It has been a long year. I don't have to list all the hard, weird crap that happened, right? You know. And you're exhausted by it. You also know that in about one week another big long year is going to start again and winter is going to keep coming and coming and coming. Anyone else thinking seriously about hibernation?
But we, alas, are not bears. Instead of a cozy cave and a long winter sleep, we get only one day for pure laziness. (But there is indoor plumbing, so take that bears.) Maybe you're at your mom's house, where people cook for you. Or maybe you're on a beach someplace laughing at everyone experiencing that stupid cold feeling. Yesterday you were working. Tomorrow you'll be dedicated to festivities and forced smiles. But today is your day. Live it up. Drink in the afternoon.
This is the day to curl up with a specific kind of book – a book with crazy plot twists and not too many big words. This is also a day, I repeat, to drink in the afternoon. Come on, if not now, when? Here are 12 books perfect for a quiet day by the fire and Christmassy drinks to match. Done properly, these pairings are more relaxing than Valium and flannel pajamas.
1. Sriracha Hot Toddies and The Four Reigns by Kukrit Pramoj
Drink Recipe: Whisk together 4 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon Sriracha and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Bring 1 cup whisky, 3 cups water, and 3-inch ginger root pieces to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes then add Sriracha mixture and simmer for ten more minutes. Makes two servings. (Courtesy of Tablespoon.com.)
Why they pair: This novel about the crumbling of the Thai monarchy is about as saucy as pouring chili sauce into your whisky.
2. Homemade Spiced Pear Vodka and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Drink Recipe: Combine 2 ripe pears, cored and sliced, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 small ginger slices, 10 whole cloves and 2 cups vodka in a quart-sized jar. Steep for at least five days. Strain before serving. Makes two cups. (Courtesy of Boulder Locavore.)
Why they pair: Do you believe vodka is magic? I do. It can taste like anything you want it to taste like! Christmas, candy, lemons, Soviet Russia, pears, you name it. This recipe is sweet but not cloying, much like Alice Hoffman’s novel.
3. Tipsy Hazelnut Hot Chocolate and Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Drink Recipe: Heat 1 cup milk, 6 tablespoons nutella, and 2 tablespoons heavy cream in a saucepan until the nutella melts. Reduce the heat to low and add 3 tablespoons Frangelico and 2 tablespoons brandy. Heat until hot. Meanwhile whisk 6 tablespoons cream until stiff peaks form. Add 1 tablespoon Frangelico and whisk until mixed. Serve hot chocolate with a dollop of the cream on top. Makes 2-4 servings. (Courtesy of Chow.com.)
Why they Pair: The only problem with this recipe is that is doesn’t include Johnny Depp to leer at you (in a good way) while you drink it. As a book nerd, I seldom say this, but you have my permission to watch the movie instead. Ah hell, it’s Christmas, right? Enjoy.
4. Salty Mapled Buttered Cider and The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Drink Recipe: Prepare glasses by scattering Maldon salt on a small plate, rubbing the rims of two heat-proof glasses with a lemon half and dipping them in the salt. Combine butter, maple syrup and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl. Combine rum and cider in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour the cider mixture into the prepared glasses and top each with half the butter mixture. Makes two servings. (Courtesy of Serious Eats.)
Why They Pair: Blow jobs, plot twists, abortions and cider – who else could make them a winning combination for a heart-warming novel (and not strange porn) except John Irving? This is the story of the odd things people will do in pursuit of love in New England. And cider.
5. Cranberry Daiquiris and The Havana Quartet by Leonardo Padura
Drink Recipe: Dissolve ½ cup sugar in ½ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cinnamon stick and ½ teaspoon grated orange peel. Bring to a boil. Mix in ½ cup cranberries and cook until cranberries begin to pop. Cool; discard cinnamon. Pour mixture into a jar. Add ½ cup light rum. Chill. Strain syrup into a pitcher. Reserve cranberries. Add 6 tablespoons each dark rum, light rum, cranberry juice, and lemon juice to the pitcher. Chill. Serve in martini glasses with crushed ice and garnish with cranberries. Makes 6 servings. (Courtesy of Bon Appetit.)
Why They Pair: Cold daiquiris will remind you of a warmer climate where anything is possible – even (dun dun dun) murder That’s right. The Havana Quartet is a series of detective novels set in a sizzling Cuba. The fuzz in question is Lieutenant Mario Conde, who would rather write than detect and has a fondness for drunks. We have so much in common.
6. Eggnog and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Drink Recipe: Boil 4 cups whole milk, 1 1/2 sugar, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, and seeds in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium until sugar is dissolved, 6–8 minutes. Place 8 egg yolks in a bowl; slowly whisk in 2 ladlefuls of milk mixture; return to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture coats the back of a spoon, 10–12 minutes. Strain though a fine-mesh sieve into a punch bowl or pitcher; let cool. Stir in 3/4 cup bourbon and 1/4 cup rum. In separate bowls, and using an electric hand mixer, beat 4 egg whites and 2 cups heavy cream until stiff peaks form; fold both into eggnog. Garnish with nutmeg. Makes 6-8 servings. (Courtesy of Saveur.)
Why They Pair: Eggnog is secretly an allegory for Christianity where rum represents the Holy Spirit and nutmeg is god’s love. Or am I confusing things? How about this – eggnog gives you the same warm, fuzzy feeling that rereading your favorite childhood books does. Don’t think about the lion symbolizing Jesus.
7. English Christmas Punch and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Drink Recipe: Heat to a simmer 750 ml dark rum, 750 ml dry red wine, 3 cups brewed tea, 2 cups sugar, ½ cup orange juice, ½ cup lemon juice. Make sure all the sugar dissolves. When warmed, add orange slices and cranberries for garnish. (Courtesy of About.com.)
Why They Pair: There is an actual law that mandates you read Charles Dickens at Christmastime. The punishment for breaking this rule is that I will come to your house and read bad Harry Potter fan-fiction at you. So don’t risk it, read David Copperfield. There are donkeys, orphans, punch, and (I promise) no magicians.
8. Brandy Milk Punch and Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Drink Recipe: In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 ounces brandy, 1 cup whole milk, and 1 teaspoon powdered sugar with 3 ice cubes and shake until frothy, about one minute. Strain into a double-old fashioned glass with cracked ice. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Makes 1 serving. (Courtesy of Brennan's Restaurant.)
Why They Pair: The book and the drink are about the glories of something truly retro. In Landline the old school objet is an old-fashioned telephone that you cannot use to play Candy Crush. In the drink, it's a healthy dose of milk that is not almond, soy, coconut, or terrible.
9. Mulled Wine and The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Drink Recipe: Combine 4 cups apple cider, 750 ml red wine, ¼ cup honey, 2 cinnamon sticks, zest of one orange, 4 whole cloves and 3 star anise in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Serve in mugs with an orange peel garnish. Makes 8 servings. (Courtesy of Ina Garten.)Why They Pair: Nothing is more girly than heating up red wine and making it as sweet as possible, except reading The Mists of Avalon on Christmas Eve. You get extra points if you read within proximity of a stuffed animal, chocolate, or a horse.
10. Original Shannon Airport Irish Coffee and The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien
Drink Recipe: Fill a wine glass half-way with hot coffee. Stir in 1-2 teaspoons sugar until it dissolves. Add in 1/8 cup Irish whiskey (use Bourbon or Scotch and the Celtic gods will smite you). Top with double cream. Makes 1 serving (Courtesy of Food.com)
Why They Pair: When you need an Irish coffee, you need one. It’s not been a good day. Same goes for Edna O’Brien. But don’t expect her to cheer you like the coffee does – she’s not into that.
11. Coquito and Conquistadora by Esmeralda Santiago
Drink Recipe: Blend 2 cups coconut milk, 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk, 2 cups Puerto Rican rum, and 4 egg yolks in a blender until frothy; chill. Pour into glasses, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve with cinnamon sticks. Makes 5 cups. (Courtesy of Saveur.)Why They Pair: I'm sick of writing these. It's a good drink. It's a good book. Just drink it! Puerto Rico.
12. Kir Royale and My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
Drink Recipe: Pour ½ ounce crème de cassis into a champagne glass and top with 6 ounces champagne. Makes 1 serving (Courtesy of Tablespoon.com.)
Why They Pair: They're both super tall.