By Thayer Wine
The Nashville Tennessean
Here's an old Irish toast, from Toasts for Every Occasion (New American Library; $12) by Jennifer Rahel Conover, to get your holiday gathering off to a great start:
"Holly and ivy all hung up, And something wet in every cup!"
Add some seasonal beverages, nibbles and music, and your festive holiday party is under way.
Several drinks, such as wassail, can be served with or without adding alcohol. Keep it warm in a slow cooker or in a heavy pot on the stove.
Eggnog, one of the most luxuriously rich drinks of the season, will add lots of fat grams to your holiday calorie budget, but when tradition persists, you have to have it. Freshly grated nutmeg on top makes it special.
Crushed candy canes plus hot chocolate make for a happy, mint-flavored version of a favorite winter drink.
Strong, peppery tasting fresh ginger beer is a nonalcoholic beverage and a great choice for Kwanzaa celebrations. If it's too strong for you, dilute it with water.
For one of your more quiet holiday moments, curl up in a comfy chair next to the fireplace to sip the hot buttered rum - slowly. It has quite a kick.
Hot buttered rum
1 teaspoon soft butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pinch grated nutmeg
4 drops vanilla extract
2 ounces boiling water
1 2/3 ounces dark rum
1 small cinnamon stick
Mix the butter, brown sugar, nutmeg and vanilla in a heatproof wine glass or mug until creamed. Add boiling water, rum and cinnamon stick. Serve hot. Makes 1 drink.
Adapted from Complete Home Bartender's Guide (Sterling Publishing Co.; $14.95)
Lion House wassail
21/4 cups white sugar
4 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice berries
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 slice fresh ginger root
4 cups fresh orange juice
2 cups fresh lemon juice
8 cups apple cider or apple juice
In 2- or 3-quart sauce pan combine sugar and water. Boil gently five minutes. Remove from heat and add cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ginger. Cover and let stand in warm place for one hour.
Strain into a large stockpot. Just before serving, add juices and quickly bring to a boil. Remove from heat and serve. Makes 36 ( 1/2 cup) servings.
Adapted from www.allrecipes.com.
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