The History of Christmas Cocktails

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With Christmas on its merry way, we are taking this opportunity to celebrate three of the most popular tipples at the time of year. Whichever one you prefer, it is always interesting to know the history behind these traditional cocktails.

Eggnog


Eggnog is a creamy cocktail made of milk, sugar and eggs, as well as either brandy, rum or bourbon. It has a frothy texture thanks to the whipping of the eggs, and is usually finished off with a sprinkle of nutmeg or ground cinnamon. Served in a large punch bowl with a ladle, it is believed that it improves with age, and it can keep in the fridge for up to a year!

It is believed that the drink originated in East Anglia, UK. Another theory is that it is a derivative of the Posset, another milk-based cocktail. It was popular amongst the rich, who were the only ones who could get hold of milk and eggs at the time, before making its way to the British colonies in America in the 18TH century.

It became associated with Christmas thanks to the eggnog riots at the United States Military Academy in 1826. Some of the cadets smuggled the ingredients into the barracks to make a special cocktail for Christmas Day. The act resulted in disciplinary action for many of the soldiers.

Mulled Wine


This delicious mixture of red wine and mulled spices has the ultimate scent of Christmas. It is possible that this drink dates as far back as the 2nd century, where wine was warmed up in Rome. However, it is in the UK where it is most popular, and has been since Victorian times.

It is a recipe that is very much dependant on individual tastes, with the amount of spice added down to the barperson’s discretion. Added ingredients can include anything from orange slices, lemon slices, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, cloves and sugar.

It is popular around Christmas time thanks to its ability to warm people up on a cold, snowy day.

Snowball


Advocaat and lemonade with a dash of lime make up this popular yuletide drink. Created in the UK in the 40s, it really took off in the 70s. Then its reputation declined somewhat, as the cheapness and sweetness of the drink fell out of favour. However, in 2006, chef Nigella Lawson was responsible for a 40% rise in sales of Advocaat, and the snowball was revived.

Meanwhile, in America, the snowball has always been looked at with suspicion. There is something about the combination of egg and lemonade that seems to put people off. However, keep an eye out for this as there is a growing number of people that are keen to see it become just as popular in the States as it is in Europe.

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Bartender's top tip

Like cooking, making cocktails is a culinary art that benefits from tasting and adjusting. Before serving, taste your cocktail with a straw or spoon and adjust if necessary. Maybe it needs a touch more sweetness, a bit more acidity to brighten it up, or a dilution adjustment. Personalize each drink to your liking, and don't be afraid to stray from the recipe to create something that suits your taste perfectly.

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