Boxing Day 2016: Plum Pudding in a glass
For as far back as I can remember the day after Christmas has been one of my favorite days. The holiday itself was always so incredibly hectic, with its flurry of wrapping paper and piles of boxes and toys, places to go and people to visit. There just was never enough time to really appreciate everything. It was such fun to wake up on the 26th and come downstairs to go through all my presents again. The only thing better than that was spending the rest of the day enjoying them. Later when I had kids, it made me smile to watch them do the same thing. Somewhere along the way I learned that the official name for December 26th was Boxing Day, a holiday celebrated throughout the U.K. I remember immediately picturing proper British gentleman donning boxing gloves and stepping into the ring to resolve their differences, which of course was not the case. The exact meaning of the name seems to be up for some debate, but there are 2 widely popular theories. The first is that the 26th was traditionally a day off for British servants and the day when they received presents from their masters. A Christmas Present in Britain is called a Christmas Box; hence the term Boxing Day. The second theory is that December 26th was the day when collection boxes for the poor would be opened that had been placed in the churches on Christmas day. In either case Boxing Day is the day when British people visit those people they may have missed seeing on Christmas itself for food, drink, and merriment.
To create a cocktail to commemorate this holiday, I decided to turn to some traditional British recipes for inspiration. I came across one for Plum Pudding that had spices, honey, citron, plums, and dried fruits like raisins and currants in it. This was definitely something I could work with! I chose Plymouth gin as my base spirit because of its milder flavor and slightly lower alcohol content, and because it is so unequivocally British. My next thought was to add in some fruitiness so I went with Pimm’s No. 1, which is also very British, and always makes me think of a fruit cup in a glass. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram was calling my name for the spiciness and the deeper flavors of the dried fruits. Although it’s Jamaican, it’s not so much of a stretch since Jamaica was under British rule until they gained their independence in 1962. For the citrus element I went with fresh lemon juice, and to add some sweetness I used a 1: 1 honey syrup and some vanilla paste. I received a bottle of Fee Brothers Plum bitters in my Christmas stocking so they were a perfect fit for the bitter component of the drink. An egg white for some frothiness and Turbinado sugar and grated allspice as a garnish finished this cocktail up perfectly. I wish you a Happy Boxing Day! I hope you spend it exactly as you’d like to, whether that entails relaxing with family and friends, swimming the English channel, or doing just a bit of fox hunting!
Boxing Day 2016
1½ oz Plymouth gin*
¾ oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
½ oz Pimm’s No. 1
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
3 dashes Fee Brothers plum bitters
¼ oz honey syrup (1 part honey dissolved in 1 part hot water)
1 egg white (or 1 oz vegan equivalent like chick pea liquid)
Turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw) and grated allspice for garnishing
Add all the ingredients (except for the garnish) and shake vigorously without ice. Add the ice and shake again. Strain into a cocktail coupe or a goblet and garnish with sugar and grated allspice. Enjoy!
*I was deliberately looking for a milder gin here because I wanted the St. Elizabeth’s to really be the star. If you’d like more of a gin presence, feel free to substitute Beefeater or Tanqueray, both equally British!