Cheers to the Holidays: Favorite Drinks of the Season

Last month, I wrote an article on the popular treats of the holiday season. Now, let’s find out how our favorite drinks of the season originated. Popular beverages include hot chocolate, hot apple cider, and hot buttered rum. The cold weather of this time of the year makes people want sizzling drinks that warm them on the inside and bring back memories of past Christmases. So, sit back, pour a seasonal beverage in an adored mug, and learn about the origins of our favorite holiday drinks.

Hot Chocolate:

Whether it’s grandma’s recipe or Swiss Miss, everyone has their favorite version of this classic holiday sweet beverage. The origin of hot chocolate dates back to the Aztecs when cocoa beans were used as currency and food. The beans would be made into a cold chocolate drink and flavored with wine and chili peppers. There was nothing sweet about this version. Once cocoa beans were brought to Europe in the early 1500s, the beverage was first served in Spain and took on the more traditional sense of hot chocolate we know today. The Spanish turned the chocolate drink hot and sweetened it and there were no chili peppers. It took over a hundred years before hot chocolate spread throughout Europe. In the 1700s, it arrived in London. The English started adding milk to the chocolate and using it as an after-dinner beverage. Since the 1700s, hot chocolate has made its way across the world and is consumed in multiple variations. In Latin America, the popular treat is known as a spiced chocolate para mesa; in Italy, cioccolata calda is a very thick version; and in Spain, the drink is called chocolate a la taza. The version we gulp in the United States is actually a thinner consistency than hot chocolate in other parts of the world.

Hot Apple Cider:

There is nothing better on a cold December day than curling up with a cup of hot apple cider. Also referred to as sweet cider or soft cider, apple cider is the more common name for the liquid in the United States and parts of Canada. Researchers have found evidence of apple trees growing along the Nile River, dating back to 1300 B.C. It is believed that Egyptians fermented the fruit for alcoholic beverages, which many people did in early history. This changed in 55 B.C. when Romans sailed to the British Isles and fell in love with the apple cider drink. Quickly, it was consumed throughout the Roman Empire and Europe. Apple cider came to America through the colonists. Apples were easier to grow in New England than the grains and barley needed for alcoholic beverages. During this time, many people only associated apple cider as being a type of beer that was full of nutrition and safer to drink than most available sources of water. Even children got in on the action and drank applekin – a less-alcoholic version of the beverage. This popularity continued until Prohibition caused many of the cideries to close down. With the removal of alcohol, people began heating the beverage thus giving us today’s hot apple cider. Some will still consume it cold, but mainly during the holiday, the beverage is warmed or mulled.

Hot Buttered Rum:

More of an adult beverage, hot buttered rum is a combination of rum, butter, hot water or cider, a sweetener, and spices. The specialty drink, also known as a hot toddy, comes from Europe. For centuries, Europeans have used hot, spiced alcoholic beverages to warm themselves during the winter months. Rum is mainly produced in the Caribbean and Latin America. In 1655, when the British Royal Navy captured Jamaica, the sailors replaced brandy with rum. It arrived in America with the colonists, who started distilleries in New England. As for hot buttered rum, New Englanders began adding rum into traditional drinks made of sugar or honey, boiling water, and spices, such as a hot toddy. After this conversion, this seasonal favorite was born and made different from the hot toddy by having a butter added to the recipe. Who doesn’t love butter in anything?

As you enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends, try adding one of these beverages to your gatherings and events. You can’t go wrong with any of them. All of the drinks are flexible and can be custom-made to your own liking.