Millie Milliken's guide to making the perfect snowball
The spirits writer guides us through how to perfect the underrated classic Christmas cocktail
If you didn’t spend your youth, as I did, watching reruns of the 1999 The Royle Family Christmas Special, you might not have heard of this 1970s classic. And even if you did, you probably look at this pale- yellow long drink with your nose upturned, asking who on earth could defend such a custardy, creamy and visually lacklustre concoction. That’s where I come in.
Before I explain why, a quick catchup for those unfamiliar with this cocktail which was born in 1940s Britain. According to Difford’s Guide, the Snowball is classically made up of 60ml Warninks Advocaat Liqueur (a Dutch liqueur made up of brandy, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla), 22.5ml of freshly squeezed lime juice and lengthened with 105ml of lemonade – stirred and served over ice and garnished with a lime or lemon twist.
It can, on first try, be confusing – creamy and refreshing; sweet yet sour; warming but cold. It’s the liquid equivalent of being hugged by someone who’s ghosting you. Less metaphorically, the advocaat brings indulgence and comfort, while the zing of the lime provides a welcome hit of acidity and the lemonade some mouth-pleasing effervescence. But once you really sink into the drink, you’ll realise why this cocktail could be your secret saviour when it comes to festive entertaining – or just your go-to for a solo pick-me-up.
Firstly, it is so easy to make. Secondly, you have a highball option (often tricky when it comes to cold festive drinks). And thirdly, it’s incredibly adaptable and easy to elevate. Take, for example, the lengthener – lemonade. Swap this for sparkling wine (champagne if you’re really pushing the boat out) or ginger beer (a nice fiery one) and you’ve got something a little more nuanced for your guests.
Then there are some boozy additions you can add to make it feel more grown up. A single serve (30ml) of dry sherry gives a Snowball a slightly – you guessed it – drier edge; while the same amount of Cognac complements the advocaat’s brandy and adds more nutty, dried fruit and vanilla notes. And that garnish? Switch it up for a Luxardo Maraschino cherry.
When it comes to looks, glassware can also give the Snowball some elegance. If you’re going down the champagne route, stick to a flute or a coupette. Otherwise, some pretty, frosted, long vintage glasses do the job beautifully. I also find them best enjoyed wearing a kimono to the dulcet tones of Bing Crosby, but that’s just me.
Most importantly, however, the Snowball never fails to bring a smile to my face – or faces of the people I serve them to. So, whether you’re on a tight budget, or are lucky enough to let out the purse strings, trust that the Snowball delivers on some much-needed festive cheer – and if it doesn’t, you’ve got me to blame.