Christmas, and the end-of-year holiday season, is a time to spend with the people you love the most and to enjoy delicious food and drinks. What the Christmas dinner looks like can be very different depending on where in the world you are located, and almost every country has a few dishes considered "musts" on the holiday table.
As with almost any celebratory occasion, wine and beer are commonly consumed during Christmas. But in several countries, the holidays also call for a seasonal beverage, enjoyed mainly (or exclusively) during the week of Christmas. Creamy eggnog is a favorite in America and Canada, and similar cream-based drinks can also be found in Latin American countries including Puerto Rico, Chile, and Mexico. In Scandinavian countries, Sweden and Finland in particular, glögg, a type of mulled wine is a popular Christmas drink enjoyed all throughout December.
Variations of mulled wine can be found all over Europe and are usually all based on red wine, with slight differences in the spices used. The traditional German glühwein is basically the same as alcoholic glögg (minus the raisins and almonds), and is often served at Christmas markets.
If you're spending Christmas in Jamaica, forget the standard idea of warming cold-weather drinks and get ready to sip on a glass of Sorrel Punch. This Jamaican Christmas drink is made from the petals of a type of hibiscus, locally known as sorrel, mixed with sugar, fresh ginger, lime juice, and dark rum.
Glühwein (Germany, Austria)
Glühwein — or mulled wine — is a popular warming drink to enjoy at Christmas markets around Germany and Austria. The red-wine-based drink is traditionally spiced with a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and bitter orange, but the exact ingredients can vary depending on country and personal preference of the beverage-maker. Variations of mulled wine can be found all over Europe.
Wassail (United Kingdom) The British tradition of "Wassailing" dates back to the 1400s, as a way to pass on good health and wishes between family and friends. Wassailing includes going door-to-door singing carols, and passing around a bowl of the ale-based hot mulled cider named, no surprise, wassail (Old English for "be well"). Though the tradition of wassailing isn’t particularly common today, the drink is still enjoyed (over a toast for good health).
Cola de Mono (Chile)
Literally translated "monkey’s tail," this Chilean Christmas drink resembles eggnog, but is served cold. The creamy concoction includes Chilean aguardiente (sometimes substituted with rum or brandy), milk, coffee, vanilla bean, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
Glögg, Scandinavia’s version of mulled wine, is quite similar to German glühwein. In Sweden and Finland, the drink can be found in stories all throughout December, both as alcoholic red-wine-based versions and as a non-alcoholic beverage made with blackcurrant or grape juice. Spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and orange, the drink is served steaming hot, traditionally with the addition of a few raisins and almonds.
Eggnog (Canada, United States)
While it is not certain exactly where eggnog originates from, it is has become the definitive drink of Christmas in both Canada and the U.S. This blend of milk, eggs, and sugar, is a rich and indulgent holiday treat — arguably even better with the addition of bourbon, rum, brandy, or really, any alcohol you choose.
Ponche Navideño (Mexico)
If you're spending Christmas in Mexico, make sure to try the hot punch, ponche navideño, often sold by street vendors. There is not one particular right way to make it (it is a punch, after all), but it often includes some sort of mix of sugar cane, apples, pears, citrus, raisins, prunes, and tejocotes (an indigenous fruit used by the Aztecs). For the adult version, add tequila, brandy, or rum.
Ponche de Frutas de Guatemala (Guatemala)
Like in Mexico, Christmas in Guatemala is celebrated with punch. Traditionally enjoyed on Christmas Eve, nochebuena, this fruity punch includes a long list of dried and fresh fruit, such as raisins, prunes, dried apricots, apples, pineapple and papaya, and is spiced with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and orange. If you're looking for an alcoholic version, add rum.
Poppy Seed Milk (Lithuania)
In Lithuania, the traditional Christmas drink is prepared out of poppy seeds. Much like almond milk in texture, the drink is made of the simple ingredients of poppy seeds, water, and honey. Poppy milk, aguonų pienas, is one of the 12 dishes included in a traditional Lithuanian Christmas Eve supper, kūčios.
Coquito (Puerto Rico)
Coquito recipes vary, but in general, this very rich blended Christmas drink (Puerto Rico’s "eggnog") is made of spiced rum, condensed milk, coconut milk or cream of coconut, vanilla, and spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. This creamy drink is served chilled.
Sorrel Punch (Jamaica)
Christmas in Jamaica means sun and beaches, and no warming drinks are needed here. Instead, Christmas is celebrated with sorrel punch, a drink made from the petals of a type of hibiscus, locally known as sorrel, mixed with sugar, fresh ginger, lime juice, and rum. Note that this "sorrel" is not the same plant as what in America is generally known as sorrel (a bitter, green plant).