Thursday, December 1, 2011


As is typical for this time of year, the focus on Christmas (or the 'Holiday Season' if you will) begins as soon as the the leftovers from Thanksgiving are stashed in the fridge.  For most, it's all about the tree (or bush), the ornaments, the decor, the cookies, and for those who celebrate Festivus...we must not forget the all important Festivus Pole, a crucial component for the 'Airing of Grievances' and 'Feats of Strength'.  Yes, in these times of holiday bliss, a nice Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, or Equinox among others certainly lends itself well to lounging in front of the fire...but as we draw closer to the end of the month here in the Midwest, I am reminded of one of my favorite childhood memories of the season...eggnog.  For sure, the store bought cartons of this homogenous concoction were often too sweet and thick, tho my naive buds were easily tamed by cutting the viscous stuff with a bit of milk.  Nowadays?  Not so much.  An unbelievably easy and much preferred route is to follow something along the lines of Alton Brown by making your own from scratch, (adult-rated or child-friendly at your own discretion).  I've recently made this a tradition over the last several years and really do enjoy it with a nice kick of bourbon.  At the same time, its profile is still on the heavier side and I've been longing for a boozier version that still retains hints of its nutmeg-y origin.  As a result, I set out to create a variation of eggnog that would find acceptance not only in the spirit and childhood memories of the holiday season, but among the cocktail enthusiast in me as well.

In pondering of the foundation, I ran down nearly the entire list of aged spirits that could add delightful intoxication to the original.  While rum, cognac, and rye whiskey would in all likelihood work relatively well with the other components I was considering, ultimately I decided to stick with the more traditional bourbon...and Buffalo Trace was that bottle.  Next, I knew I wanted to include a bit of an edge from an amaro and/or vermouth and figured the combo of Punt y Mes and Averna would provide a nice balance of bitter elements and botanical complexity.  Last but not least, to fully incorporate the omnipotent and distinguishing characteristic of all eggnogs, a nutmeg simple syrup and small hit of heavy cream to round it out and give a silky mouthfeel.  Shake and strain, this is how it turned out.

Santa's Little Helper
2 oz Buffalo Trace

3/4 oz Averna amaro
1/2 oz Punt y Mes
1/2 oz nutmeg simple syrup*
1/4 oz heavy cream

Dash Angostura bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Nutmeg simple syrup*
4 oz water
4 oz sugar
1 whole nutmeg

Add water and sugar to a small saucepan and heat until sugar is fully incorporated.  Wrap the nutmeg in a bar towel and smash with a meat mallet or heavy pan.  Add crushed nutmeg to the saucepan, stir, and remove from heat.  Allow to cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  

Santa's Little Helper

True, this tipple lacks the traditional egg yolks for thickening and whites for the airy frothiness, tho I'd suggest that if you're looking for that texture, you're probably better off going with the traditional eggnog...which when well made, is fabulous in it's own right.  While certainly a spirit-forward cocktail, Santa's Little Helper still maintains the relatively rich character of the dairy-laden original, but by all means, if a touch more cream is to your liking, I think this has the fortitude to stand up to it.  But regardless of what you choose to throw back this holiday season, do try to stay away from the Snowtinis and Merry Cherrys of the world, the cocktail enthusiast in us all would likely consider that present enough.  Cheers

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