Holiday

How to make a classic Snowball cocktail

This U.K. favourite is eggnog’s lighter — but still potent — cousin.

This U.K. favourite is eggnog’s lighter — but still potent — cousin

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

Snowballs, for me, are the quintessential Christmas drink. When I lived in the U.K., this cocktail was only ever made during the holidays, so it feels eminently festive. Thought to be invented in the 1940s, it became popular in 1970s Britain. Some modern versions combine advocaat — a Dutch egg-based liqueur — and a carbonated U.K.-style of lemonade (a lemon-lime soda like Sprite is often used), and it’s commonly garnished with a glacé (candied) cherry. With its sweet mix of ingredients, this drink can sometimes be presented without balance, lacking acidity. Here I give you a from-scratch recipe that restores the dated holiday tipple to its classy libation status — using homemade maraschino-style cherries, which are far less sugary, and a recipe for advocaat that’s less sweet than some too. 

Classic Snowball Cocktail

You’ll be left with enough cherries and advocaat to make eight to 10 cocktails. The advocaat will keep, refrigerated, for about a week (see the safety note below), and the cherries for months in the fridge.

The cherries will take one week to macerate, so start by preparing them ahead. If you don’t have time or aren’t able to get fresh cherries, you can buy plenty of good quality cocktail cherries these days and use those. You can also substitute your favourite spirit for macerating the cherries: if you don’t have Luxardo, bourbon, rum or brandy all work really well. 

Safety note: This recipe contains eggs that are only lightly cooked, which can be risky for young children, pregnant women, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. So even if omitting the alcohol, this recipe would not be recommended for those people.

Ingredients

For the cocktail cherries (see headnotes):

  • ½ cup sour cherries (sweet cherries will work too)
  • ¼ cup (approx.) Luxardo Maraschino Originale liqueur

For the advocaat:

  • 8 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup / 160 g sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 320 ml brandy
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon

For the Snowball cocktail:

  • Ice
  • ¼ cup/60 ml advocaat
  • ¼–½ lime
  • ⅜ cup / 90 ml sparkling lemonade, limonata or Sprite
  • Cocktail cherries to garnish

Preparation

Make the cherries:

Wash the cherries, and pack them into a small, sealable glass jar. (You can pit them if you prefer — in which case you might need a few more — but I like to leave them whole.)

Pour the Luxardo liqueur over the cherries to cover; seal; and place in the fridge for at least a week before using. This will yield ½ cup of cherries.

Make the advocaat:

Set up a double boiler: put a couple of inches of water in a saucepan, and nestle a glass or stainless steel bowl comfortably on top without the bottom touching the water.

Into that bowl, place the egg yolks, sugar and salt. Using an electric or manual mixer or whisk, beat until the yolks become very pale and the mixture falls in thick ribbons from the whisk, around 3–4 minutes (more if you are hand beating). Then slowly add the brandy in a trickle, whisking as you pour until just combined.

Heat the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and place the bowl on the saucepan to cook mixture very gently, while whisking continuously. The mixture should become thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (If the mixture gets too hot, it can split or the eggs may curdle. To be precise, the temperature should not exceed 138 F/ 68 C).

Remove the bowl from the heat, and add the vanilla and cinnamon, stirring to combine. Let cool, then transfer to a sealable container and store in the fridge until ready to use. This will yield around 2 ½ cups, enough for around 10 cocktails. 

Mix the cocktail:

Fill a highball glass with a handful of ice, then add the advocaat and lime, and stir well.

Pour in most of the lemonade; stir again — the mixture will foam up a bit; and top with a little more ice and the rest of the lemonade.

Garnish with cocktail cherries, and serve immediately. 

Yield: Makes 1 cocktail


Leila Ashtari is a food and travel photographer currently based in the Niagara region who loves telling stories about food, people and places through her work. As well as contributing to CBC Life, her work has been published in Saveur Magazine, The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Lonely Planet Magazine, among others. She also likes to ferment things and always has experiments bubbling away in her basement. See more of her work at leilaashtari.com or on Instagram @ashtariphoto.

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