Anthony Caporale's Syllabub cocktail.

Toast the Season with Eggnog's Ancestor

ICE Director of Spirits Education Anthony Caporale shares a historic Christmastime cocktail from his off-Broadway show, "The Imbible."

Most holiday revelers are familiar with eggnog, so this season why not go back in time a bit and try the precursor to this Yuletide staple, the syllabub?

Syllabubs date back to pre-Colonial days in England, where eggs and other farm products were rare since land could only be owned by the nobility. Drinks that included milk or cream were considered to be symbols of good fortune, and so they were used to toast the same.

Originally made from wine mixed with frothy cream, syllabubs evolved into beaten drinks that were allowed to separate overnight. The liquid part of the syllabub was sucked through a spout and the foam was eaten with a spoon.

By the 19th century, the syllabub was generally made from whipping cream with sweetened wine flavored with lemon and fortified with brandy. Once this drink arrived in the United States, American farmers (who owned their own land) added eggs to increase the nutritional value and served it at parties on holidays. Thus, the modern tradition of Christmas eggnog was born!

Anthony Caporale's Syllabub cocktail.


The Imbible Syllabub


  • 1 ounce apple brandy
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 ounces milk
  • 2 ounces half and half
  • 1 ounce fresh orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 scrapings lemon zest
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4 ounces lager
  • Fresh nutmeg


  1. In a shaker tin half-filled with ice, add everything but the lager.
  2. Shake until the cream is thickened then add the lager.
  3. Swirl gently to incorporate.
  4. Strain into a wide glass.
  5. Garnish with two shavings of fresh nutmeg.

Note: Beer, wine or cider are all traditional components that can be used. Lager keeps the alcohol content reasonable when you're using brandy and gives it an interesting flavor.

See Anthony's upcoming beverage and mixology classes. Recreational class gift cards make great holiday gifts.

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