‘Tis the season for merriment and cheer! The holiday season and the multitude of holiday parties make for different opportunities to enjoy a cocktail or two, and the Baltics are experts when it comes to warming up a cold winter’s eve. We’ve already featured a couple of winter drinks last year: Ziemas vakara padzēriens (A drink for a winter’s night) and Zviedru Ziemassvētku dzēriens (a Swedish Christmas drink), both from the ‘dzeltenā pavārgrāmata’ Pēc acumēra un garšas, kamēr gatavs. Here I would add that this awesome Latvian cookbook (with recipes for everything from piparkūkas, pīrāgi and dzeltenmaize to Jāņu siers, debesmannā and sklandu rauši ) is actually available in its 3rd edition (splatter-proof cover) for only $15 – send me an e-mail if you’re interested in obtaining a copy (all proceeds benefit the Chicago Latvian scouts and girl guides).
However, there are a wealth of other options, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, to warm your winter’s eve. Today on Day 15, here’s a quick round-up of a few of some options – ranging from a themed holiday dinner party to a quiet after-shopping gift wrapping session with your husband, 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas has you covered!
A popular Lithuanian liqueur is krupnikas, a traditional sweet alcoholic drink based on vodka and honey. Related to the Polish and Belarusian krupnik, there are many different variations, and some recipes have been passed down through generations. It is thought that krupnikas originated in the territories of present-day Belarus, which were at the time part of the larger Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and is a distantly related to the Russian medovukha or Polish miodówka, a honey-made spirit popular in the Slavic countries. As my krupnikas experience dates back to Baltic Club at UIUC over a decade ago, I will suggest that you turn to the internet (or a Lithuanian friend who can be bribed with Christmas cookies) for a recipe.
Estonian hõõgvein (mulled wine in English, Glühwein in German or glögg in the Nordics) comes several varieties, and with different ways to serve it you adjust the level of sweetness with seasonings. This is the perfect drink to accompany wandering through an outdoor Christmas market, or to warm up your insides once you return home. Try this recipe from NAMI – NAMI: a food blog, which would probably go very well together with Pille’s Pehme piparkook…
One of the more unique flavors to accompany your Christmas drinks is that of Latvia’s Rīga Black Balsam. We enjoy the Riga Black Balsam Currant, the recipe for which was created in the 18th century according to the LB website. In any case, you can simply add the Balzāms to your coffee or tea, or you can go a more complicated route with Riga Black Cocktails.
My Christmas memories include the adults all settling in after Christmas dinner for a digestif of homemade black currant liqueur. As it is near-impossible to find the berries fresh here in the south, I have yet to ask my grandmother for her recipe… However, while living in France we sampled Crème de cassis once or twice, and I imagine that the two recipes might be similar.
Possibly one of the more recognized exports from Latvia is Stolichnaya, a high-quality vodka. This might come as a surprise to some, but virtually all of the Stoli sold in the west is made in Latvia. Being that several of the flavors lend themselves to holiday drinks (such as salted caramel and vanilla, which both appear high on this ranking of Stolichnaya’s flavors), you might want to visit the Stoli website for some cocktail recipes.
I’m intrigued to hear what your favorite holiday drinks are, and if there’s anyone willing to share their krupnikas recipe, I’ve got a spot for you during next year’s 24 Days of a Baltic Christmas! If you choose to imbibe this holiday season, please drink responsibly. Here’s cheers to you, my dear readers (as I'm trying out one or two of the above recipes - blog quality control responsibilities, of course)! See you back here tomorrow with a post on winter solstice traditions…