Golden Pomander, cognac based Christmas cocktail by Cocktails of Copenhagen, Photo by Alexander Banck Petersen

Golden Pomander

A fragrant Christmas cocktail with historic roots

Cloves and oranges are associated with christmas for most Danes. You’ll find clove studded oranges decorating homes and infusing “gløgg” (mulled wine) throughout december. Few know the origin of this peculiar sort of christmas decoration, but enjoys the characteristic sweet and spiced fragrance that it provides none the less.

It’s origin is tied to the power of scent and the use of pomanders in the Middle Ages. A pomander from French pomme d’ambre, i.e. apple of amber, was a ball filled with perfumes worn from the Middle Ages onward. It served as protection against bad smells or sickness and death in times of pestilence. It was believed that the pleasant scent of a pomander could repel the disease in the air.

Both men and women wore pomanders, most of whom hailed from the elite classes of society. Queen Elizabeth I is frequently depicted wearing one, as are other nobles and notables of the day like cardinal Wolsey who you might know from the popular series Tudors where he often depicted carrying around a scented cloth.

A version of the pomander with oranges, cloves, oils and a golden ribbon is even said to have been used as a recovery charm in witchcraft. The essential oil in clove, eugenol, actually acts as a strong antiseptic and pain reliever that dentists still apply today.

By the 18th century however, a pomander was more often than not an orange studded with cloves and other spices. These made for popular gifts during Christmas and New Years. Oranges along with other sweet fruits have for long been used as such symbolizing riches, good luck and the promise of love. In earlier times, Romans gave their friends a glass jar full of dates and dried figs in honey so the coming year would be sweet and full of good fortune.

You’ll find the warm spice of dried cloves and the aromatic oils from the zest of an orange in the Golden Pomander cocktail. You won’t wear this pomander around your neck as in the Middle Ages but you will taste and smell the qualities that it was worn for.

5 cl cognac

3 cl lemon juice

2 cl maple syrup

1 cl falernum (alternatively sugar syrup)

5 dried cloves

Muddle the cloves, shake with the rest of the ingredients and fine strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish: twist of orange.

The cognac, maple syrup and falernum (a partly clove infused liquor) ties together the aromas of the dried cloves and the orange peel beautifully. You are not simply enjoying a cocktail, but a golden apple of fragrance, with roots back through the centuries in a play of witchcraft, death and wealth.

Merry christmas!

Humberto Marques from Curfew have made a christmas pomander for Euroman, that you can find here among other delicious christmas cocktail suggestions.

The Golden Pomaner cocktail was made for Cocktails of Copenhagen by Thomas Klem Andersen and as far as we know is not yet on any menu in the city, so to try it out you’ll have to shake it up yourself. It will be worth the sweat!


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Theis Frøhlich
Digital designer during the day and cocktail enthusiast at night. Quality, taste and aesthetics are the ingredients of my favourite cocktail whether it's one of the classics or a contemporary experiment.