Around the Island

Hot drinks for festive holidays

With the chill of autumn upon us, I thought I’d look up some recipes for hot drinks, both hard and not.

Thanksgiving and Christmas sends me, like most people, on a nostalgia tour. My mother was in charge of the holiday meals, as every other one, for our family that numbered 16. No additional relatives were needed.

I would watch, but never quite master, the way she prepared the turkey, stuffing, gravy and vegetables. My role was usually to open the cans of cranberry sauce, slide the jellied fruit onto a plate and cut in slices. The ridges from the can only enhanced the presentation.

Cranberries are so central to the holidays that I turned to the traditional Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the only one my mother ever used, to find some suitable drinks.

Hot Spiced Cranberry Punch

Heat slowly until the sugar dissolves:

1 quart cider or grape juice

1 quart cranberry juice

6 cloves

1 stick cinnamon (3 inches long)

4 whole allspice

½ cup brown sugar

Taste, and add more sugar if needed. Serve in mugs or punch glasses. Serves 12.

For an adult hot punch, I turned to one of my favorites, Frank Caiafa’s Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book. His recipe for this hot drink, made by the pitcher, demanded my attention:

The Locomotive

12 cloves

2 cinnamon sticks

1 750 ml. bottle red wine

4 egg yolks

4 oz. Honey Syrup*

4 oz. Grand Marnier


Add spices and wine to a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for a few minutes (do not boil).Remove from heat and let rest. Add egg yolks and half of the honey syrup to mixing glass; dry-shake for at least 5 seconds. Add remaining honey syrup and Grand Marnier to mixing glass and roll between mixing glass and shaker a few times to integrate. Add to serving pitcher. Fine-strain wine into pitcher and stir to integrate. Serve in ceramic cups. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

*For the Honey Syrup, mix

4 oz. honey

4 oz. hot water

Add ingredients to a saucepan and stir over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool and store in clean glass bottle. Refrigerate up to 2 months.

Mr. Caifa points out that different honeys yield unique flavor profiles. He suggests experimenting and adjusting the water-to-honey ratio slightly to showcase the particular profile of the honey you use.

I like the idea that we can use local honeys available from Island farmstands, so adding this ingredient to your recipe will give it a flavor found nowhere but Shelter Island.