It’s that time again! Christmas, the festive season that everyone awaits with huge excitement at the end of every year! Whether it’s the multi-billion business season or you are a parent and looking forward to shopping, cooking as well as hiding gifts from your excited little ones (that’s what I did) 🙂 we are all looking forward to switching off and spending time with our closest ones. Yes, Christmas is my favourite time of the year, a time to create memories and to create smiles on the faces of my loved ones. I especially like the eating and drinking part. How about you?
As we were deciding what to put on our festive cocktail menu at IB HQ, we did a bit of research about Christmas traditions and I have to admit that I have never thought of looking into the history of Christmas.
Gifts, Christmas cards, carols and so on…all this predates two millennia full of history and other reasons for celebration. The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. As December was the perfect time for celebration in most European regions, most animals (cows, ox, bulls) were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, which brought a supply of fresh meat. Most of the alcohol production was fermented and ready for drinking by the same time (take in consideration that fermentation took longer back than) and no one had to really work and could just rest over the December period.
What fascinates me is that during the Roman Empire era, the Romans celebrated the god of agriculture and they had a month full of celebrations and they called it Saturnalia. During the month-long celebration, Romans also organised a feast honouring the children of Rome as well as celebrating the god Mithra, who was believed to have been born on the 25th of December.
It was in the fourth century that ‘Christmas’ was born and it is believed that the church chooses the 25th of December as the birth date for Christ in an effort to adapt traditions from the Saturnalia festival. This celebration spread to Egypt by the year 432 and to England by the end of the 6th century from where it spread to Scandinavia and the rest of the world.
The history of Christmas is long with many beliefs around it. It was the Americans who built Christmas traditions the way a lot of us celebrate it today including the decorated Christmas tree, sending holiday cards, gift-giving and more.
Did you know that Santa Claus is a Dutch word that translated means Saint Nicholas? Did you know Christmas cards started in 1844 by an artist named William Dobson and a few years later they became an iconic part of Christmas? Did you know that the Christmas tree grows a minimum of 15 years before they are ready to be used?
Christmas was and is a festive season full of celebration and we can not miss tasty beverages. I remember growing up in the Czech Republic and during the long Christmas nights drinking hot chocolate with or without rum, mulled wine and many other tasty beverages. Other popular beverages are Egg Nog and its variation of Tom & Jerry, Hot Toddy to name a few.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas Season. Here’s a recipe for a Whisky Sour inspired by everyone’s loved Gingerbread Cookie:
50 ml Blended Whisky or dry Spiced Rum
20 ml Fresh Lemon juice
15 ml House Made Gingerbread syrup*
20 ml Egg White
2 dashes Angostura
- Combine the first four ingredients in the shaker and dry shake.
- Add ice cubes and shake again.
- Strain into a whiskey glass over ice, drop the Angostura bitters in on top and create a nice star out of it with the help of a toothpick.
2 pcs of Cinnamon stick
40 gm Peeled Fresh Ginger
6 pcs of the whole Cloves
4 pcs of Star Anise
300 gm Brown Sugar
200 gm Caster sugar
400 gm Still water
- Bring water to boil add cinnamon, cloves and star anise and cook for 5 min.
- Lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes.
- Once you have the cooked “spiced tea” add sugar, increase the water temperature and stir to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar is dissolved add peeled and sliced ginger and cook for another 10 min on low heat.
- Once cooked, strain the spices and ginger of the syrup.
- Transfer the syrup into a sterilized bottle and keep refrigerated. We recommend using the syrup within the next 6 weeks since cooked.
Bartender’s note: “Did you know that if you toast hard spices first before using them in recipes, it will release more flavour?”