Christmas is one of my fav times of year. I love being able to spend time with my closest family and friends, even if it is through facetime for my family so far away. One thing that I had not experienced until I moved to the Northern hemisphere were Christmas Markets. It’s simply too warm in NZ for these to have the atmosphere that they need. These markets are all throughout Europe and have their own personality and verve. They are all slightly different and each year, when I visit a different one it puts me right in the Christmas mood. They begin in late November and go until Christmas Eve, they are outdoors, so crisp and cold, with a real winter feel to them.
This year, I met Sarah, a good friend of mine, in Cologne to experience German Christmas at its best. There are about ten Christmas markets in Cologne, each with its own personality, within the personality of the city. The Angels’ Christmas market is full of sparkle and has angels dotted throughout, the fairytale Christmas market has an ice rink and curling fields around the outside, as well as lots of little gnomes up to all sorts of antics, the gay Christmas market, called Heavenue, has drag acts on in the evening and many other local markets showcase local crafts and producers.
The best part about these markets for me, is being able to grab a mug of gluhwein, with or without a shot of a spirit in it and walk through the markets, being warmed from the outside by it. This year, Cologne went sustainable, and every beverage was sold in a ceramic mug, mostly shaped like a boot. You could either keep these or return to geta €3 refund. This meant less waste, buy also that I now have the cutest collection of mugs.
Cologne is an interesting city, other than the Christmas markets – it was the first place to produce Cologne and there is a museum dedicated to this. Cologne was one of the earliest Roman cities,founded in 38BC, and I was lucky enough to visit the museum dedicated to this – there are some amazing mosaic floors and statues within the museum and it really gives a flavour as to what it would have been like to live there in these times. These are a few of the museums and exhibitions available in this wonderful city – there are many more to explore!
The city is also on the river Rhine – and is in the Rhineland, which has been occupied by a number of forces throughout the centuries, such as France and the British. The name Cologne as it is spelt and pronounced is from the French timein occupation. This city was also one of the most heavily bombed cities during the Second World War, and it is because of this that there is some interesting architecture and sculptures throughout the city.
Sadly, whilst I visited the city the beautiful Cathedral was under restoration, so I was unable to visit the main area. I was however, able to visit the crypt and the treasury and they were simply stunning. I was able to view some of the curiosities there – such as the relics of saints. These can be anything from bones to pieces of the cross on which Christ was crucified on. It was a bit grisly, but I bet kids would love it.
Now that I am back in the UK, I am wanting to hold onto the vibe of the markets. One way of doing this is to drink some mulled wine or some spiked hot chocolate, which have Woodford Bourbon dropped in them. Here are my recipes for these. You could either have these at home as you decorate the tree, or watch a Christmas movie, or pop them in a thermos and head out for a Christmas walk – using Woodford Reserve Bourbon (one of Daniel’s favourites after a recent event in Toronto!)
Nic’s naughty Mulled Wine
1 bottle of spicy mulled wine from your local supermarket or bottle store – or a bottle of red wine and grab a sachet f mulled wine spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg etc
One orange for garnish
Heat the mulled wine in either a slow cooker or pot on the stove top. If on a stove top, use a medium heat. If you are using the spiced mulled wine, you can do this until the wine starts to bubble lightly. If you are using a sachet and wine, you will need to leave a little longer until the spices have permeated through the wine. I would boil on a low heat and leave for say 15 minutes at least.
When the wine is warm enough, pour into mugs, leaving a bit of room for the shot(s) of Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Add either a single or double shot of #WoodfordReserve to the mug depending on your tastes – I like it a bit stronger, so would go for a double!
Cut your orange into thin slices and add one to each mug.
A bottle of wine should make about four mugs worth depending on how large your mugs are.
Christmas Hot chocolate
Milk of your choice – either traditional cows milk , or you could use either coconut, almond or hazelnut milks
Chocolate – cooking chocolate with a high cocoa content is preferable, but play around with it and try different chocolates depending on your mood.
Your favourite Woodford Reserve Bourbon bottle
Whipped cream to garnish if desired
Melt the chocolate of your choice in a pan – I like rich chocolate so would go for a high cocoa content and melt about half a block in a small pot.
Add the milk of your choice to the pan,just as the chocolate begins to liquefy. Stir this to stop the chocolate burning on the bottom and to ensure that the milk becomes chocolatey.
Once all of the chocolate has been dissolved in the milk, pour into mugs.
Add your choice of a single or double shot of Woodford Reserve – again I like chocolate and bourbon so I would be going for a double. These flavours really compliment each other.
If you are going for really decadent, you can add whipped cream and chocolate powder on the top!
There are a number of variations to this recipe. You could try using salted caramel or mint chocolate to change the flavour of the milk – it will still work with the bourbon. Using coconut milk also adds a nice hint of flavour to the mix.
I wish you all a very safe and happy holiday period. Please drink these treats responsibly, it’s all fun and games until someone spills the Woodford. But in all seriousness, no drink driving please. You can check out what I am up to over the holiday period by checking out the Do the Daniel “Nicola” highlight or via my own insta @niccakicca
This post is not intended to be seen by persons under the legal alcohol drinking age or in countries with restrictions on advertising on alcoholic beverages. Please remember to enjoy responsibly and never drink and drive.
Have a great time and I look forward to hearing all about your holidays in 2019.
Photos by Nicola Whyte & Daniel Reyes