A Snowball’s Chance

12th May 2017


Putting eggs in any shape or form into sparkling cocktails isn’t the most obvious thing to do. The bubbles turn to froth. The result is opaque. The bubbly’s acidity is muted. Additional coloured ingredients tend to produce something resembling ditch water.

All the same, eggs-and-bubbly mixes, though always rarities, do have a history. They are to be found among the Flips and Pick-Me-Ups in all old recipe books, from 1868 to 1959. Whereupon the categories tout court faded away. The Flips morphed into heavyweight dessert cocktails, the PMUs (always essentially hangover cures) succumbing to Alka Seltzer…

Examples? Well take Robert Vermeire’s Champagne Flip and Harry McElhone’s Cecil Pick Me Up. With the former you shake the yolk of a fresh egg with ice, add the bubbly to the shaker, strain it all into a wine glass, and garnish with a grate of nutmeg. The Cecil, named for a vanished hotel in London’s Strand, was made with an egg yolk, Brandy, castor sugar, shaken with ice, poured into a medium-sized wine glass, then filled with bubbly.

So much for egg, but what about Advocaat? The amiable vanilla flavoured egg-and-spirits combo tasting like fortified custard was almost certainly not invented in Holland or Germany, Africa or South America, but in Iberia, thence probably via the same Jewish Diaspora that brought battered fried fish to England. That being said, it is hard to explain why it doesn’t show up early on in cocktails. Or why the first published appearance of the name in English wasn’t until 1936…

Whatever, in the late 1940s or early 50s, just when raw egg was in terminal decline as a cocktail ingredient, in Britain a foaming mix yclept the Snowball apparently rose without trace to become a pub favourite among mature ladies. Made with Advocaat, Rose’s lime juice, lemonade or sometimes Babycham, it was served in a large wine glass with a cocktail cherry spitted across the top. Modern commentators assume it was cheap. Not so. Back then a bottle of Bols Advocaat cost precisely twice as much as 15-year Vintage Port.


Served in a martini glass and with fresh lime replacing cordial, the Snowball is now a classic cocktail, but the assumption remains that the original novelty was precisely that. As opposed to being a re-interpretation of those old Flips and PMUs. The Babycham-variant is the clue. First it was made with bubbly, then with sparkling English perry, finally with the old R. Whites.

The real curiosity is why it didn’t lead on to a whole tribe of Advocaat ‘n’ bubbly mixes. Class prejudice? Sexism? Because Champagne had embarked on its mission to be taken so seriously that only a cad would mix it?

Or just because most people tried to make the spin-offs with the wrong kind of bubbly. Brut isn’t best.Indeed it’s the worst. For the following example recipes, I used low-alcohol (7%) Asti. But any sweet or sweetish sparkler would do.


30 ml Advocaat
10 ml Brandy
5 ml Benedictine
5 ml French Vermouth
½ Teaspoon orange bitters

Bubbly to fill
Shake hard with ice, strain and into
well-chilled coupe glass
Fill with demi sec bubbly, stir.
Garnish: orange wedge


30 ml Rye Whisky
40 ml Advocaat
5 ml French Vermouth
¼ Teaspoon Angostura

Make as above
Garnish: orange wedge stuck with cherry


30 ml Advocaat
15 ml White Eau de Vie*
10 ml Red fruit liqueur*
1 Squeeze lemon juice
½ Teaspoon orange bitters

Make as above
Garnish: Orange twist

* EDV: Slivovitz, Kirsch, Williams. Liqueurs: Cherry, Mure, Raspberry, Pomegranate,

Bernard Barbuk

After a career as a business journalist, he wrote on drinks subjects for almost every extant drinks publication. He now divides his time between refining his database of 2,000-plus classic recipes & finishing a book on ‘the 18 Families of the classic cocktail’.