The Dickens cocktail is on tap today as an appropriate Christmas cocktail. You see, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol on December 19, 1843 and the first edition was sold out before Christmas day. So whether you read the story, watch a film version, or just need a drink as we all do during the holidays, the Dickens cocktail is there to help.
But first let’s talk about Scrooge. Ebeneezer Scrooge, of course, is the central character of the story. He was described as “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” Naturally, then, he became one of the most widely portrayed literary figure across mediums. Only Sherlock Holmes has had greater reach.
Everyone from Lionel Barrymore to Bill Murray, Patrick Stewart, Micheal Caine and James Earl Jones has played Scrooge in one way other another. And that’s before we even get to Scrooge McDuck, the Scottish-American anthropomorphic duck cartoon character from Disney studios, who we’ll put aside.
Scrooge’s origins are unclear. Some attribute the character to Dickens’ feelings about his own father, who he both loved and demonized. Others see Scrooge’s fear of poverty as a parody of Dickens’ own anxieties about himself, ultimately overcome by optimism. Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we prefer the gravedigger hypothesis.
According to a Dutch academic named Sjef de Jong, Ebeneezer Scrooge may have been inspired by Gabriel de Graaf. A 19th century gravedigger in Holland, de Graaf was apparently a markedly unpleasant, drunken curmudgeon. He was obsessed with money to the point that he would be digging graves on Christmas Eve.
One Christmas Eve he disappeared. But at least he had style: the only trace he left was an empty bottle of gin in a grave. Years later he apparently resurfaced, saying he had changed after dwarves had shown him a vision of a poor young child that died because nobody cared. We take this to mean he had become less miserly and more compassionate. There is no reason to believe he did anything so rash as give up drinking.
The Dickens Cocktail
A Christmas cocktail is always a hot topic. Various impresarios have created drinks vaguely related to A Christmas Carol or Scrooge, but they tend toward stunt combinations like vodka with Diet Coke and crème de menthe. We have standards to uphold at at The Drunkard’s Almanac. We generally lean toward classic cocktails, but today we turn to an invention of our Chief Protocol Officer: the Dickens.
The Dickens uses a blended Scotch Whisky as its base spirit. This is modified with Nocino and Elderflower Liqueur that turns it all into a liquid Christmas Pudding. The drink received its name when a British expat, tasting it for the first time, proclaimed it tasted just like the traditional Christmas pudding they loved. Christmas pudding for a Christmas cocktail sounds about right to us.
But first a word about ingredients. Nocino is a walnut liqueur made from immature green walnuts. In Italy the walnuts are traditionally harvested on St. John’s day in June and the liqueur is served at Christmas. The simplest and most traditional version is nothing more than walnuts, sugar, and alcohol, though herbs and spices are often added.
You don’t need to plant a walnut tree or find one to scavenge. Well stocked liquor stores typically stock Nocino or other walnut liqueur. We do, however, advise against Frangelico or other hazelnut liqueurs as being too sweet. We already visited Elderflower Liqueur in the Jive Turkey for Thanksgiving and the Sunflower cocktail for Vincent Van Gogh, and that’s widely available as the St. Germain brand.
The Dickens Cocktail
- Mixing glass
- Nick and Nora or coupe glass
- 1½ oz Scotch Whisky Use an ordinary blended Scotch. We favor an inexpensive blend like Famous Grouse.
- ¾ oz Nocino or other walnut liqueur.
- ½ oz Elderflower liqueur St. Germain is what your local liquor emporium will have.
- 2 dashes Orange bitters
- Garnish: orange twist ideally a flamed orange twist, but optional
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and stir to chill.
- Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass.
- Flame orange peel over drink, then discard. The peel has given its all.
- Rinse and repeat.