Guest blog: Seasonal drinks around the world


When we’re out on the road for long periods of time collecting data we tend to seek out some home comforts every now and again. Mine’s pizza! For my colleagues, Shona and Eleanor, it’s eggnog latte – at least at this time of year. But like some of the items we price it’s not always easy to find. Below they share some of their learnings – hope you enjoy! We’ll be back with more tales from our travels in 2014. Best wishes, Mark

During our data collection trips, one surprisingly regular feature of the changing landscapes around us is the chain-owned coffee house. The rapid proliferation of Starbucks – which has opened an average of two stores a day since its founding in 1971 – as well as other large chains such as Costa Coffee and Dunkin’ Donuts, is certainly useful for data collection, and no doubt appreciated by expats looking for a taste of home on the other side of the world. Our own personal favourite at this time of year is the Eggnog Latte, a coffee-based variation of one of the USA’s much-loved Christmas beverages.

Eggnog Lattes

Eggnog Lattes

It is now considered more of an American Christmas tradition, but eggnog first appeared in the UK as a drink of the wealthy elite. Ingredients such as milk, eggs and sherry were expensive and therefore eggnog became an aristocratic winter party favourite for toasting to health and prosperity. Eggnog enthusiasts can’t quite agree on where its name actually originates from, but it may stem from ‘noggin’ – the type of wooden cup that similar drinks were consumed from.

Eggnog made its way across the Atlantic in the 18th century with the Americans swapping the traditional Madeira and sherry used by the British for cheaper alternatives such as rum. It has remained a seasonal, winter treat and is still only available for a few months of the year. It became so popular in the US that George Washington even had his own (lethal sounding) recipe for the Christmas tipple.

Coffee giant Starbucks has offered a non-alcoholic, caffeinated variation of eggnog for a few weeks over the festive period. As big fans of this drink, we both vowed to search high and low to get our fix during our recent trips. Starbucks operates in 62 countries and has over 20,000 stores worldwide so finding an Eggnog Latte outside of the UK and North America should be quite simple…

Unfortunately, this was not the case. Between the two of us we have travelled to Germany, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Sweden, Serbia, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands in the last few weeks. Yet, neither of us has been successful in finding a branch in these locations that stocks this seasonal treat. On a visit to Japan, our colleague was also unable to embrace the Christmas eggnog spirit, and had to opt for a Crushed Chestnut Pie Latte instead.

While variations of eggnog have spread to Mexico, in the form of rompope, and Puerto Rico, home to the coconut milk based coquito, for some reason it would appear that drinking a beverage made from raw egg, milk, sugar and alcohol doesn’t have quite the global appeal we thought it would!

Shona and Eleanor enjoying their seasonal lattes

Shona and Eleanor enjoying their seasonal lattes

But whilst our eggnog quest may have been fruitless, one festive drink which few countries are without is mulled wine, or a variation of it. Like straight roads and newspapers, mulled wine was created by the Romans and, certainly around Christmas, seems to be equally as indispensable an invention for much of Europe. We were already well-acquainted with the classic recipe of red wine warmed with sugar, spices and citrus fruits, but on the course of our travels earlier this month we came across a few interesting versions.

In Germany, traditional Glühwein (‘glow wine’) is available mit Schuss – an added shot of rum, honey liqueur or brandy – but if you’re in need of extra warmth, a Feuerzangenbowle will be just the job: a sugar cube is placed on the rim of the cup, doused with rum and set alight. Bisschopswijn in the Netherlands is an orange-based version of the drink, whereas in Sofia greyano vino is prepared with honey, peppercorns and apples as well as the ubiquitous citrus. In Latvia, visited recently by Rachel, you never need fear the Christmas markets running out of wine – if supplies of karstvīns are low, an alternative recipe is made using grape juice and Riga Black, a strong herbal liqueur.

glögg

Glögg

Every country has its own slightly different recipe and name, but our favourite word for mulled wine has got to be Sweden’s glögg. Even better, the infused wine is traditionally served with gingerbread and lussebullar – saffron and raisin buns. We currently have our eye on some Norwegian gløgg, paired with rice pudding (riskrem), but with our trips over for the year, that will perhaps have to wait until December 2014!

While the British seem to reserve mulled wine for the festive period alone other countries continue to enjoy it throughout the winter and even extol its healthy properties in warding off colds and fortifying immune systems. In the new year, then, our planned trips should give us the opportunity to sample Russian Glintwein and Mexican ponche; Québécois caribou (so-called because of the original recipe, a mixture of caribou blood and whisky drunk by hunters to keep out the cold) and Japanese tamagozake, sake heated with sugar and raw egg, a traditional drink with a remarkable similarity to … eggnog!

On that note, we would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and leave you with a recipe for eggnog so that no matter where you are in the world, you too can enjoy a traditional festive flavour of home!

Eggnog recipe

To serve 4-6:

2 pints/1.14l milk
6 eggs
2oz/50g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
7fl oz/200ml brandy, rum, bourbon or a combination
Grated nutmeg and cinnamon

Place the milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla pod in a pan and heat gently without boiling, stirring until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the alcohol and spices. Serve either warm or chilled, with more grated nutmeg on top.

PS. If you do know where we can get a good eggnog latte where we failed to find one, get in touch!

About wanderingmark

World traveller, researcher, photographer, collector of interesting facts and cost of living data research for ECA International (www.eca-international.com).
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