When it’s time to create a little holiday magic, with a dash of coziness and a splash of homemade, welcoming charm, one of the best ways to make it all come together is with seasonal beverages that are delicious and comforting. For many people, holiday drinks, such as hot apple cider, eggnog, and hot cocoa, bring back memories of happy times spent with family and friends during the colder winter months.
While you can buy each of these beverages in cartons, plastic jugs, or mixes at the store, the homemade versions offers something extra special. Maybe it’s the freshness or the lack of added preservatives, but they simply taste better. Sometimes A LOT better!
Here’s how to make 3 classic holiday beverages from scratch.
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Homemade Hot Apple Cider
There are many recipes to follow online for making apple cider from scratch, but the basic process involves cooking apples in water until you have a mash that can be pressed and squeezed through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. The recipe for hot apple cider from Gimme Some Oven is a great place to start because it gives you instructions for stovetop, slow cooker, and Instant Pot methods. However, I like to make a couple of modifications when working off this recipe.
First, like most recipes for apple cider, it calls for added sugar. If you use a combination of sweet apples, such as Honeycrisp, Gala and Macintosh, adding sugar, honey, or maple syrup isn’t necessary. But, you can certainly add the sweetener of your choice to create an apple cider that’s to your liking.
Second, I use half the water called for in the recipe. Ten apples, 2 oranges, and 16 cups of water doesn’t fit in a 6-quart slow cooker. Plus, I like a richer apple flavor.
So, here is how I make apple cider in my slow cooker:
- 10 apples, cored and quartered (peels on)
- 2 oranges, peeled (removing the peel eliminates bitterness)
- 4 sticks of cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon (T) of ground nutmeg
- 8 cups of water
- Optional: brown sugar, honey, maple syrup to taste
- Place the apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Cover with water, filling almost to the top of the slow cooker (approximately 8 cups).
- Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
- Mash the ingredients with a potato masher.
- Use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth to separate the apple mash from the cider. I recommend letting it cool a bit if you are using cheesecloth so you can really squeeze out all of the juice.
- Serve the cider hot or cold and with or without garnish, such as dehydrated oranges or cinnamon sticks.
Yields approximately 5 pints, but this can vary depending on your apples and other ingredients and your willingness to continue squeezing out the juices.
Eggnog is the quintessential holiday drink. Each year, it rolls out in stores dressed up in fancy cartons adorned with holiday wreaths and other winter scenes. While it’s not a drink I would consume often, it does give the holiday season a special touch of richness and deliciousness. Here’s the thing, the rich, delicious flavor of eggnog made from scratch is 10 times better than store-bought eggnog.
For the recipe, I turn to Tastes Better From Scratch. Lauren Allen’s posts are a reliable source of trustworthy information and delicious made-from-scratch recipes.
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups of milk
- 1/2 teaspoon (t) ground nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon (for garnish)
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.
- Combine the cream, milk, nutmeg and salt in a saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, stirring until it just reaches a simmer.
- Temper the egg mixture by adding a large spoonful of the hot milk, whisking vigorously. Continue adding one spoonful of hot milk at a time.
- Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and heat until it reaches 160 degrees F and is slightly thickened. Do not let it come to a boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Pour the eggnog into a container, cover it, and refrigerate it until chilled.
- For a smooth consistency, combine the eggnog with 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk in a blender.
- Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and fresh whipped cream (optional)
If you do happen to let the hot eggnog come to a boil (let’s say your candy thermometer doesn’t work properly), you may end up with egg clumps or you might end up with an eggnog custard once the mixture has chilled. This custard will still be delicious, but it won’t be the eggnog you were looking for. If this does happen, try blending a few scoops of the custard with a 1/4 of milk or so to create a drinkable eggnog.
Homemade Hot Cocoa
Packets of hot cocoa mix go flying off the shelves during the winter months in the Northeast. People have to be ready for warming up after sledding, snowman-making sessions and snowball fights. But, if you want something extra creamy, extra chocolatey, and super delicious, you have to try making hot chocolate from scratch. The powdered mixes will taste like water and chemicals after you’ve had homemade hot chocolate.
I found a recipe for homestyle hot cocoa that is mind-blowingly rich and yummy. But, I found that the amount of sugar was too much for me. I couldn’t drink a whole cup because everything started buzzing and spinning in my head. Below is a reduced-sugar version of the recipe for homemade hot chocolate.
- 1/3 cup of white sugar or 6 tablespoons (T) of honey
- 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon (t) of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup of boiling water
- 3 cups of milk
- 1 cup of heavy cream or half-and-half, divided equally
- 3/4 teaspoon (t) of vanilla extract
- Combine the sugar or honey, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in a saucepan and stir together with the boiling water.
- Simmer and stir the cocoa mixture over medium-high heat for approximately 2 minutes. Once the sugar is dissolved, you should have a cocoa mixture that looks like a chocolate syrup.
- Stir the milk and half of the heavy cream or half-and-half into the cocoa mixture.
- Continue to cook and stir until hot. Do not boil.
- Remove from heat and stir in the remaining heavy cream or half-and-half and vanilla extract.
- Serve with desired garnishes, such as marshmallows, peppermint sticks, or whipped cream.
Yields 4 servings.