One of the great legacy recipes my father’s family has lost is my Grandpa’s famous holiday eggnog. As the second youngest grandchild, I never had the pleasure of trying it. But, I heard all about it growing up. Grandpa’s eggnog was some magic elixir, some mystical German cure-all. Everyone looked forward to imbibing at Christmas, when Grandma and Grandpa hosted their large family in their small 1920s two bedroom cottage. The faux cardboard holiday chimney that decorated the basement was still around when we were kids, long after the family holiday party moved to the larger house of an aunt and uncle. Grandpa loved Christmas – he had a yearly lights display on the outside of the house, and a Christmas O-gauge train set and village that choo-chooed at the bottom of the Tannenbaum.
As much as they loved it not one of my aunt and uncles or their spouses ever thought to preserve Grandpa’s recipe for my generation. My dad remembers that it was different and thicker than typical store bought eggnog and it was strong! It was probably passed down to my grandfather from his father and his grandfather, who came from northeastern Germany. And the thickness and strongness fits the description of the German eggnog, “Eierlikor,” which literally translates to egg liquor.
This German version is popular in East Germany in the areas of Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Vorpmmern, but it’s quite different than our domestic version. Served in small chocolate shot glasses, after a meal or before dessert, it’s sweeter, and thicker than ours. It’s more like a drinkable pudding or custard. Think of a rich, creamy, dedacent go-gurt. It’s a drink whose popularity extends as south as Dresden, and was popular during the days of the former GDR. Even then, when other food staples were in short supply, there never seemed to be a shortage of brandy – the drink’s most common spiking liquor. This was one of the few indulgences that added light to the otherwise dark existence ‘behind the iron curtain.”
In the Netherlands, it is called Advocaat, and is much the same as the East German Eierlikor. Its color is golden yellow and drinks like a custard. Advocaat is made with a blend of egg yolks, sugar or honey, brandy, vanilla, and sometimes heavy cream or evaporated milk. Some commercial producers of Advocaat include Bols, DeKuyper, and Verpoorten, who sell mostly into the Dutch and Belgian markets. In the Netherlands, it’s served with a little spoon, and also served as a topping on waffles, with ice cream, or used in pastry creams. I tasted this version on a trip in college to Amsterdam, and was fascinated by how they mixed it to make some unusual cocktails. Some popular drinks made with Advocaat are the ‘Snowball’ – a mix of sparkling lemonade and lime juice. The ‘Fluffy Duck’ adds rum to Advocaat. And in the Tyrolean ski resorts in Italy they make the ‘Bombardino’, a cocktail that adds even more brandy to Advocaat with the addition of whipped cream.
Our U.S. version is typically not heated like the German version. Ours can be made with brandy, vodka, rum, or even bourbon, whereas the German version is typically made from brandy. My family typically spikes the store bought nog with rum. The U.S. version also spices the nog with cinnamon or nutmeg or both, while the German version may only sprinkle it as a garnish on top, rather than add to the mixture.
One brand of Eierlikor, Brandt’s, is from the village of Sietow in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the region where my Grandfather’s recipe originated. Another brand, Braune, made in Magdeburg in Saxony, has probably the most flavors commercially available – chocolate, chocolate mint, chocolate mocha, chocolate rum, gingerbread, cinnamon, crème brulee, coconut, rose, praline, chocolate chili, and even pina colada.
A trip to Jungle Jim’s German section is in order to find an authentic East German Eierlikor to sample this holiday season. And just maybe, I can piece together a recipe that’s similar to Grandpa’s old holiday favorite.