Christmas spirits: 17 holiday drinks from around the world

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If you’re tired of the usual cider and hot chocolate, these holiday drinks from around the world will warm you up with tidings of comfort and joy. From creamy eggnog to fruit punches, pull up a cup of cheer.

A drink with cinnamon and cinnamon sticks on a black background.
Eggnog. Photo credit: YayImages.

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Holiday drinks around the world

The holiday season is filled with delicious eats and treats, from pies to cookies. There’s no shortage of recipes to make this time of year.

As cultures of the world celebrate the holidays in different fashions, the culinary customs vary too. Beyond the Christmas coffee drinks that adorn menus of coffee shops, dozens of tasty tipples are enjoyed around the world.

“Every year for Christmas, I try making a new holiday drink. One year, it was mulled wine. Another, it was Irish coffee, and this year it’s coquito. It’s a fun way for my husband and I to spend a little time researching drinks to make and perfecting them to enjoy together.”

— Laura Sampson, Little House Big Alaska

Chile: Cola de mono

Chileans enjoy an alcoholic holiday punch called “cola de mono.” It’s a creamy drink made with milk and an anise-flavored liquor called aguardiente, which translates to fire water.

Cola de mono also includes sugar, coffee and cloves. Meaning monkey’s tail in Spanish, the exact origin of the name cola de mono is unknown, but it could refer to its potency.

Ecuador: Canelazo

Canelazo is a hot, spiced cinnamon drink made with brown sugar cane and a sugar cane alcohol called “punta” or aguardiente liquor. Another version made with naranjilla fruit juice is called “naranjillazo.”

A pan filled with oranges and spices on an outdoor grill.
Mulled wine. Photo credit: YayImages.

European countries: Mulled wine

Mulled wine, or red wine steeped with spices and citrus, is a staple holiday drink in many countries. I love serving it in a double-walled tumbler to keep my hands from getting too warm.

It’s simple to serve mulled wine at home. I like to use a set of mulling spices, oranges and whatever dry red wine I have on hand. 

“I first tried glühwein at the ‘Christkindlmarkt’ in Chicago because it was warm and I was freezing. I learned how to make it at home, and I do it every year for holiday parties, where it’s always a hit. “

— Michelle Price, Honest and Truly

Throughout Europe, mulled wine goes by many names. In Germany and Austria, it’s referred to as “glühwein,” where it’s a mainstay at Christmas markets. Other names include: 

  • “Bisschopswijn” in the Netherlands
  • “Glögg” in Scandinavian countries 
  • “Vin chaud” in France
  • “Vin brulé” in Italy

England: Wassail

Wassail is a cozy holiday drink made with apple cider, mulled ale and spices. The name comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase “waes hael,” which loosely translates to good health. The drink’s history dates to Anglo-Saxon traditions of a Twelfth Night feast served with a large bowl of punch made from cider, ale, mead, spices and apples.

A cup of hot cocoa with cinnamon sticks and gingerbread cookies.
Hot chocolate. Photo credit: YayImages.

France: Chocolat chaud

The difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate is whether it’s made with cocoa powder or melted chocolate. Parisian “chocolat chaud” is made with hot milk and dark chocolate and served alongside French Christmas treats like “Bûche de Noël.” 

Ireland: Irish coffee

Irish whiskey is a key ingredient in the after-dinner coffee drink called Irish coffee or “caife gaelach” in the Irish language. It’s made with hot coffee, sugar and a splash of whiskey.

This cocktail is topped with a thick dollop of whipped cream or a float of heavy cream. It is traditionally served in an Irish coffee mug. I use these mugs for hot chocolate, too.

Italy: Bombardino

Popular at Italian ski resorts in the winter is “bombardino.” It’s a warm, eggnog-like drink served in mugs. Made with brandy and advocaat, an egg liqueur, the drink is usually served in a small heat-proof glass like an espresso glass.

Germany: Glühbier

Germans are known for glühwein, but “glühbier,” or mulled beer, is also popular. Neighboring Poland serves a similar drink called “grzane piwo.”

Typically made with a dark, malty beer, this winter cocktail features hot beer cooked with spices, citrus and cherries. Serve it in this fun beer tasting kit with Christmas cookies.

A glass of red liquid is being poured into a glass.
Sorrel. Photo credit: YayImages.

Jamaica: Sorrel

Botanical and bright sorrel is a highlight of Jamaican holidays. Made with hibiscus flowers, ginger, white rum, cinnamon and allspice, this pink Caribbean drink is traditionally enjoyed during the festive season.

Korea: Sujeonggwa

A ginger cinnamon tea called “sujeonggwa” is a staple of Korean festive holidays like Lunar New Year and “Chuseok,” also known as Korean Thanksgiving. With dried jujube and dried persimmons, it’s said to aid in digestion and is often served hot or cold after a big meal.

Lithuania: Krupnikas

Krupnikas is a spiced honey liqueur from Lithuania and other Eastern European countries. It can be made by combining grain alcohol with a mulled mixture of spices, vanilla and honey.

Mexico: Ponche

Ponche is a warm fruit punch that features a base of apples, pears, oranges, guavas and a solid form of cane sugar called panela. It’s then spiced with cinnamon, cloves, hibiscus and tamarind pods. It’s often served in beautiful ceramic jarrito mugs — I’m dying to add a set to my collection.

Puerto Rico: Coquito

Coquito is a Puerto Rican holiday drink similar to eggnog with a tropical twist. It features dark rum, spices and coconut milk. The drink is enjoyed throughout the holiday season, which culminates in mid-January, ending with the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián street festival.

Two glasses of apple cider on a wooden table.
Kompot. Photo credit: YayImages.

Russia: Kompot

“Kompot” is a drink enjoyed in Russia, Ukraine and other Slavic countries. Made by boiling sugar and various fresh or dried fruits in water, the fruit is strained out, but the remnants can be cooked into a hot or cold fruit soup called “kissel.”

Spain: Hot spiced sangria

A refreshing drink of red wine infused with spices and fruit, sangria is enjoyed cold year-round. At the holidays, spiced sangria is made with apple cider and served warm. It’s essentially Spanish mulled wine, also called “vino caliente.”

Sweden: Lingonberry punch

Lingonberries are a slightly tart and sweet Scandinavian berry used for jams and sauces. Drinks with my favorite drink concentrate are also delicious.

Swedish lingonberry punch is made by cooking lingonberries with apple juice, spices, raisins and almonds. It’s then mixed with aquavit, an herbal, potato-based spirit similar to vodka and infused with caraway.

Ukraine: Uzvar

On Christmas Eve, Ukrainians enjoy “uzvar”, a drink of honey, vanilla, dried fruits and berries. Afterward, the fruits are strained out and enjoyed on their own.

These vanilla beans are excellent for infusing into holiday drinks like uzvar. You can also use them to make your own vanilla extract.

United States: Eggnog

One of the most ubiquitous holiday drinks enjoyed in the United States, eggnog dates back to the colonial era. Americans spend approximately $185 million on this milk punch per year, according to Nielsen data.

Made with milk, cream, sugar, spices and eggs, it has a frothy texture. Most recipes contain alcohol — usually brandy, rum or whiskey.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Susannah Brinkley Henry is the cocktail content creator behind the blog Feast + West. Her work has been featured in Southern Living, Oprah Daily, Buzzfeed, and more. In 2019, her website was a finalist in the Saveur Blog Awards for Best Entertaining Blog. As a professional graphic designer, photographer, writer, and recipe developer, Susannah helps home bartenders and drink enthusiasts level up their cocktail skills.

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