Holiday Drinks to Share with a Crowd
I started decorating for Christmas this week. I love the holidays: it is my favorite time of year. And I love the old traditions—walking through the neighborhoods looking at lights and decorations, baking treats to give as gifts, and sharing warm drinks with carolers who sing at the front door.
Yesterday evening, it was time to put up our tree. As I untangled the lights, I got excited as I realized there were Christmas carols coming from outside. Carolers! Love it! (Just for the record, it was my across-the-street neighbors who saw me decorating and decided to serenade me. It wasn’t a wandering band of carolers, but I am not picky when it comes to Christmas carols.)
I invited my singing friends inside and fired up the coffee pot. For just the few of us, my conventional coffee pot is perfect. But if you will be serving warm drinks to a large party or your own band of wandering carolers, I would like to offer a slightly unconventional suggestion: use your slow cooker.
A few years, I discovered the joy of keeping warm drinks in a slow cooker. Like a lot of people, I have a thermos and an airpot to help keep beverages warm. The problem with those devices is they typically hold a smaller amount of beverage and eventually the contents will cool down. A coffee urn is great, but during a party it is doing what it does best—making coffee.
What do you do when you want to keep a larger quantity of beverage warm? Slow cooker to the rescue! A slow cooker will make the mulled cider and hot chocolate, and then keep it warm for as long as I want.
Need a few drink recipes to try? Below are a few that I make in my slow cooker each year. Honestly, I haven’t found many warm drink recipes that don’t work well this way, but keep an eye on the cream based drinks. The heat needs to be kept low to prevent the cream from scorching. One note on the hot chocolate: stir it around every now and then, to keep the ingredients blended. It is the only recipe I have found that will separate.
What’s your favorite cold weather beverage?
Slow Cooker Hot Spiced Apple Cider
2 med apple
1-1/2 tablespoons whole cloves
10 whole cinnamon sticks
1 orange, thinly sliced
4 quarts apple cider
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg, grated
2 cups rum (optional)
Stud the apple with the cloves. In 6-quart slow cooker, combine all of the ingredients and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or on low for 4 to 6 hours. Ladle into mugs and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
Slow Cooker Christmas Cranberry Punch
16 cardamom pods, cracked
6 whole cinnamon sticks
24 whole cloves
8 cups dry red wine of choice (like Merlot)
24 ounces cranberry juice concentrate
2/3 cup honey
Crack cardamom pods by pinching. You don’t want to grind or crush them, since it would mean straining the final product. Using a small square of cheesecloth, place cardamom, and cloves in the cheesecloth and tie into a bundle with butcher’s twine. Note: If you want to remove the cinnamon sticks, place in the bundle as well.
Combine remaining ingredients and spice bag in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours. Remove spice bag, and serve.
2 cups fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 quarts water
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir well to dissolve sugar. Cover and cook on low 1 to 2 hours. Serve warm.
5 small baking apples
30 whole cloves
2 quarts apple cider
1 quart unsweetened cranberry juice
20 allspice berries
6 whole cinnamon sticks
2-1/2 cups Calvados (optional)
Zest from 1 medium orange, cut into ½-inch wide strips
Stud apples with 3 cloves each. Using a small square of cheese cloth, place allspice berries, remaining cloves, and cinnamon sticks in the cheesecloth, and tie into a bundle with butcher’s twine. Combine apples, spice bag, and remaining ingredients, except calvados and orange peel, in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.
Remove spice bag, and stir in Calvados and orange peel. Serve warm.
Traditional Hot Buttered Rum
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup unsalted butter
3 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 cups dark rum
2 quarts water
Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. Serve warm.
Serving suggestion: Add dollop of fresh whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg, if desired.
Creamy Hot Chocolate
2 cups heavy cream
28 ounces sweetened condensed milk
12 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups milk chocolate chips
Place all ingredients in slow cooker, stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until chocolate is melted, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.
Decadently Deluxe Eggnog
It isn’t a warm drink from a slow cooker, but no holiday drink list is complete without some eggnog.
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
4 cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup bourbon (optional)
1/2 cup dark rum (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg to garnish
Cook’s Tip: Letting the mixture sit for at 24 hours before serving allows time for the flavors to merge together and the alcohol to mellow. Keep all liquids very cold and refrigerate until ready to use. Lightly whip cream until soft and thickened. Do not over beat, or whipped cream will be too hard to incorporate into finished drink. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and frothy. Gradually add the liquors and the half and half, alternating between the two and starting and ending with the half and half. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Stir beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture, and then stir in the whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then top with freshly grated nutmeg to taste.