During the holidays, there are certain traditions that the majority of us—American, Austrailian, Hungarian, Brazilian, South African, or any other nationality—follow. We decorate our homes and visit friends and family, shop and exchange gifts, bake and cook, and, especially, eat and drink. Many times, we combine most of the other activities with eating and drinking because food is the great unifier. Gathering around a holiday table gives us a chance to slow down, catch up, and consume way more than we want to or should.

We all, undoubtedly, have that one particular food or drink that we look forward to enjoying over the holidays. Several Food, Wine, Travel Magazine’s writers share their favorites. We’ve included either a recipe or a link to it in hopes that you’ll celebrate the holiday season by trying one or more.

Festive Fruitcake

Homemade Fruitcake © Robyn Nowell

I cannot resist my homemade fruitcake, made dense and moist from the regular brandy drizzle. The great joy of making your own cake is you get to choose your favorite fruit and nuts mixed with the spices to your personal taste. I adore dried peaches, figs, apricots, almonds and brazil nuts. Add lashings (a copious amount) of brandy every two weeks for at least two months. A fruitcake I have made and decorated with love is always a winner with my family and friends.

Robyn Nowell     Robyn’s Seasonal Kitchen

A Merry Moscow Mule

Moscow Mules with a twist © Linda Stewart

Each year before the holidays arrive, I try to create a festive cocktail to celebrate the season with friends and family. This year I thought it would be fun to tweak a popular cocktail from the 1940s, the Moscow Mule, which consists of vodka, ginger beer, and lime. I developed four recipes, refashioned with the holiday flavors of cranberry, pomegranate, orange, and apple.  And, when served in the traditional copper mug, these cocktails look deliciously merry and bright. You can find all four recipes by clicking here.

Linda Stewart    Life Uncorked

A Rockin’ White Russian

The Festive White Russian © Tom Westerhof

One of my guilty pleasures during the holiday season has always been a White Russian. For some reason, I always start craving them during the winter months. I decided to create the “Festive White Russian” as a riff on the original, subbing eggnog mix for the cream and adding some festive whipped cream and candy canes.  If you want to make your holiday a little more festive, you can get the recipe by clicking here.

Tom Westerhof     Beach Bar Bums

Zippy Matcha Lattes

A Matcha Latte © Elaine J Masters

During the holidays, I have a favorite food, a drink really. It helps me stay steady and get through busy days while cutting down on sweets. I make or pick up a Matcha Latte. I discovered ceremonial grade matcha when I was in Japan over a decade ago and have been using that ever since. I’m no traditionalist though. While I don’t know a thing about performing a tea ceremony, I do enjoy the light buzz and the clean taste. I usually add a touch of sweetened non-dairy creamer to bring out the flavor. I nod to tradition at home and whisk it into a froth with a bamboo brush in a bowl at home. When out in the world, I’ll try different spots for matcha, and few have met my tastes other than, surprisingly, Starbucks, which finally stopped adding sweetener (which made the matcha taste like cotton candy). I recently found a little spot in San Diego—Holy Matcha—that made a fine, chilled matcha, and the place was so cute that I had to sit and soak it all up before running off to errands. This year I’m considering using Costco Green Tea Powder in my holiday shortbread cookies, too.

Elaine J Masters     Trip Well Gal

Happy Hungarian Beigli

Mini Mákos Beigli (poppy seed rolls)

Hungarians love their sweets, especially at holiday time. My mother’s memory of Christmas treats, as prepared by her Hungarian mother and grandmother, is what they called “Nutsy cake,” better known in Hungary as a pastry roll, called Beigli, filled with minced walnuts or poppy seeds.  In Hungarian, one would say diós beigli or mákos Beigli–Máko meaning poppy seed and Dió meaning nuts. Thick fillings or coatings of poppy seeds are common in Hungarian desserts, and people unfamiliar with these treats might think it is a dark chocolate filling.   Some poppy seed fillings include raisins, butter, honey or sugar, and walnut beigli filling can include raisins, chopped walnuts, lemon zest, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves, and butter.  You can also substitute other nuts, such as chestnuts.  Several videos and blogs give instructions for making this holiday dessert, but who better than Budapest Moms to show how to do it in pictures.

Diane Dobry     Getting Hungary

The Bright Bourbon Mai Tai

The Bourbon Mai Tai ©Priscilla Willis

Entertaining tip #1: Welcome your guests with a distinctive cocktail that sets the tone for what’s to come—one that refreshes and tantalizes the taste buds but isn’t too strong because you want your guests still upright for dessert. A perfect candidate for the role is a Bourbon Mai Tai which I first quaffed at a private luncheon and bourbon tasting at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. Chef Ouita Michel, chef-in-residence at Woodford Reserve and chef/owner of Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, prepared an inspired three-course luncheon highlighting fresh local produce infused with a modern Southern flair and led us through a flavor-wheel tasting of classic and unexpected pairings for bourbon. The experience was one of the most memorable tasting adventures I’ve experienced.

The Bourbon Mai Tai is an exhilarating cocktail that is perfect for your holiday soiree, and it is simple to prepare. For your sipping pleasure, you can find the Bourbon Mai Tai and two other bourbon-based holiday cocktail recipes by clicking here.

Priscilla Willis     She’s Cookin’

Cheery Charcuterie Boards

Charcuterie of mixed meats, cheeses, nuts, and fruits © Betina Mariante Cardoso

My favorite starter for our holidays is the charcuterie board—a wooden tray topped with a myriad of cheeses, prosciutto,  pastrami, nuts, apricot, figs, and a brie with black truffles, sliced. You have lots of ways to celebrate the strength of your personal bonds, and food is one of these. A very powerful one, indeed. You combine a variety of flavors, textures, aromas, colors, and sounds—the crispy noise of the nuts and the elegant silence of a smooth cheese, for example.  You then get an idea of how meaningful it is to have different elements composing harmony on the same tray. There are contrasts, opposite sensorial appeals—sweet figs, salty Emmenthal, Umami, and others. All edibles taking part in  a very beautiful blending of differences. For me, it is a vivid representation of our meeting with family and friends, with the different “aromas,” voices, and temperaments mingled around the table. This is the real beauty in the anima of these holidays. Top it all with sparkling wine, for sure. Cheers!

Betina Mariante Cardoso     World Food Travel

Warm Mulled Wine

Spiced tea and mulled wine

Step up your red wine game during the holidays and treat your guests and yourself to a cup (or two) of some mulled wine. Having had my first taste several years back at a holiday party, it quickly became a December tradition for my family and me. Here’s the recipe I’m using this year:

4 cups apple cider
1 bottle red wine. (I love Zenith Vineyard Estate’s Tempranillo.)
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zested and juiced
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
4 oranges, peeled, for garnish (optional)

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10-12 minutes. Pour into mugs, add orange peel to each and serve immediately

Mary Farah     Along Comes Mary

Possum Pie

Possum Pie © Betsi Hill

Possum pie is one of our holiday staples. Did you shudder at the thought of eating roadkill? Well, don’t. Possum pie is a southern dessert consisting of a shortbread-like crust, chocolate cream, and meringue. There are a lot of recipes out there, many of which include layers of cream cheese or sweetened whipped cream, but this is our favorite. We serve it with steaming cups of coffee as a perfect finish for our holiday meal.

1 C flour
1/2 C unsalted sweet cream butter, melted
1/4 C light brown sugar
3/4 C pecans, chopped

Chocolate Crème Layer
1 1/2 C whole milk
1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 egg yolks
1/2 C sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Marshmallow Meringue
1/2 C sugar
2 7oz jar of Marshmallow Creme
6 large egg whites, room temp
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Crust Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees In a large bowl combine the melted butter, flour, brown sugar, and pecans with a fork Push crust into a 9-inch pie dish and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or just until the crust begins to brown

Chocolate creme directions: Using a medium saucepan, combine the milk and chocolate chips Place saucepan over high heat and gradually stir until melted, about 1-2 minutes In a large bowl, mix together the egg yolk, and sugar until the eggs turn a pale yellow Mix in the cornstarch, salt, and vanilla until combined Gradually combine the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Make sure you are whisking the egg mixture while pouring the chocolate mixture into it to avoid scrambling the eggs Pour the combined mixture back into the saucepan and place on the stove on medium to high heat and bring to a boil while gradually whisking the mixture. Remove from heat and whisk for about 2 minutes Pour chocolate creme into the baked pie crust Cover the chocolate creme with plastic wrap and place into the fridge for 5 hours

Marshmallow meringue directions: In a large bowl, scoop the marshmallow fluff into the bowl and set aside Using a standing mixer, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar into the egg whites until stiff peaks form Gently fold in the egg whites into the marshmallow fluff until fully incorporated Spoon half of the marshmallow meringue into a piping bag and the other half onto the top of the pie Spread evenly with a knife Pipe meringue all across the top of the pie Preheat oven to 350 degrees or you can use a kitchen flame torch Using the oven, place pie in middle rack for 5-8 minutes or until the meringue is lightly browned Using a flame torch, lightly toast the meringue Sprinkle mini chocolate chips onto the to

Betsi Hill     Betsi’s World

Joyful King Cake

Serving up King Cake ©Kathleen Walls

In Louisiana, “the holidays” continue after Christmas and New Years. Kings’ Day, or the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, recognizes the day the three wise men supposedly visited baby Jesus. Louisiana preserves the tradition, and some of my favorite treats—the King Cake and pralines, which are my “must make” for the holidays—are often served, also.

A round of parties called “King Cake Parties” begin on Kings’ Day and continue until Mardi Gras.  The highlight is the King Cake decorated with colored sugar in the Mardi Gras colors of purple (representing justice),  green (representing faith), and gold (representing power). Inside is a tiny baby doll. The cake is sliced into the exact number as there are guests. Whoever gets the piece with the baby is the next “King” or Queen” and gives the next week’s party.

Find out more about the tradition, and get the recipes here.

Kathleen Walls    American Roads

Spirited Hot Chocolate (or Coffee)

The perfect mix—hot chocolate and amaretto—and cookies

My husband and I grew up in Ohio and enjoyed many white Christmases. I was never a big fan of snow, but I did like sipping hot chocolate or coffee by the fire as we decorated the tree, opened our gifts, or just relaxed after dinner. Somewhere along the line, I tasted hot chocolate enhanced with a swig of amaretto, and I was hooked. Not long after, I added a bit to coffee and found it was just as good.  It’s very easy to add some holiday spirit to your favorite drink. Pour as little or as much amaretto (or Bailey’s or Kahlua, or other creamy liqueur) to your coffee, hot chocolate, or even tea, and enjoy the festivities.

Christine Cutler     Cold Pasta and Red Wine


The members of International Food, Wine, Travel Writers Association wish you and yours a flavorful, spirited, and adventurous holiday season!