There are very few cocktails that imbibe the spirit of Christmas as well as the classic eggnog. The silky custard-like richness generously spiked with an amber spirit is easily comparable to a PG18 version of hot cocoa.
Eggnog has roots in a medieval British beverage known as posset, which was a milk beverage made with wine or beer, cream, sugar, and egg, and thickened with ingredients such as bread or oatmeal. Eventually, wine and beer were replaced by sherry.
In Victorian Britain, this drink was known as egg flip. “The name eggnog, however, is said to have been derived from an old English dialect. ‘Nog was a word that was used throughout English history to describe a strong beer, and it might be where ‘eggnog’ comes from,” explains Sean Pereira, General Manager, Nara Thai, Colaba Mumbai. He adds that there are other experts who believe that the ‘nog’ of eggnog comes from the word ‘noggin’—a small, wooden, carved mug.
In the early days of eggnog, when spices were a luxury, they were most likely to be used around special occasions like winter holidays. It was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always used as a social drink. The winter months also provided a refrigerator effect for eggnog: while the alcohol prevented the spread of bacteria, the cold air helped the milk and cream stay cool, and over time, eggnog became a regular element of the holiday season.
Britain’s export to America
Britain may be the birthplace of eggnog, but it was in the Americas that the drink gained maximum popularity. In Britain, eggnog was a drink for the wealthy since the ingredients were expensive as well. “But when the drink travelled to the US, sherry was replaced with rum as it was not as heavily taxed,” Periera elucidates. Eggs and milk were easily available thanks to the many farms. The first printed mention of eggnog was in 1788 in The Jersey Journal that referred to a young man drinking a glass of the luscious drink.
Eggnog, as we know it today, is a combination of eggs, sugar, milk and cream with bourbon and rum. “The potency will add a little more cheer in your holidays. Eggnog has a varied and rich history with a lot of competing claims of the origin of the drink that can get lost in an etymological debate,” says Santosh Kukreti, Bar Manager at Aditya Birla New Age. He adds that the drink is a popular drink in Canada and the USA during the holiday season. It can be consumed hot as well as cold depending on how low the temperature is outside.
Eggnog around the world
Eggnog has evolved as it travelled to new lands, “A variety called Ponche crema has been made and consumed in Venezuela and Trinidad since the 1900s, also as part of the Christmas season,” informs Prabhakar Tiwari, Bar Manager, Whisky Samba Gurgaon.
The Mexican counterpart of eggnog is known as rompope while the Spanish drink something called the coquito, which uses coconut milk. Eggnog variation in Peru is the biblia con pisco and biersuppe in Germany. Tiwari adds that eggnog has also gained popularity in Australia. During that time, commercially prepared eggnog is sold in grocery stores in these countries.
That should’ve piqued your interest in what this Christmas cocktail tastes like. Here’s Sean Pereira’s eggnog recipe that serves eight people and will ensure you have a rocking celebration.
- 3 cups (700 ml) whole milk
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy or double cream
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla pod
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish
- 5 eggs, separated
- 2/3 (130 g) cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) Bacardi Dark Rum, or Bourbon
- In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg. Bring to boil over medium heat.
- Once boiling, remove from the heat and allow to steep.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined and form thick ribbons.
- Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to mix until the mixture is combined and smooth.
- Add bourbon or rum, and stir.
- Refrigerate overnight or for up to three days.
- Before serving, beat the egg whites in a large bowl or stand mixer until soft peaks form.
- Gently fold into eggnog until combined.
- Serve and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
2. Rum punch
Did you know the punch in Rum Punch is derived from the Sanskrit word panch? It just means the cocktail is made with only five ingredients.
One of the most important components of a rum punch is oleo-saccharum, which is sugar that is infused with the natural oils of citrus fruit.
Making oleo-saccharum at home
- Take the zest of 8-10 lemons and oranges.
- Leave it in 250 grams of powdered sugar.
- Mix it thoroughly or you can muddle the zest and sugar together to release the oils.
As the name suggests, rum is the most important ingredient of a rum punch. The drink was an extension of sailors being creative with their rum ration and citrus (known to defend against scurvy).
3. Hot Buttered Rum
The soul-warming amber spirit, rum, is a favoured ingredient for Christmas cocktails, take hot buttered rum for instance. Santosh Kukreti explains, “The liquor worked its way into traditional hot drinks like the toddy, made with a sweetener (such as sugar or honey), boiling water and spices. Somewhere along the line, it was enriched with a pat of butter and voilà! Hot buttered rum came into existence.”
Today, variations of this drink abound, with a multitude of flavours. While recipes vary, one thing mixologists can agree on is that the best technique for making this cocktail is to prepare a “batter” ahead of time. The batter is a premade mixture of sweetener, butter and spices. Simply cream the ingredients together by hand or with a mixer. To make the drink, place a few tablespoons of batter in a glass or mug, add some rum, then top with boiling liquid. Here’s Kukreti’s hot buttered rum recipe.
Hot buttered rum recipe
Ingredients for Hot Buttered Rum Batter
- 450 gms butter
- 450 gms brown sugar
- 450 gms sugar
- 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 kg vanilla ice cream, softened slightly
Method for Hot Buttered Rum Batter
- Mix all ingredients except the ice cream in a bowl to combine.
- Add the ice cream and stir.
- Store the batter in the freezer.
To make how buttered rum, you need:
45 ml rum
1 tbsp. frozen hot buttered rum batter
- Add the rum and batter to a mug.
- Fill with boiling water and stir.
4. Mulled Wine
When Roman soldiers wanted something stronger to withstand the cold of the lands they were busy conquering Europe in the 2nd Century, they took fan-favourite red wine and added spices and herbs to create a cure-all.
Today, mulled wine has its variations across Europe such as Glühwein in Germany and Glögg in Sweden. Author Charles Dickens also created a version called the Smoking Bishop in his Christmas classic—A Christmas Carol.
Tried and tested mulled wine recipe
But before we get into it, a few pointers:
- It is better to use a full-bodied flavourful red wine, which can absorb all the aromatic spices that will be added and still hold on its own.
- As for the aromatic spices, you can practically use anything—cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, the list is a long one!
- Never boil mulled wine but gently heat; boiling will lead to evaporation of the alcohol content in the wine.
- 3 long cinnamon sticks
- 8 clove
- 3 bay leaf
- 4 star anise
- 1/2 bar spoon grated nutmeg
- 1 bottle red wine
- 10 orange slice
- 30 ml dark rum
- 1 bar spoon honey
- Mix all the spices in the wine and let it infuse overnight.
- Then, take the wine and let it heat on a double boiler.
- Add rum and honey.
- Serve with a cinnamon stick.
Recipe courtesy Rohit Pandey, Executive Assistant Manager - Food & Beverage, The Leela Bhartiya City Bengaluru
5. Hot toddy
Hot Toddy is a simple concoction of whisky, hot water with lemon and honey created by the Scots, who knew the healing powers of the ‘water of life’. Some think that it may have a connection to the Indian palm-sap based alcoholic drink, also known as toddy and also consumed warm.
Whatever the roots may be, it is a boozy cure for cold and flu that bartenders around the world swear by. And it is extremely simple to make up at home—30 ml of whisky (you can also use brandy) mixed with 2 tbsp of honey and 2 tsp of fresh lime juice, in a glass. Carefully pour hot water into the glass, drop a few cloves and a piece of cinnamon. Cover the glass for the spices to release their goodness for a minute. Serve hot.