Culinary Calendar: December


The wise man (or woman) of Christmas 2015 really shouldn’t be without a repertoire of drinks that will keep those around you in good cheer throughout the festive season. So this is the month that the Culinary Calendar does Christmas cocktails – from traditional eggnog to a very elegant fizz; via a spot of mulling and even something fun for the teetotallers.  Merry Christmas, folks!

Bourbon and Spiced Rum Egg-Nog

Poor old eggnog has been rather hijacked into a one-size-fits-all Christmassy label slapped onto sickly lattes, truffles, muffins, and goodness knows what else.  None of those are anything to do with the silky, indulgent, luxuriousness of true eggnog. Think of being wrapped up in a silk dressing gown – that is what a good eggnog feels like.

For all its modern Americanisation the nog’s roots lie the other side of the Atlantic. Eggnog began life as the medicinal ale possets of medieval England which duly evolved into celebratory 17th century possets of sherry or wine mixed with eggs and cream or milk.  In the late 1700s the posset travelled over with the British colonies to north America.  There, rum was used as it was cheaper, then bourbon became common too, and then in time the Americans gave the Brits the drink back as eggnog.

EggnogThis recipe uses both bourbon and rum. The result is a sort of boozy custard, which I mean in a good way.  If making for a big group it’s nice to ladle the nog out from a big bowl. I use champagne coupes or a brandy glass to serve.

For 2 glasses:

1 egg
40g caster sugar
100ml chilled single cream
100ml chilled whole milk
50ml bourbon
50ml spiced rum
a whole nutmeg

Separate the egg white & yolk into different bowls.  Whip the whites with half of the sugar until stiff and then beat the yolks with the rest of the sugar. Add the cream, milk, bourbon & rum to the yolks.  Whisk again and transfer to a serving bowl.  Thoroughly but gently fold in the whites.

Ladle out to serve. Finish with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg over the top of each glass.

Rum Bumbo

Move over red wine and cider. This year, if anything is going to get mulled, why not try warming through dark rum with sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger?  The Victorians who pretty much invented our Christmas traditions loved adding spirits to their mulled wines or ports. This is a nice nod to that history whilst actually being based on the ‘bumbo’ that was the traditional drink of English merchant sailors in the 1700s. It is a very easy, very tasty, make-ahead drink.

For 3 glasses:

250ml dark or golden rum
500ml water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 of a nutmeg, grated
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 teaspoons brown sugar
a clementine

Put all the ingredients into a pan and gently heat so that the sugar dissolves. Don’t let it bubble or else you’ll be boiling off the alcohol.  Serve warm in any glass with a stem or handle. Add a slice of clementine to float as garnish.

Spiced Rosemary and Orange Cordial

This cordial is handy to have on-hand in your fridge.  As you top it up with sparkling water or ginger beer any non-drinkers will be very pleased at being offered something as festive in flavour and colour as anything those on the harder stuff are knocking back.  It does also do good service added into alcoholic drinks. Try with champagne for a spiced Bucks Fizz; or add to a gin martini for a seasonal take on the Orange Blossom.

To make 450ml cordial:

3 unwaxed oranges
4 sprigs rosemary
6 cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
700ml water
40g sugar

Pare the orange zest off in strips, taking as little of the bitter white pith as possible. Put into a pan with the rosemary, cloves, star anise, cinnamon and water. Bring to the boil and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat and leave for another 20 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Squeeze the oranges.

Strain out the herbs and spices. Throw those away.  Return the (now enhanced) water to the pan and add the orange juice and the sugar. Heat gently just until the sugar dissolves.  Leave to go cold then pour into a sterilised bottle. It will keep in the fridge for about 10 days.

Santa, Baby

I’ve written about this drink before for these pages but trust me, this cocktail takes some repeating. It also takes some beating. The fino sherry’s dryness is gorgeous with the deep complexity of the bitters and the Chase Sloe and Mulberry Gin. Other sloe gins could be swapped in, of course, but the Chase is not just particularly good, it’s also particularly suited to the flavour balance here. It just has more going on than a standard sloe.  Finish off with sparkling wine of your preferred stripe and a grating of nutmeg for a truly elegant and fun cocktail. Serve in a martini glass.


For two glasses:

100ml Williams Chase Sloe and Mulberry gin
50 ml fino sherry
4 dashes of The Bitter Truth ‘Old Time Aromatic Bitters’
100ml sparkling wine
whole nutmeg

Put the gin, fino and bitters into a cocktail tin that is packed with ice. Give it all a good stir and strain into two iced martini glasses. Top up each glass with 50ml of sparkling wine per glass. Grate a dusting of nutmeg on top for garnish.

(Recipe given by kind permission of my husband, James, whose baby this Santa, Baby is.)