Our Favorite Things – A Christmas Tree Trimming Tradition

christmas 78_editedChristmas tree trimming night has always been an event in my family. When I was growing up my parents would buy an enormous tree that took up an entire corner (or sometimes half!) of the living room. Together we would lovingly unwrap all the ornaments and recall the stories behind them as we decorated the tree. We each had our favorites: ones we made, ones given to us by our grandparents, ones that made us laugh. Before I was born my Dad made a felt frog for my sisters – it’s just a head with legs and a big pair of red lips. It’s hilarious and only Dad can hang the frog in a designated “place of honor”.

My parents would tell us about the ones they made when they were first married, and the few from their own childhood Christmas trees – delicate wartime ornaments that were always put up high as protection against the inevitable bumps the tree would endure. Each one represented a part of our family’s story. And once it was completed, lit with many strings of colored lights, heavy with ornaments, glass icicles, and the angel sitting proudly on the top, it was a chronicle of our lives. It was a tree full of memories – pieces of each of us to see and cherish during our favorite time of year.

This looks like a picture of Christmas familial bliss and harmony. We did have a happy family but let me assure you that we were a “real” family and not every moment was bliss. Not even the magical wonder of Christmastime could stop my sisters from their sisterly bickering. They were notorious for arguments over what ornament to hang where, who got the ladder first, etc. I am 10 years their junior so I was usually found covering my ears and yelling at them to stop yelling.

My Dad (badly outnumbered by four females and smart enough to know when to retreat) would put on the lights, his frog, and then make his way to the kitchen. There he would whip up a batch of his and my Mother’s special Tree Trimming Night cocktail, Brandy Alexanders. My sisters and I enjoyed the NA version: deluxe ice cream Alexanders that were basically chocolate shakes with nutmeg.

Our recipe differs from a traditional Brandy Alexander in that it has ice cream instead of half and half and is made in a blender. You can make it strong or not so strong, depending on your taste. The one-to-one ratio of Brandy to Crème de Cacao is a generally good rule of thumb.

Whether it’s for tree trimming night or any festive gathering this holiday, this is a delicious cocktail and something a little different from the usual winter repertoire of eggnog, mulled wine and punch. But whatever your chosen libations may be, please always drink responsibly.

Brandy Alexanders

1/2 cup Ice cubes

2 cups Vanilla Ice Cream

2 oz Brandy

2 oz Crème de Cacao

1/2 tsp Grated Nutmeg

Add ice to blender and roughly chop. Then add ice cream, Brandy and Crème de Cacao. Blend until smooth. Add more ice if too thick. Serve in tall glasses with a generous sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Makes 2-3 servings

Ice Cream Alexanders

2 cups Vanilla Ice Cream

Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup, to taste

1/2 tsp. Grated Nutmeg

Blend ice cream and chocolate syrup until smooth. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Makes 2 servings.

Traditional Brandy Alexander

According to DrinksMixer.com, a traditional Brandy Alexander is a fairly stiff cocktail made in a shaker.

2 oz Brandy
2 oz Dark Crème de Cacao
2 oz Half-and-Half
1/2 tsp Grated Nutmeg

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the brandy, crème de cacao, and half and half. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the nutmeg. Makes 2 servings.

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