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Favorite Christmas Beverages

Many foods are associated with the festive Christmas season – cookies, fruitcake, gingerbread, and several others from a variety of cultures. Some of these are foods that we regularly enjoy around the holidays but often don’t partake of during the rest of the year. The same goes for a long list of beverages that have became an important part of the Christmas tradition for many families. They’re often drinks that warm both the body and the heart and many have been around for centuries. Most are easy to make and are a great addition to any Christmas party or dinner.


The wassail bowl or wassail punch has a long history that dates back as far as the
Eighth Century A.D., when the word was spotted in the book Beowulf. The term comes from the Old English was hal and the Old Norse ves heil, which meant something akin to “Be in Good Health”. It was a greeting generally used among friends or acquaintances but was later used primarily in the saloons and drinking halls of the era as a toast. Later, wassail referred to the drink used for the toast.
The idea of a wassail bowl appeared around the 13th Century and was used to dip cakes and bread. The bowl was usually made of wood or pewter. The tradition of “wassailing”, as in the notable Christmas Carol Here We Come a Wassailing, came about a few centuries later as peasants went door-to-door with the bowl, offering drink and expecting payment in return.
Wassail punch was later brought to the New World as the American colonies began to take shape. Today, it’s enjoyed in many households and there are numerous different recipes for the drink. Most traditional recipes include ale, sherry, brown sugar, apples, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but there are all sorts of modern twists on this drink as well.


The tradition of eggnog isn’t quite as old as that of wassail. Though the recipe did indeed come from some milk and wine concoctions of long ago, rum wasn’t added until the tradition reached the American colonies. Rum was referred to as “grog” during that era and many believe the name came from that word. Others infer that it came from the word “noggin”, which was a small, carved wood mug. Still, others believe the word eggnog came from a combination of the two – egg and grog in a noggin= eggnog.
Eggnog quickly became a social drink and was consumed in great quantities at parties and holiday get-togethers, especially at Christmastime. However, it was also consumed on New Year’s Day. It is said that eggnog was one of George Washington’s favorite drinks though he added considerably more alcohol to the recipe, including sherry and rye whiskey.
Today, you can readily purchase eggnog in a carton at your grocery store or you can make your own. Like wassail, many people serve it in a large punch bowl and fans of the drink argue that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a glass of “nog.”

Mulled Cider

Mulled or spiced cider is one of those beverages that make you warm from your head to your toes. An American Christmas tradition, it is related to wassail but just a bit different. Instead of lots of liquor, it usually includes apple cider or cranberry juice (or both) and is non-alcoholic.
Mulling refers to the act of warming a beverage by heating it and then adding spices. Traditional mulled cider generally includes citrus zest as well. Common spices used in the cider are those that are similar to what is used in wassail punch, including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice.
This drink is usually prepared in a large stainless steel pot on the stove, but party hosts now often use a slow cooker for heating and serving their mulled cider because it is convenient and can be easily transferred to the table so guests can serve themselves.