Winter Cocktails

No matter what foods I prepare during the holidays, I always serve them with a few hot cocktails. My favorite drinks include a tasty glogg, a fruity wassail and a creamy Tom and Jerry.

Holiday customs in many countries includes some kind of hot wine. In France, heated wine is combined with brandy to make vin chaud and, in Germany, the drink is sold in Christmas markets as glintwein. Swedes warm up cold northern nights with glogg, a hearty mixture of red wine, vodka, nuts, raisins and spices.

Although Webster's Dictionary defines glogg (see recipe at lower left) as a Swedish drink, Denmark and Norway also have versions with the same name. The Norwegians prepare it with fruit liquor instead of vodka, the Danes with more nuts and less alcohol. However you choose to mix it, glogg is a savory drink that is a must for your holiday cocktail menu.

Another favorite is wassail, the name of which is derived from the Old Norse ves heill, or be well. Although wassail (see recipe at left) can be prepared using a base of wine or hard cider, this ale-based version is perfect when made with Baltika beer.

If you prefer something with a few more calories, try a Tom and Jerry. The drink, which is similar to egg nog, is a traditional New Year's cocktail in the United States and Britain. As you whip your egg whites, pass the time pondering the contentious history of the drink: Many of England's Tom and Jerry drinkers hold that the frothy beverage was invented by author Pierce Egan in the 19th century, shortly after the publication of his "Life in London, or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq. and His Elegant Friend, Corinthian Tom" in 1821. But American holiday tipplers claim the drink (see recipe below) was first mixed at San Francisco's Occidental Hotel, where bartender Jerry Thomas is thought to have invented it sometime in the 1860s.

Regardless of which country's claims are accurate, the drink is sure to please everyone at your table, Londoners and San Franciscans alike.

glogg

3 bottles sweet or semi-sweet red wine
1/2 liter of vodka
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon whole cloves
pinch ground cardamom
zest of one orange
150g (1 cup) raisins
150g (1 cup) almonds, chopped

Combine the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, zest, nuts and raisins with the vodka and let the mixture steep overnight.

Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves when ready to heat the spiced vodka mixture. In a large saucepan (or even a soup pot), mix the wine with the spiced vodka mixture and heat the mixture over low heat until hot, at least 10 minutes. Stir frequently, paying careful attention that the liquid does not burn or stick to the bottom of the saucepan. Also, be careful not to overheat the mixture and cook off all of the alcohol -- unless, of course, that is your intention! Serves eight.

wassail

6 500ml bottles Baltika 4 beer (the darkest variety)
1/2 liter (2 1/2 cups) rum
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
100g (1/2 cup) sugar
8 apples

Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Place whole apples on a baking sheet, poke several times with a fork and bake until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Again, avoid overheating lest you burn off the alcohol! Wassail is traditionally served with a ladle, from a large bowl -- but if you're planning on going a-wassailing, or caroling, pour the mixture into a portable thermos and hit the streets. Serves eight.

tom & jerry

12 eggs
190g (1 1/4 cups) confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
20 fluid ounces brandy
5 1/2 liters (24 cups) milk
a pinch ground nutmeg

Separate the eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Whisk in 115g (3/4 cup) of the confectioners' sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 75g (1/2 cup) of confectioners' sugar and 4 to 5 tablespoons of the brandy, until mixture is light and lemon-colored. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolks, add the spices and refrigerate the mixture. In a large pot, heat the milk until hot but do not boil. Reduce heat and keep milk hot. To each mug, add 2 tablespoons brandy (or more to taste) and 1 large heaping tablespoon of the egg mixture. Stir and fill mug with hot milk. Place another tablespoon of egg mixture on top and sprinkle with nutmeg. Makes 24 servings.