Holiday Cheer: Of Nogs and Gloggs and Syllabubs

By Susan Ager / Photography By Larry Coppard | Last Updated November 01, 2012
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Holiday Cocktails

Grown-ups a century ago must have enjoyed the holidays more than they do now. Christmas especially was less frenzied and more special. Back then, the holidays offered real treats: Oranges, shipped up on trains all the way from Florida! Fruitcake, baked in wood stoves by maiden aunts, doused in expensive liquors most people (especially women) didn’t often enjoy.

It was, generally, a rare chance—and sometimes the necessary excuse—to indulge.

Today, we need no excuse to indulge. We have access to everything every day. What’s to look forward to at the holidays? Here’s one answer: frothy, spicy, boozy, homey adult beverages. There’s nothing everyday about them. Many take some planning and require an actual wait (how archaic!) before they reach their prime. Their ingredients tend to be of the season—ciders and apples and exotic spices once rare and dear.

Nobody would make—or want to drink—any of these at a summer picnic. They are for the brief days and long, slow nights of winter, best imbibed by candlelight or firelight. I prefer to indulge quietly, accompanied by good friends, thoughtful conversation and full hearts. But some of my pals say the favorite recipes they’ve shared with me can turn a standard holiday gathering into a jolly, jumping fa-la-la.

Here are five winter indulgences to try, with a bit of background on why they’re special.

George Washington's Eggnog

George Washington's Eggnog
When I learned last fall that George Washington had a favorite eggnog, I couldn’t resist. I’m not an eggnog fan, perhaps because I’ve had too many sips from factory-made eggnog shipped in...

Hot Wassail

Hot Wassail
Wassail is from the Old English wes hal, which translates to “be in good health.” Scandinavians refer to a similar concoction as glogg, which is similar to what we might call a mulled wine.

Bishop Punch

Here’s another mulled wine my friend Susan Odom suggests as an unusual, authentically traditional holiday indulgence. Susan, the proprietress of Hillside Homestead Historic Farmstay, a B & B near...

Swedish Christmas Glogg

The Scandinavian version of wassail is called glogg. Here is an incredible recipe that requires waiting even longer—about two weeks—before the glogg is ready.

Apple Brandy Syllabub

Apple Brandy Syllabub
Somehow this unusual word popped into my head as I was thinking about festive holiday drinks. I’d never had a syllabub but discovered in my research that it was a common indulgence in Britain at...
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