MAYBE YOU’VE SEEN the bottle in the liquor store, sitting on the shelf, full of thick, yellow goo. If you are adventurous and buy it, you’ll be treated to a concoction of congealed eggs preserved in alcohol, pouring out with the viscous glop-glop of ketchup. To most people, this does not scream “cocktail.” But in parts of Europe, it’s the beginning of a traditional Easter drink.
The recipe for the Dutch liqueur Advocaat (“egg liqueur” in English, eierlikör in German) basically calls for mixing emulsified egg yolks with alcohol (sometimes rum, sometimes Brandy, sometimes even vodka), along with sugar; aromatic spices like cinnamon and vanilla; and, depending on the recipe, cream.
Advocaat, as the story goes, originally was created in the 1600s by the Dutch company Verpoorten to approximate an avocado-based fermented drink called abacate that Dutch colonizers of Brazil had borrowed from the indigenous population and grown to love. Because Holland has more eggs than avocados, the swap was made from one creamy thing to another, and Advocaat, in all its sweet, gooey glory, was born. A little punning/verbal smooshing apparently turned “abacate” into “Advocaat,” the Dutch word for “attorney,” and a later 19th century Dutch-English dictionary even decided that the term actually referred to the idea that it was soothing to the throats of those who had to do a lot of talking in court.
Now, this story is cute, but I have to raise an eyebrow at it, because Europeans have historically been ready to eat creamy, egg-based dishes at all times and to put alcohol in everything. Everyone has a version of this concoction: the aforementioned German eierlikör, British eggnog (and, let’s be honest: Eierlikör is basically preserved eggnog), ajerkoniak in Poland (made with vodka) and Vov in Italy (think zabaglione in a bottle). The idea that no one in Europe before the Dutch colonization of Brazil and the discovery of avocados thought, “Hey — let’s put booze into all that custard we’re already eating” seems, to me, a bit rich.
Eierlikör is not hugely popular in America these days — almost everything about it is theoretically repellent to American cocktail culture, with its emphasis on “freshness” and “crispness,” an aesthetic into which fermented egg cream does not readily fit. Most of the bottled Advocaat you’ll find in America is by Bols or DeKuyper, although you can sometimes find the original Verpoorten (Rompope, also available in bottles, is an almost identical libation from Mexico).
But if you don’t think of egg liqueur as a drink and treat it more as a dessert, the whole idea becomes more palatable, and there are recipes aplenty calling for it in cakes or as an ingredient in a creamy sauce for puddings. You also can easily make it yourself, although the idea of drinking alcohol-preserved egg goo also gives a lot of people the vapors over the possibility of salmonella (though some recipes have you pasteurize or even cook the eggs), and the internet does not agree on how long the stuff keeps once a bottle is opened or a batch freshly prepared. (Three weeks? Three months? Forever?) Sun Liquor Distillery in Seattle makes a much-lauded “aged eggnog” in limited quantities, but only at Christmastime, when the threat of Krampus and visiting relatives makes it acceptable to give up on decency and drink alcoholic custard.
But in Germany and Holland, Advocaat/eierlikör is also consumed for Easter (you know: eggs), and if you are still interested in experimenting with it, there are lots of cocktail recipes (many of them delightfully vintage), the most obvious of which is the “Fluffy Duck.” The name is variously applied to two totally different cocktails: one made with gin, Advocaat, orange juice and soda (the soda floats on top), and one with white rum, Advocaat and heavy cream, which sounds more like the description of an actual fluffy duck, but might be more suited to winter. Weirdly, the former recipe with the orange juice is more prevalent — the slight orange tinge and creamy texture approximate what it would look like to drink pureed duckling, I guess, which makes it a natural — and gleefully grim — cocktail for an Easter brunch.
Eierlikör (the Raw and the Cooked)
1-2 vanilla beans
12 egg yolks
2 cups superfine sugar (You can use regular sugar, but it might be a tad grainy. You also can use simple syrup.)
6 cups half and half
3 cups booze (I would use rum, but you can use bourbon or vodka, and some people use part vodka, part brandy.)
1. Cut vanilla bean in half, and scrape out seeds. Combine vanilla seeds, egg yolks and sugar. Whisk together, then add the cream, and whisk (or blend) until combined.
2. If you choose to pasteurize your eierlikör (because: salmonella), gently heat the egg yolks, cream and vanilla bean to 140 degrees F for 5 minutes in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over hot water (to pasteurize them — don’t boil them!). Then whisk in your alcohol.
3. If making it the O.G. way (“Original German,” that is), simply whisk the alcohol into the raw egg/cream/vanilla-bean mixture, pour into sterilized glass bottles or jars, and keep it in the fridge — the alcohol, theoretically, will kill off any naughty microfauna. Note: Do this at your own risk — even some restaurants won’t serve raw egg anymore, and those that do will remind you that you’re playing with fire.
There is no consensus on how long eierlikör keeps in the fridge — advice ranges from a week to several months. Do yourself a favor, and write the date on the lid.