by Bob Sparrow
Suzanne’s blog last week mentioned that the town of Thuringia, Germany as the birthplace of Christmas decorations and also may be known for its beer, and that I would be more likely to write about that, the beer. Well if that wasn’t throwing down the gauntlet then I don’t know what was. So . . . I did a little research on this quaint little town and have found that it is indeed steeped in Christmas traditions, among them is a keen appreciation of holiday hooch. To wit: During what they call the Advent season, which begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve, people there gather together and drink Gluhwein, a mixture of red wine, sugar and winter spices; add a shot of rum and you’ve got a Gluhwein mit Schuss, you’ve also got a headache in the morning.
So while you may not need a guide to traditional Christmas cheer like ‘Peace on Earth Good Will Towards Men’ (and Women we presume) or as The Elf says, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear”, I personally like Dave Barry’s Christmas cheer, “Once again we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observe in our own way by going to the mall of our choice.” There is of course the holiday cheer reminding us to ‘Jingle all the way, no one likes a half-assed jingler.’
This blog however is about the ‘other’ Christmas cheer, the one that we can consume and often times helps us get into the Christmas spirit or simply helps us get through the ‘Holidaze’. In the event you don’t have access to Gluhwein mit Schuss, here’s your imbibing guide to, and definitions of, some traditional Christmas cheer, along with their country of origin:
Christmas beer – Germany (official definition): A seasonal beer brewed for consumption at Christmas (Duh!). It is usually strong and spiced with a variety of ingredients including cinnamon, orange peel, cloves and vanilla. I guess it’s still beer, it just doesn’t taste like it.
Wassail – England: The word comes from an Old English word for ‘healthful’ and is a beverage of hot mulled cider, originally not an alcoholic drink, but we took care of that little shortcoming as modern recipes start with a base of wine or mulled ale with either brandy or sherry added.
Hot Buttered Rum – Colonial America: How do you go wrong with butter and rum in anything? (These two ingredients along with some brown sugar and bananas makes a wonderful Bananas Foster dessert, but I digress). This traditional holiday beverage is typically sweetened and spiced with such things as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Hot Toddy – Ireland: Yes, a Hot Toddy is different from a Hot Buttered Rum, as it is made with whiskey, hot water and honey; some recipes add herbs and spices. Some believe it relieves the symptoms of a cold or flu as the honey soothes while the alcohol numbs. Forget CVS you need to get to BevMo.
If you’re not a traditionalist there are plenty of modern holiday cocktails that will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit, like a Poinsettia Spritz Punch, a Pomegranate and Peppermint Moscow Mule or a Gingerbread Latte with Caramel Sugar. However, if you still find yourself in a ‘Bah Humbug’ mood, I’d recommend a shot of tequila and a regular beer back, no cinnamon, no cloves, no nutmeg. Country of origin? My house.
Hoping you get into the Christmas spirits one way or the other this season. Cheers!