An Excuse to Drink – December 6, 346 A.D. Death of St. Nicholas of of Myra

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Okay, I’m not saying Santa Claus is dead, but today marks the anniversary of the death St. Nicholas of Myra. Also known as “Nicholas the Wonderworker”, this early saint  had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such asputting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, (as well as resurrecting three children killed by cannibalistic meat merchants, but that’s another story…)  and was a model for the modern Santa Claus.  December 6th is his traditional feast day for most Western Christian sects and is “St. Nicholas Day” is a popular children’s holiday in many European countries.

Here are a sampling of traditional “St. Nicholas Day” beverages, both alcoholic and non. Enjoy!

Bisschopswijn (Dutch Bishops’ Wine)

Traditional beverage for Dutch Sinterklaas Eve recipe adapted from the Saint Nicholas Center and

  • 1 liter red wine
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 20 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • a pinch of mace and saffron (optional)

Glass: Serve in heat-resistant glasses.

Garnish: None

Wash and dry the lemon and orange. Insert 10 cloves into each. Put the wine, sugar, lemon, orange and cinnamon (and the mace and saffron tied in muslin, if you are using them) into a pan. Cover and bring slowly to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow the wine to simmer very gently for approximately. 1 hour. Remove the spices and the fruit. Heat the wine again, but do not let it boil.

Bishop Saint Nicholas Punch

recipe adapted from the Saint Nicholas Center

  • 3–4 Seville oranges (smooth-skinned)
  • 1–2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ cup sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mace
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Glass: Punch Cup

Garnish: For punch bowl, make a wreath out of rosemary, mint, holly leaves and berries.

Slice and grill orange and lemon slices in a frying pan with butter. Squeeze, then place in punch bowl. Add cider, sugar, raisins, and spices. Delicious when served hot with a cinnamon stick in each mug. Editors Note: Though not traditonal, this would probably be even better (for our adult readers) with a little rum or brandy added!

Saint Nicholas Day Punch

adapted from a recipe served at the Historic Allaire Village St. Nicholas Celebration

  • 8 quarts tea
  • 8 quarts cranberry juice
  • 1 ¼ cups lemon juice
  • 2 ¼ cups sugar
  • 4 quarts ginger ale

Glass: Punch cup

Garnish: Garnish the punch bowl with red maraschino cherries and mint leaves frozen in ice ring.

Mix first three ingredients together and add ginger ale just before serving. Garnish with red maraschino cherries and mint leaves frozen in ice ring. Yield: approximately 160 4-ounce servings.


this traditional german heated wine would also be appropriate for saluting the saint!

recipe adapted from

  • One 750ml bottle of inexpensive dry red wine
  • 2/3 cup of raw cane sugar or white sugar
  • Juice and zest of one small lemon
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Glass: Heat-resistant glass or mug

Garnish: optional shot of brandy, kirschwasser or other liqueur.

Heat ingredients in a heavy bottomed pan. Stir to melt the sugar. Heat the mixture over low heat, and leave to simmer for about an hour.

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