December 27th, 2006
Holiday and post-holiday beverages
I don’t remember my family having a traditional holiday drink. My parents were never eggnog or punch types. For a few years running we put Bailey’s in our late-morning coffee, but that trend petered out. Over the past several years, though, I have brought a beverage to the table that has pretty much become mandatory: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. A beer introduced 25 years ago by one of America’s biggest microbreweries may not seem very original to the drinks aficionado, but that’s what I like about the stuff. Like Chex Party Mix, it’s just familiar enough but just special enough to make it onto the books as a holiday foodstuff that pleases a crowd and signifies Special Times. What does this beer have to do with Boston? Not much, other than the fact that every copper-colored strong ale redolent of citrusy West Coast hops — like the Cambridge Brewing Co.’s winter special, Big Man Ale — is a child of Sierra Nevada Celebration.
In the Fog of Christmas, one’s psyche can get pretty tossed around. That’s why I’ve begun a new, post-holiday, ritual: going to No. 9 Park for a Tom and Jerry. This is an old-time winter punch that hardly any bar in America has mixed in decades because it involves separating eggs and boiling milk. (Go here to see “libation goddess” Audrey Sanders’ recipe.) When you order a T&J at No. 9, the bartender will take his time and make it right, so be prepared to wait a good 10 minutes. Trust me, it’s worth it. When the drink is placed in front of you in its traditional gold-lettered mug, bring it up to your lips, then close your eyes and take a sip. I’m not kidding about the close-your-eyes part. Rum, brandy and spices encased in a fluffy batter of hot milk and whipped egg whites will transport you to a peaceful place, bringing joy to the world and good will toward men.