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Festive Nordic Beverages

"Special Occasion" Drinks for Holiday Get-togethers


Holiday get-togethers wouldn't be the same without offering specialty drinks - both alcoholic and non-alcoholic - to complement one's Winter smorgasbord selection of seafood, open-faced sandwiches, and baked goods. To your good health - Skål!

Skål Ya'll Fruit Tea

A few years ago, when I enjoyed a very special reunion with my birth family in Nashville, I was also introduced to "Fruit Tea," a drink that everyone said was unique to Nashville. So it came as a surprise to me when I was browsing through British cookbook author Elna Adlerbert's 1961 Cooking the Scandinavian Way (London: Spring Books), and came across a recipe for "Iced Fruit Tea" that was virtually identical to how they make it in Nashville. Here's my fusion version (slightly sweeter than the Scandinavian version - 'cause that's how we do it in the South). It's a great recipe to add to your Nordic beverage repertoire. Skål, ya'll.

Lingonberry Juice

Lingonberry juice, as colorful and as rich in antioxidants as cranberry juice, can be easily and quickly made from either fresh or frozen lingonberries. Enjoy as is for a non-alcoholic refresher, or combine with vodka and serve in a glass of ice as a class wolf paw cocktail (see recipe below).

Wolf Paw Cocktail (Vargtass)

Ah, those intrepid Swedes. Who else could have originated the Wolf Paw cocktail - a bend of lingonberry juice and vodka, served - at Icebar Stockholm - in a glass of solid ice?

Christmas Glogg

Not only does this recipe make a superior glogg, but the fruit used in its preparation is perfect for use in a holiday glogg cake or, when diced fine and warmed, as a compote topping for pancakes or ice cream.

Nancy Petersen's Christmas Snaps

One of the unique recipes featured in Anne Gillespie Lewis' Ingebretsen's Saga: A Family, A Store, A Legacy of Food (2011), this make-ahead coffee snapps is sure to become one of my favorite holiday hostess gifts.

Swedish Christmas Beer (Julmumma)

Swedish "Julmumma," Christmas beer, is an interesting combination of light and dark beers, lemonade, a spirit like gin or Madeira (for its characteristic "kick"), and lemonade. Don't skimp on the cardamom, which adds just enough spice. It's a great holiday tipple to serve to beer-loving guests as an alternative to wine or champagne.

Northern Lights (a.k.a. "Greenlandic") Coffee

A popular - and showstopping - after-dinner coffee drink in Greenland's restaurants is "Greenlandic Coffee." I'm not sure who originally invented it (please write and let me know if you do!), but it has become quite commonplace - and rightly so, for few coffee drinks are served with such panache. The whisky is said to represent Greenland's harsh weather, the Kahlua - its sweetness (or, in one version I've encountered, the sweetness of its women!), the coffee - the darkness of its polar nights, the whipped cream - its icebergs, and the blue-flaming Grand Marnier - the northern lights. Enjoy!

Caraway Coffee

In the more remote communities of Iceland's western and eastern fjords, it's traditional to gather together to celebrate the return of the sun after spending the long polar nights of the winter months in twilight. Caraway coffee (in Icelandic, "kúmenkaffi" often plays a role in the celebration.

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