As I was sitting around on a grey Sunday, watching the hapless Vikings go thru another disappointing loss, I spied a bottle of Warres 10yr old Port leftover from Thanksgiving sitting on the counter. I felt it was a shame to leave the lonely bottle half drunk so I di my duty and poured myself a glass. The sweet bracing undertones of the 10yr elixir calmed my nerves as I watched Teddy Bridgewater lead the ineffectual offense. As I sat there reflecting on the grey foggy day, the port brought me to a place in England where I could see English aristocrats drinking their ports while ruminating on the upcoming season. Port is a not an English drink—but it has become an English tradition especially around the Christmas season.

Port is basically a fortified wine. The English had the Portuguese wine makers add a little brandy or liquor to the wine so it would stand up to the long travel back to England. The English discovered that the great strong flavors were delicious as an evening nightcap or perfect with a chocolate dessert. It soon became a staple on the Christmas table!

I started to think of other Christmas traditions around the world. Christmas in the civilized Western world is an awesome time of year as we celebrate the birth of greatness. The entire Christian world from the classic byzantine Eastern Orthodox countries like, Greece, Russia, Romania, to the modern western churches of Italy, Germany, France and England all have their own traditional drinks and holiday traditions. Russia is definitely a vodka culture, Romania has the great plum brandy slivovitz, and Greece has the beautiful Metaxa, a Brandy-like liqueur.

Mulled Wine

A classic German Drink

German Gluhwein is always a classic in the cold regions of the world. Gluhwein is a red wine that is fortified with various spices of cinnamon, lemonseed, aniseed, cloves, orange and vanilla. It can be served warm or room temperature. It has an amazing aroma of holiday spices, similar to the holiday beers I wrote about last week. You can make it yourself or the Saint Christopher winery has a great one that is premade in the bottle and ready to go, either way it is a great holiday drink.

The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden have their own traditional drink. Aquavit is a strong drink that will warm you up! The name aquavit comes from the Latin term Aqua Vitae or “water of life. “ Aquavit is a distilled product from grain and then flavors are added. The most popular is Caraway and dill. It is usually sipped ice cold. It is a great treat with the ever-present lefsa and lutefisk!

Francophiles drink wine with every holiday. And of course the Beaujolais Nouveau must be drunk over the holidays. The celebratory wine bottled in early November is best drunk young and fresh. The Nouveau this year is spectacular and if you see some you should treat yourself to the bright cheery flavors. Beaujolais Nouveau was made to celebrate the first harvest of the winemaking year. Use it to celebrate the birth of the King. It will go perfect with your Christmas Turkey or Ham!

Here in America we have some great traditions also. There are a plethora of great Craft Breweries making fun and unique Christmas style beers. Try any of the brands you see and you will be happy. There is so much good beer out there it is an awesome time to be a beer lover! The creativity and daring of the US brew masters is at an all time high!

But I love Tom and Jerry’s this time of year. A Tom and Jerry is an egg-based batter that you add brandy and rum to. It is sweet and filling and will bring a smile to everyone at the party. You can make it from scratch, but as I am lazy and busy, I use the locally made Flaherty’s Tom and Jerry batter. The Flaherty family of St Paul has made it since the 1940’s. It is a fresh product that is only available this time of year. The family recipe is just spicy enough and is perfect with a half a jigger of Rum and half a jigger of Brandy. It also makes a great French toast. The holiday spices of cinnamon, all-spice and other secrets are a great way to start the holidays!!

Whatever your heritage, Liquor, beer and wine is and should be a part of every celebration. Enjoy this most blessed of seasons and enjoy the Christmas miracle! Cheers!!