Point didn’t start any wars, even if it did get several cadets at the military academy expelled. This British drink has evolved from a hot winter drink over the years to a Christmas drink served cold. Serve the non-spiked version to relatives inclined toward drama – or those who simply prefer to remain sober.
- 3 cups milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup sugar (add more to make it sweeter)
- 4 cups light cream
- 12 egg yolks
- 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (keep the 1/2 teaspoon separate)
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Optional: up to 2 1/2 cups light rum
- Optional: 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Combine the milk, cream and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a pan and heat on lowest setting, bringing it slowly to a boil. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together until it’s fluffy, then slowly whisk in milk mixture, then add back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick (about 3 minutes). Remove before the mixture boils and let cool. Stir in cream, remaining vanilla, nutmeg and rum; refrigerate overnight, or for several hours before serving. Serve topped with the homemade whipped cream.
Christmas Brunch Mimosas
Mimosas are perfect for my contribution to our family’s annual Christmas brunch – in my opinion, the best meal all year. Best of all, they’re easy to make. Fair warning, though: they do pack a punch!
Of course, last year, we had two moms-to-be, some designated drivers and several kids who wanted pretty drinks, so there are non-alcoholic versions, such as the one I made using ginger ale instead.
- Dry white wine or champagne of choice
- Orange juice
- 100% Cranberry juice
- Vodka (plain, orange or cranberry)
Fill one-third of the glass with the champagne, and add another third of orange juice. Add a splash of vodka, and fill the rest of the way with cranberry juice. Mix and garnish with an orange slice or other piece of fruit to add a festive touch.
- Orange Juice
- Sprite, Seven-up, or Ginger Ale, chilled
- 100% Cranberry juice
- Optional: a splash of Grenadine to add some sweetness
For this kid-friendly version, the mixture is about about equal parts orange juice, cranberry juice, and soda. This can be served over ice or in a chilled glass, and garnished with fruit.
Making mulled wine serves two purposes: creating a warm, tasty beverage, and making your home smell delicious! I like mine a little more spicy and a little less sweet, but there’s really no wrong way to do this; as long as you have some red wine, some spice
- 12 cloves, whole
- 2 bottles of red wine (I prefer a red blend like Apothic red, but any type of red will do)
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 cup apple cider
- 2 oranges
- 1 pinch ground nutmeg
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
Pour wine and apple cider into a sauce pan, turn burner onto medium. Shave curls of orange peel, then cut and squeeze oranges into mixture. Add in sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg, and allow to warm, stirring occasionally. Heat it slowly; don’t let it boil. Allow to cook for at least 20 minutes; pour into a mug, and enjoy.