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December 15, 2011

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Imbibing a bit of Christmas cheer

'TIS the seasons to be jolly, to lift a glass and toast Santa, auld lang syne and the New Year.

Holiday drinks range from traditional eggnogs, mulled wines, punches and spiced ciders to creative and colorful cocktails.

Sweet cocoa, some very imaginative, go well with Christmas gingerbread and cookies and a bit of bubbly, especially pink, is always festive. There's even chocolate beer.

Of course, the best holiday drink is whatever gets you in the mood.

Here are four popular Christmas drinks, two traditional, two innovative, to lift the spirit.

Eggnog and mulled wine

It isn't Christmas and New Year without eggnog (with or without brandy, rum, whisky or sherry) and hot mulled wine, glühwein in German.

Traditionally the beverages are made at home to welcome relatives and friends, so there are thousands of home recipes. There are many number of ways to make eggnog, which is basically milk and cream, beaten egg, sugar and liquor (optional); it's often spiced with vanilla, ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

It may have originated in East Anglia, England, or developed from a medieval beverage made with hot milk. "Nog" may be derived from the word "noggin," a Middle English term for a small wooden mug used to serve alcohol. Or it may come from "egg and grog," a British Colonial term for a drink made with rum (known as grog).

Mulled wine is usually warmed red wine spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. Occasionally fruit wines, such as blueberry and cherry, are used. Rum or liqueur may be added.

Both drinks are available at The Longemont Shanghai.

"I try to make the taste authentic and classical so guests can regain family memories of sweet Christmas," says Wolfgang K. Uebler, executive chef of The Longemont.

Europeans often add brandy, Maderia or sherry, while Americans prefer brandy or whisky, such as bourbon, which makes the drink more malty and buttery.

Three varieties of eggnog are available, including eggnog pop (65 yuan/US$10.19) with brandy, eggnog rum and eggnog latte with bourbon. Hot mulled wine (65 yuan) is popular throughout Europe and also North America. In France it's called vin chaud and in Italy vin brule.

The hot drink has a nice ruby color and intense fragrance of orange and cloves; it's sweet and a little spicy, warming the body quickly in cold weather.

Chef Wolfgang recommends making it at home. It's easy, just avoid boiling or all the alcohol, flavor and fragrance will be volatilized.

The Longemont Shanghai

Address: 1116 Yan'an Rd W.

Tel: 6115-9988 ext 8216

Naughty Rudolph

This cocktail is a sweet, rich drink inspired by the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, who leads Santa's sleigh because his glowing nose lights the way on Christmas Eve.

The drink is made with vodka, anise syrup, chocolate moose and Maraschino cherry liqueur. It was launched for the holiday season at the Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel.

It's sweet and milky with a mellow chocolate flavor and hint of cherry fruit. Vodka makes it smooth and silky.

"A white and creamy alcoholic drink is necessary for Christmas winter, not just for the snowy season but also to bring a sweet mood and warm the body," according to Stephan Krause, director of beverage & food.

Rudolph is available without the vodka.

Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel

Address: 159 Henan Rd S.

Tel: 2321-8888 ext 6234

Chocolate beer

This is a heavy malty beer with a chocolate flavor created by Leon Mickelson, brew master at Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai.

Mickelson remembers lots of sweet dark chocolate during his Christmas childhood which he wants his patrons to The BREW experience as well.

The beer starts with rich notes blending roasted caramel coffee and strong dark chocolate. Malty sweetness overwhelms the palate.

Its long finish satisfies the taste buds, and leaves one looking forward to chocolate cake.

Brew master Leon recommends drinking the beer with chocolate brownies, which will be a double treat. The handcrafted beer made with fresh ingredients sets a trend on low-alcohol drinks with more complex flavor and aroma, the brewer says.

Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai

Address: 1388 Huamu Rd, Pudong

Tel: 6169-8886


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