World History Through 5 Festive Holiday Cocktails

Learning through travel is our primary focus at Open Wide the World. But since spending holidays with family is an equally important priority, we find ourselves looking for variations on travel-learning during this frosty, homebound season. (Find more ways to "live like a traveler when stuck at home" here.)

Enter: World Holiday Drinks!

Yes, this season we are bringing the world home to us through five world holiday drinks. So grab a shaker, some festive glassware, and your world curiosity, then settle in and study up with us as we sip our way around the world!

For the years you can't travel at Christmas, why not bring the world festivities home? We have compiled recipes for our five favorite holiday cocktails from around the world!

Saúde! Santé! Prost! ¡Salud! Cheers!


Brazil: pomegranate caipirinha

Urban legend holds that the caipirinha, roughly translating as “little countryside drink,” was initially prepared as a medicine to ease the effects of the Spanish Flu during World War I. The original recipe contained cachaça (Brazil’s fruity, rum-like spirit), green lemon, honey and garlic. 

Over time, the honey and garlic dropped out, and sugar was introduced, so that the modern caipirinha consists simply of cachaça, muddled green lemon, sugar and ice.

And for this festive and refreshing holiday version: pomegranate!

For the years you can't travel at Christmas, why not bring the world festivities home? We have compiled recipes for our five favorite holiday cocktails from around the world! 

Festive Pomegranate Caipirinha Recipe:

Yield: 6 servings

You will need:

  • the seeds of 2 pomegranates (Some groceries sell the seeds in the pre-cut fruit section.)
  • 3 green lemons, cut into 8 wedges each (Limes suffice for those of us far from Brazil.)
  • 6 TBS granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cachaça

In each glass:

Muddle together 3 TBS pomegranate seeds, 4 wedges of green lemon/lime, and 1 TBS sugar. Be sure the green lemon/lime muddled well; if not, squeeze the wedge to juice it more.

Fill the glass with ice. We recommend crushed ice.

Pour 2 TBS cachaça over the ice. Stir and serve immediately.

Saúde!


France: cidre chaud à la cannelle

In the U.S., the term “cider” typically refers to a non-alcoholic, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple juice. (Or more accurately, apple juice is a filtered, pasteurized, de- and re-hydrated apple cider. But that’s another story.) 

However, back on the Continent, “cider” is the alcoholic product of fermented apple juice. European regions vary in their production of cider, with the French production process resembling that of a wine.

French ciders are often lower in alcohol, less sweet, and more fruity than their British and European counterparts. Texturally, French ciders often resemble sparkling wine, which is very noticeable in this favorite French holiday drink.

For the years you can't travel at Christmas, why not bring the world festivities home? We have compiled recipes for our five favorite holiday cocktails from around the world!  

Cidre Chaud à la Cannelle (warm cinnamon cider) Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

You will need:

  • 2 individual-serving bottles (12 oz.) of French cider (We like Stella Artois Cidre.)
  • 1 orange, zest of and slices of
  • 1 lemon, zest of and a wedge of
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves 
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp honey

Heat cider in a small pot on the stovetop.

Bring to a simmer, then add spices, sugar, zest, and most of the orange slices, retaining a few for garnish, if desired. Squeeze in a few drops of lemon.

Heat, but do not boil, for about 10 minutes.

Just before serving, put 1 tsp honey in each of 2 mugs. 

Strain cider and pour into mugs. Garnish with remaining orange slices.

Santé!


Germany: Glühwein

The name itself comes from the German word “glühen,” meaning to glow, and “wein,” or wine. In the Middle Ages, irons were heated over a fire, then removed from the heat, the ashes shaken off, and the hot, glowing iron was submerged into a cup of wine to warm it.

Predating the Medieval German name, early mulled wines are credited to the ancient Greeks by some, second century Romans by others. No matter their origin, mulled wines continue to be a beloved libation all across Europe during modern winter months, especially in the last weeks before Christmas.

Recipes range from very basic to somewhat involved. Here’s our favorite version from the middle of the continuum:

For the years you can't travel at Christmas, why not bring the world festivities home? We have compiled recipes for our five favorite holiday cocktails from around the world!

Glühwein Recipe

Yield: 5 servings

You will need:

  • 1 litre red wine – preferably fruity and without oak and tannins
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large orange, sliced into several rounds (retain for garnish) with remainder juiced
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 5-6 whole cloves
  • 1 nutmeg, about 10 gratings - or a few shakes of pre-grated nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise

Combine all ingredients except alchohol over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour. The liquid will reduce, so after 30 minutes, add a half a cup of wine.

When your have a syrup, reduce heat to low and add remaining wine. Bring back to a gentle simmer and heat through, about 5 minutes. 

Ladle into mugs and serve warm. Garnish with orange rounds and cinnamon stick, if desired.

Prost!


Puerto Rico: coquito

With eggs and milk being products reserved for the wealthy in Medieval Britain, egg-based drinks became a symbol of status. These “nogs,” as the beaten egg drinks were called, made their way to the New World in the colonial era, and recipes adapted themselves to local ingredients.

While eggs, cream, and rum became the eggnog of Mainland New World, Caribbean islands developed their own variations. One of the most popular: the coconut-based coquito of Puerto Rico.

Traditional coquito recipes include the beaten eggs of Old World nogs; to avoid lengthy discussions of raw egg safety, we enjoy this egg-less version:

For the years you can't travel at Christmas, why not bring the world festivities home? We have compiled recipes for our five favorite holiday cocktails from around the world!

Egg-less Coquito Recipe

Yield: party-size!

You will need:

  • 2 cans cream of coconut
  • 2 cans evaporated milk
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

In blender, add evaporated milk, cream of coconut, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, rum, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend on high until mixture is well combined, 1-2 minutes.

Transfer to glass bottles. Refrigerate. Chill until cold.

Before serving, shake bottle well. 

Pour coquito into glasses and garnish with ground cinnamon.

¡Salud!


UK: hot toddy

With origins in Colonial India, Colonial America, and Scotland, today's hot toddy seemingly took a world tour in becoming modern Brits' drink of choice for the winter months.

British Colonizers likely first fell for a cool beverage made from the fermented sap of India's tari tree, then come to love a warm American concoction of rum, water and spices. Somehow the Scottish affinity for whisky worked its way into the mix, so that today a toddy typically consists of a spirit (most often whisky), water, a sweetener (usually honey), and spices. 

Variations abound; enjoy this simple, standard recipe:

For the years you can't travel at Christmas, why not bring the world festivities home? We have compiled recipes for our five favorite holiday cocktails from around the world!

Simple Hot Toddy Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

You will need:

  • 1/2 a lemon, cut into 2 wedges
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 4 TBS whisky
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Heat 1/2 cup of water to boiling. Add cloves and cinnamon stick. Allow to steep several minutes.

Into each mug:

  • Squeeze a lemon wedge
  • Add 1 TBS honey
  • Add 2 TBS whisky (or bourbon)

Remove cloves and cinnamon stick from hot water. Pour hot water into mugs, stirring until honey dissolves. Serve hot.  

Cheers!


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What world holiday drinks do you enjoy? 

Share your fav in the comments!


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Have more fun in your holiday entertaining!