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Food + Drink

Holiday Hooch: Eight Places to Get Into the Christmas Spirits

Getting lit on the holidays is a proud tradition that dates back to the pagan days of yore, when villagers went a’wassailing, drinking warm apple mead and demanding their figgy pudding. Festive folks around the world continue to celebrate with sauce, from Sweden’s glögg and Germany’s glühwein to Chile’s cola de mono. Valaer Murray takes you on a round-the-world bar crawl of the spirits that will get you into the holiday spirit this season

See recent posts by Valaer Murray

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Glögg Stockholm, Sweden

From late November to Christmas, Sweden is all about the julbord, that special smorgasbord that only comes around once a year. It’s accompanied by plenty of glögg, a warm wine drink with brandy and spices (everything from cardamom to cinnamon and cloves, sometimes with raisins, almonds or figs). Most all traditional Swedish restaurants serve the draught and multi-course holiday meal, but for a taste of modern Stockholm, try Göteburg, a gastropub set right on the canal in the up-and-coming Hammarby Sjöstad neighborhood. Though it opened just over 10 years ago, the picturesque Bockholmen Hav & Restaurang, set in a 17th-century villa, offers a more traditional Swedish setting—and nine gluttonous julbord courses. Just remember: Chase down the pickled herring with aquavit, not mulled wine. Skål!

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Cola de mono Santiago, Chile

Since Christmas comes at the height of the Chilean summer, the holiday hooch found in Santiago is meant to cool you down. Similar to a white Russian, the cola de mono (or, monkey’s tail) is a chilled blend of aguardiente, milk and cinnamon. Go vintage at Bar Nacional in the city center, a classic Chilean soda fountain complete with the requisite grumpy old waiters. Or opt for a more youthful vibe at Bar Liguria’s original outpost in the fashionable district of Providencia.

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Wassail London, England

Leave it to the Brits to have a holiday drink that’s actually an entire evening’s activity. Originally a Twelfth Night pagan ritual, wassailing events pop up all over England throughout January. Praise the gods for a good apple harvest during London’s Twelfth Night celebration, which fittingly starts near Shakespeare’s Globe Theater on Bankside and continues to the age-old pub, the George Inn in Southwark, for mulled wine or cider. You’ll finally discover what exactly a mummer is, and you may even find a bean in your cake! (That’s not a euphemism.)

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Christmas ale and glögi Helsinki, Finland

In Helsinki, choose from the omnipresent Scandinavian mulled wine or Christmas beer, a seasonal spiced dark ale. Hop heads should try out the Yuletide ale, called jouluolut, at one of the local Teerenpeli brewpubs, which make their own seasonally available microbrew, Touhupetteri. After hitting the sites around Töölö, home to the parliament building and The National Museum of Finland, some Finnish mulled wine, aka glögi, will help you defrost. Stop in at the neighborhood spot, Kuukuu Bar and Kitchen, which puts a modern spin on Finnish comfort foods like salmon soup and smoked pork neck.

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Glühwein Berlin, Germany

Berliners seem to be virtually immune to the cold, riding their bicycles throughout the winter even in light snowfall. So, it stands to reason that the most traditional way to indulge in some warm, spiced wine is get bundled up and hit the festive outdoor Weihnachtsmarkt, or Christmas market, in Alexanderplatz. The hip East Berlin square is great for people-watching while you guzzle your glühwein along with all manner of sugar-dusted fried dough treats. Continue on to The Gerichtslaube, a cozy pub housed in a 13th-century court building that has kept generations of holiday revelers fortified with Grandmother’s gingerbread soup and glühwein.

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Coquito San Juan, Puerto Rico

Like an equatorial eggnog, coquito is a rich cocktail made with coconut milk, condensed and evaporated milk, cinnamon and, of course, rum. If you can’t swing an invite to a Puerto Rican Christmas party, Tasca del Pescador in Santurce serves an excellent egg-frothed version. A local favorite, the seafood restaurant may not have it on the menu, but around the holidays the dueño is sure to serve curious customers a sample of their homemade batch. It’s a perfect end to a feast of seafood crepes and calamari paella.

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Hot toddy Edinburgh, Scotland

England can have its hard cider, but the Scots will stick with whisky, thank you. Around the holidays, a hot toddy is sure to wring out Edinburgh’s damp chill. Sip it at an eclectic Newington hangout like Brass Monkey, where you can lounge on retro futons and enjoy the daily film screening in the bar’s back room, or at Whiski Rooms in nearby Old Town. The bar-restaurant-tasting room is one-stop shop on top of the Mound, the hill smack in middle of the city center. Also, two words: haggis burger.

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Advocaat Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The Dutch have their own variation of mulled wine, bisschopswijn, which adults drink while the kids check their shoes for gifts from Sinterklaas. But we like to sip on their other traditional tipple, advocaat liqueur, a thicker type of brandy-infused eggnog using only the yolks. “Black Chicken,” as it’s endearingly termed, is so thick that you might even need a spoon to eat it. In fact, at Tunes Bar in the boutique Conservatorium Hotel, they serve it as a boozy dessert with dark chocolate and almonds. Yes please.

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