0.5 oz Pine or Douglas Fir sprigs
3 oz Bushmills Irish Whiskey
1 tbs mild honey
1 tsp lemon juice
Place tree sprigs in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, remove from burner, cover with a lid, steep for 3 minutes, then strain to make a tea*. Bring the tea back to a boil, stir in the remaining ingredients, then split between two pre-heated, six-ounce, heat-proof glasses.
Garnish with lemon wheel and 3-4 inch long tree sprig.
Last weekend we picked what I thought was a lovely Douglas Fir at a Christmas tree lot. It’s taken us all week to trim it, and we found the branches were denser than usual. So dense, in fact, that it was difficult to get the lights and ornaments situated for maximum sparkle. My lamentations about this to my husband were met with a blank stare.
Undaunted, I clipped off small branches here and there to expose obscured lights and ornaments. As I did so, I drank in the scent of the tree on my hands and remembered an episode of Man vs. Wild in which rugged Bear Grylls makes tea from pine needles and explains its high vitamin C content. Although my husband thought I was biding time until poor Bear crossed a chilly stream and was forced to dry his clothes on a boulder (Safety First!), I was actually learning.
Whereas pine or Douglas fir tea is typically made using only the needles, I decided to use the entire clipping so that the tannins in the wood would introduce a bitter note. Naturally, the tea was destined for a hot toddy.
To make my Christmas Toddy, I start by thoroughly washing the clippings from our Douglas fir in cold water, then place them in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water, bring to a boil, cut off the heat, cover, steep for three minutes, then strain. I pour the tea back into the pot and bring it back to a boil. I stir in 3 ounces Bushmills Irish Whiskey, 1 tablespoon mild honey and 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. I split the mixture between two six-ounce cups from my mother-in-law’s punch bowl set that are equally suited for hot and cold beverages, and garnish each with a lemon wheel and a freshly cut, three-and-a-half inch long sprig.
I sip one, hand the other to my husband and prepare a hot chocolate for our daughter. Then we snuggle up in front of Netflix’s Fireplace For Your Home and behold the wonder of the perfectly trimmed tree.
*Ponderosa, Norfolk Island and Yew needles should be avoided, as brewing can prove toxic. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid pine needle tea as it has been linked by some sources to miscarriage. Oh, and they shouldn’t drink alcohol either.