The holiday season is a time to cherish loved ones, great food, and – perhaps most importantly – great booze. Holiday traditions are abound this time of year, and many include particular cocktails or other alcoholic beverages that most tend not to drink throughout the rest of the year. From mulled wine to eggnog, people have long included specialty drinks in their annual holiday traditions.
But how did these drinks become designated as “holiday” beverages? What makes a hot toddy so special in December, as opposed to, say, April? And how has eggnog maintained its place as a holiday staple despite being loathed by so many?
To rediscover the origins of these drinks, let’s take a walk down memory lane – though, given their alcoholic content, we won’t fault you if you’ve, er, “misremembered” certain components.
Booze with medicinal properties – no, really!
We’ve all met someone who claims you can cure the common cold – or, more likely, revive yourself from a nasty hangover – with a stiff cocktail. But as it turns out, this was actually a common method recommended by doctors for centuries.
Some traditional holiday cocktails, like the famed hot toddy, began as medical remedies. The British empire found its way to India in the early 17th century in search of valuable spices. As VinePair explains, the Brits then began to add some of these spices to a traditional remedy native to the British Isles – hot water and Scotch. Thus, the “hot toddy” was born.
For decades, American colonists used hot toddies as a cure for the common cold, following in the footsteps of their primarily British ancestors. Given the timing of cold and flu season lining up fairly closely with the traditionally big American holidays – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s – it makes sense that the drink has become associated with them.
As modern medicine has advanced in leaps and bounds since the colonial days, we think it’s safe to say the hot toddy is no longer a viable solution to your autumnal immune system woes – but we still wholeheartedly endorse sipping them on a crisp evening in front of a cozy fire.
Eggnog: The cilantro of the beverage alcohol world?
Everyone has an opinion about cilantro. Some say it tastes like dish soap; others think it’s delicious. Well, the same goes for eggnog (minus the soap comparisons…we hope).
But eggnog has been a staple of cross-continental holiday celebrations for hundreds of years, and it appears to be strongly maintaining its place as a highly-sought-after seasonal delicacy – in 2007, Americans consumed 122 million pounds of the stuff, and there was nearly a shortage in 2016 because of the overzealous demand.
So, how has such a polarizing drink managed to maintain such impressive staying power?
Well, perhaps it’s fair to point a finger at the Founding Fathers. That’s right – George Washington himself had a personalized eggnog recipe he served to guests at his Mount Vernon holiday gatherings, and early Americans were eager to follow suit given the abundance of the key ingredients (milk, eggs, and rum) in North America.
Eggnog predates the United States, of course. It is believed to have originated in medieval Britain, though the core liquor elements have changed from ale or wine to rum through the passing of time. Meanwhile, eggs were likely introduced to the mix some hundreds of years after the original drink was invented using hot, curdled milk as the base.
Mulled wine has outlived the language of its inventors
Much like the hot toddy began as a remedy for the common cold, mulled wine began as a defense mechanism against the biting winter in ancient Rome. Vivino notes it can be traced back as far as the second century, which means it has now officially outlived the Latin language its creators spoke.
Despite great popularity through the centuries, it wasn’t until Sweden got a hold of mulled wine and made some alterations – resulting in the name “glögg” to encompass the entire genre of drink – that it became a cornerstone of the holiday season. Its seasonal popularity was actually a result of some clever marketing, as producers widely began using imagery of Santa Claus in their package designs to appeal to consumers in the lead-up to Christmas. This came slightly prior to the turn of the 20th century, which is fairly recent compared to the aforementioned drinks.
No matter how you personally partake in boozy holiday celebrations – or don’t – the entire ShipCompliant by Sovos teams extends its best wishes for the season!