I’ve come across an interesting article written by Luke at www.londonhomebrewing.com and have asked permission to copy it over for your viewing pleasure. Take a look at the traditions of yesteryear –
There are lots of holiday traditions; office parties, the Doctor Who Christmas special and spending a disproportionate amount of money on shower gel in so-called ‘gift sets’. However, there are lots of traditions that have gradually been forgotten through the ages. This is a look at five forgotten Christmas drinks from through the ages –some of which you might actually want to try.
Dating all the way back from the 1400s, ‘Wassailing’ is a very unique way of spreading goodwill and cheer between friends and family. Saxons would brew up a spicy honey ale and serve it in a huge bowl or ‘loving cup’ and pass it around. It all sounds very pleasant but another tradition would revolve around knocking on the doors of the local lord and demanding food and drink in exchange for some seasonal well-wishing. The traditional carol ‘We Go Wassailing” evolved over the years into the popular standard “Here We Go A Carolling” which we all know today. Come to think of it; doesn’t “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” have some references to demands of figgy pudding in exchange for Christmas wishes?
This is a particular recipe that’s a variation on Wassail. The ingredients would differ slightly depending on where in the country you were but one Lambswool recipe includes such delectable delights as hot ale, roasted crab apples, sugar, spice, eggs and cream – with some toast on the side. It was often drunk on Twelfth Night in the Elizabethan era (that arrives in mid-January in case you were wondering) and it is said the name derives from the whiteness of the roasted apples.
This doesn’t sound all that exciting on the face of it; hot milk curdled with spiced ale. However, this beverage can trace its roots back to 100 AD when milk and eggs were respected as a symbol of fertility and life. In the middle ages, it was used as a cold and flu remedy. Unfortunately, this drink didn’t get the best treatment from Shakespeare as Lady Macbeth used poisoned possets to drug the guards outside King Duncan’s quarters. To be honest, it’s almost a mousse-like desert as much as a drink. Traditional possets would often have three layers. ‘The grace’ was the top one and consisted of the white foam. Sometimes the middle layer would be a spicy custard, with a very smelly alcoholic liquid mix sitting at the bottom.
Tom and Jerry
Back in 19th Century America, this cocktail was a real holiday staple. After the first sign of snowfall, bartenders would set to work making bowls of brandy and rum added to heated egg nog. It’s popularity lasted into the 60s but it has since sadly fallen out of favour. The drink was given its own little place in literary history by author Damon Runyon in his short story Dancing Dan’s Christmas; “This hot Tom and Jerry is an old-time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.”
- The Winter Classic
Largely forgotten, this drink can still be purchased at The Four Sisters, a little bar in London’s Islington neighbourhood whose name hints at its former life as a brothel. This packs a punch with rum, lime juice and ginger, with a little-known liqueur Pimento Dram adding a bit of dark spice. Simon Bastable, the owner of the bar, recently spoke to The Telegraph about how the origins of this 19th Century tipple are now lost to the sands of time, but it remained on many people’s lists as the ingredients are all still available. That means there is literally no excuse to go to the shop, buy all the Pimento Dram and have a huge Christmas party!
For more from Luke, check out his website – a site dedicated to getting people brewing their own beer.