Written By Michael Vyskocil, Photos by: Tara Hope Cofiell
Each year, we look forward to the joys of the holiday season. Seasonal dinners and parties offer plenty of opportunities for entertaining, and homemade holiday cocktails and punches should not be overlooked. Spiced English Wassail, fragrant Minted Cranberry-Orange Punch, rich Eggnog and a decadent Champagne Berry Cocktail Sundae, make fantastic libations for holiday celebrations.
This holiday drink dates back to 13th-century England. The song “Here We Come A-wassailing” celebrates the tradition of wassailing, or door-to-door caroling.
12 Lady Apples
4 tablespoons light-brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 cups dark ale
2 cups port
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 sachet mulling spices (see below)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place whole Lady Apples, stem ends up, in a small roasting pan. In a small mixing bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over apples. Add 2 tablespoons water to the bottom of the pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven, remove foil and set apples aside to cool.
2. While apples are baking, combine ale, port, granulated sugar and mulling spices in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Warm wassail over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until liquid is very hot, but not boiling. Stir occasionally to dissolve sugar in the liquid. To serve, place a Lady Apple in each cup and fill cup with wassail. Makes 12 drinks.
These pungent spice sachets impart rich flavor to Wassail and mulled apple cider. When packaged in a gift bag, they make thoughtful and fragrant stocking stuffers.
12 one-inch pieces of cinnamon stick
12 whole cloves
6 whole cardamom pods
6 whole black peppercorns
6 dried or candied ginger pieces
6 whole nutmegs
6 tablespoons dried lavender buds
Fold cheesecloth into a double layer and cut six 6-by-6-inch squares. In each square, place 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 whole cloves, 1 cardamom pod, 1 black peppercorn, 1 piece of ginger, 1 nutmeg and 1 tablespoon dried lavender. Gather cheesecloth around spices to create a pouch. Tie pouch up in a knot; add a bow made with kitchen twine. Makes 6 sachets.
Minted Cranberry-Orange Punch
An infusion of fresh mint adds a cool flavor to this citrus-cranberry punch.
2 large bunches
(about 8 ounces) fresh
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup freshly squeezed
4 large oranges
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup bourbon (optional)
Ice Ring (recipe follows)
12 Candied-Orange Corkscrews (recipe follows)
1. Roughly chop mint to release oils in leaves. Place chopped mint in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with 8 cups of cold water. Slowly bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Remove mint water from heat. Add honey and lemon juice and stir to combine. Cool flavored mint water completely in refrigerator.
3. Juice oranges. Strain juice through a fine sieve. Combine orange juice with cranberry juice. Transfer juice mixture to a large mixing bowl and chill in refrigerator. Strain chilled mint water into juice mixture. Add bourbon, if desired. Pour mixture into a punch bowl. Add Orange-and-Cranberry Ice Ring. Ladle punch into serving cups. Garnish each cup with a Candied-Orange Corkscrew and serve. Makes 12 drinks.
These candied corkscrews can be made with any type of citrus fruit.
3 whole oranges
1 cup water
1 cup sugar, plus extra for coating
1. Wash oranges well under cold running water. Using a single-hole citrus zester, cut four continuous, unbroken spirals of zest from each orange. Cut strips into 12 eight-inch lengths.
2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring sugar-water solution to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium low, add orange zest strips and simmer for 30 minutes, until strips are slightly translucent. Remove from heat.
3. Remove orange zest strips, one piece at a time, from sugar-water solution. Allow strips to cool to the touch. Twist each strip in a corkscrew shape by wrapping it around a bamboo skewer. Place wrapped skewers on a wire rack and allow to dry until hardened, about 8 hours or overnight.
4. Gently loosen zest from skewers. Pour sugar into a shallow dish. Gently roll zest in sugar. Makes 12 corkscrews. Serve with Minted Cranberry-Orange Punch.
Orange-and-Cranberry Ice Ring
This festive ice ring is a decorative way to keep holiday punch chilled. The ice mold can be prepared up to a week in advance.
1 whole orange
2 cups whole cranberries
1. Measure opening of your punch bowl and select a ring mold that is neither too large for the bowl nor too small to chill punch.
2. Slice orange into paper-thin rounds using a sharp chef’s knife. Cut rounds into sixths and set aside. Distribute cranberries evenly on bottom of ring mold and arrange orange sections on top of cranberries. Carefully fill ring mold with cold water. Freeze overnight until ice ring is solid.
3. To unmold ice ring, dip mold into a large bowl of warm water, taking care to touch only outside of mold. Turn mold over and remove ice ring. Place ice ring in a filled punch bowl. Makes 1 ice ring.
Cooking the egg yolks and milk creates exceptionally creamy eggnog and eliminates the health risks associated with raw eggs.
2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, scraped of seeds, pods reserved
6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bourbon, or to taste (optional)
1/4 cup dark rum (optional)
1/4 cup cognac (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
1 whole nutmeg, freshly grated
1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a gentle boil. Remove milk from heat, cover and allow vanilla bean and seeds to steep for 30 minutes.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Beat at medium-high speed until mixture becomes very thick and pale yellow, about 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Remove vanilla bean and return milk to a simmer over low heat. Add half the warm milk to the egg mixture; whisk on low speed until blended. Pour egg mixture into remaining warm milk.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until milk mixture begins to coat the back of a spoon, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Chill mixture in refrigerator.
5 . Add bourbon, rum and cognac, if desired, to chilled milk mixture. Stir to combine and place in refrigerator to chill until ready to serve.
6 . Whip cream with remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold whipped cream into eggnog mixture. Transfer chilled eggnog into a large punch bowl. Sprinkle grated nutmeg over the top and serve. Makes 10 drinks.
Champagne Berry Cocktail Sundae
1 bottle (750 mL) dry champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, scraped of seeds
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups fresh berries, such as cut strawberries or raspberries
Vanilla ice cream, for garnish (optional)
Sprinkles, for garnish (optional)
Maraschino cherries, for garnish (optional)
1. In a medium saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups champagne, sugar and split vanilla bean. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, or until liquid has thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove saucepan from heat and let champagne mixture cool for 30 minutes. Discard vanilla bean.
2. Fill a large saucepan with 2 inches of water, cover and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Combine reduced champagne mixture and egg yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until mixture is pale and has a thick consistency, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Transfer egg-yolk mixture to a large metal bowl and set it over the pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl must not be touching the water). Whisk constantly until egg yolks thicken and are fluffy and slightly stiff, about 8 minutes. The mixture should begin to look satiny and start sticking to the bowl slightly.
4. Transfer bowl into the ice-water bath. Continue whisking mixture until chilled, about 4 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until ready to serve.In a large bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form and fold into the chilled egg-yolk mixture. Divide mixture among six wine glasses. Top with fruit. Pour reserved chilled champagne over top. Serve each drink with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with sprinkles and maraschino cherries. Makes 6 drinks.