Home / Articles / Features / Feature / ’Tis the season
Print this Article
Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018 12:06 am

’Tis the season

Holiday cocktails warm the soul


The holidays are upon us, and if you don’t yet need a drink, you will.

What with relatives you can’t wish away and kids rip-ripping open packages, then bang-banging drums and bleep-bleeping electronic gadgets while Mannheim Steamroller blast-blasts new age tripe that sensible folk can’t stand but once a year, you need a cocoon. Enter the Christmas cocktail.

While three fingers of single malt might seem appealing, that’s too easy for this special season. Plus, who wants to share their stash of 18-year-old Glenfiddich with Uncle Bob and Cousin Earl, who usually stick with Fireball, and plenty of it? You want something yummy, something that tastes sophisticated, something that would warm even the coldest Grinch’s belly with delightful tickles of spices and textures and, of course, booze tailored to keep folks coming back for more until they either summon Uber or fall asleep. Then you can fetch the Glenfiddich.


Of course homemade is better than stuff bought from a store, unless you enjoy guzzling pancake batter. Eggnog will keep in the refrigerator for a week, so making a batch should be one of your first holiday chores. Raw eggs didn’t hurt Rocky, and they won’t hurt you. Make sure you use fresh ones, religiously keep the concoction at an appropriately cool temperature and don’t skimp on the booze, which helps prevent anything funky from happening. You can use rum, bourbon, cognac, brandy or any combination thereof, but we prefer keeping things straight up with whiskey, with an “e.” No need to get fancy or expensive, Jim Beam or equivalent works fine. Spend the money you save on whole nutmeg, which, freshly grated, imparts a “Hello, Santa Claus!” aspect to the party. Vanilla is optional. While it makes for a smoother drink and covers up the booze, it makes for a smoother drink and covers up the booze.

Three-quarters cup of sugar, either confectioners or super fine (don’t use regular granulated sugar)
12 eggs, separated
Two pints whiskey
Half-pint of heavy cream
Two pints whole milk
One whole nutmeg, grated, or two teaspoons of pre-grated
Teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Unless you have Popeye arms, a stand mixer is your friend here. Beat egg whites until they form ever-so-soft peaks – you want to stop short of meringue – and set aside. Beat the yolks until they turn a lighter shade of yellow and thicken a bit. Then, gradually add sugar, beating it in until everything is smooth. Stir in liquor. Pour cream into large bowl (big enough to contain the finished product), stir in the yolk-whiskey mixture, then stir in milk. Fold in nutmeg (and vanilla, if you’re using it), then add the egg whites, stirring just enough to combine and being careful not to stir too much. You want the whites to add texture as opposed to being absorbed so much that they become inconsequential.

Tom and Jerry

This is eggnog’s warmer, more versatile cousin. Made one drink at a time, brandy, rum, cognac or bourbon – with either hot water or hot milk as mixers -- all work, allowing taste, kick and calories to be adjusted to each imbiber’s preference. Put the batter, with means to keep it chilled, on the counter along with milk and water, each in their separate warming devices, let revelers make their own and get out of the way. As with eggnog, the batter will keep in the fridge, so you can whip it up ahead of time.

12 eggs, separated
One cup confectioner’s sugar
One teaspoon cream of tartar
Healthy splash of rum, preferably dark, never white
One stick room-temperature butter
One teaspoon vanilla
One teaspoon each of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, all ground

Add cream of tartar to egg whites and beat until stiff peaks develop, then set aside. Combine yolks, sugar and butter and beat until smooth. Gently fold beaten egg whites into yolk mixture, then add rum, vanilla and spices and mix thoroughly without beating. Refrigerate immediately and keep chilled at all times – if it separates before party time, with liquid on bottom and foamy thickness on top, just give it a stir. When thirst arrives, get a mug and fill with boiling water. Pour water out after a minute or two – you’ve done this to get the mug warm – add a tablespoon or even two of the batter to the mug, then put in two ounces of liquor. We favor an equal mix of brandy and cognac. Then fill the mug with either hot water or hot milk or a combination of the two, stir, sprinkle grated nutmeg on top and enjoy.

Coffee nudge

Nudge me. That’s what we used to say, back in the day, when Starbucks was the only decent coffee available and it was cold outside. This is an easy, go-to cocktail you can make up at a moment’s notice, without getting a lot of dishes dirty. Good coffee is more important than expensive liquor, and whipped cream is NOT optional. Don’t even try. It will melt from the heat of the coffee and suffuse the drink with softness. You can make do without the crème de cacao, but you shouldn’t, and you can add more or less brandy according to your preference. Don’t tell anyone, but we sometimes nuke the concoction in the microwave before adding the whipped cream to make sure it’s piping hot.

Half-ounce brandy
Half-ounce Kahlua
Half-ounce crème de cacao
Whipped cream (stuff from a can is fine)
Chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Pour liquor in a mug. Fill to brim with coffee, then add a dollop of whipped cream. Sprinkle sprinkles atop whipped cream, if desired, then serve.

Hot buttered rum

Easy on the butter – that’s the key to a great hot buttered rum, which is guaranteed to ward off colds or make you not care so much. Dark rum is best, white rum should be saved for summer.

Half teaspoon butter
Boiling water
Two ounces rum
Half teaspoon ground cinnamon
Half teaspoon ground nutmeg
Half teaspoon ground cloves
A few drops of vanilla

While water is heating to boil, combine other ingredients in mug. Add hot water to fill, then stir until butter is melted. Garnish with cinnamon stick if desired.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed