For many, the word ‘eggnog’ instantly brings visions of candy canes, Bing Crosby and seasonally bloated family gatherings to mind. After all, everyone knows eggnog is a Christmas drink – right?

“Eggnog is a hearty, wintry classic, and the perfect drink for cold, snowy days,” agrees Pierre-Marie Bisson of Soho’s cocktail-cum-dessert bar, Basement Sate. “But it’s not just for Christmas.”

Although eggnog’s origins are often debated, most culinary historians agree that the drink descended from a syrupy, boozy British concoction called posset: a warm mixture of milk, bracing sugar, hearty egg yolks and spiced sweet wine, popular among the 17th century aristocracy. Later enthusiastically adopted by the American colonies, the wine was soon replaced with spirits and eggnog as we know it was born.

“In our version, the Toffee Bum, we omit the eggs and replace them with salted caramel for thickness, as well as vanilla and sherry for extra depth,” says Bisson.

While innovative in many respects, Bisson is a traditionalist at heart, siding with the colonial preference for rum instead of today’s modern penchant for bourbon-based ‘nogs.

“Appleton VX has a slight sharpness with additional notes of cinnamon, cloves and star anise that blend amazingly well with the rest of the flavour palette here,” he says. “A dark rum already has hints of coffee notes, but will leave the drink heavy. It’s all about the balance in a brew this rich.”

Likewise, Bisson opts for a semi-dry sherry. “The cocktail’s equilibrium would be interrupted if we were to use a fino [lighter and drier] or a Pedro Ximénez [heavier and sweeter].”

“The texture of the caramel and thick, creamy whole milk brings a structure to the drink that calls to mind a set custard, making it the perfect marriage between a cocktail and a dessert,” says Bisson. “Ideal for a chilly January.”

The Toffee Bum Cocktail

The Toffee Bum (Serves 2)

Ingredients

Two tbsp vanilla syrup (homemade or store-bought)
30ml Amontillado
60ml whole milk
90ml coffee infused Appleton VX
90ml salted caramel

To Serve

Chilled couple glass
Dark chocolate, to finish

Instructions

  1. To infuse the Appleton VX, pour 200ml rum into a sealable container and add a handful of coffee beans. Leave to infuse overnight. Strain before using and reserve the remainder of the liquid for use in another cocktail.
  2. If you’re making the vanilla syrup from scratch, put equal quantities of caster sugar and water in a saucepan on the stove and allow to bubble until the sugar dissolves but doesn’t start to burn or turn into caramel. Drop half a vanilla pod into the mixture and let it simmer for five minutes. Strain well then set aside ready for use.
  3. Place all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well.
  4. Using both hands, strain the drink through a Hawthorne strainer (held flush with the opening of the shaker) and a small fine sieve positioned over a coupette glass.
  5. Grate some dark chocolate on top of the glass to cover the surface.

From delicious to stratospheric…
“Instead of a coupe, why not serve in a vintage bone china teacup? Then arrange some biscuits on the side and make an afternoon snack of it!”

Shopping list…
“Harvey’s Amontillado is a pretty basic sherry, but its simple flavour spectrum makes it perfect for cocktails. With the salted caramel and rich, creamy milk, Harvey’s brings the taste and balance we’re looking for here. Appleton VX is the best rum for the job.”