We as a society have established a few clear rules when it comes to conversation topics to avoid at holiday parties. Religion is right off the list, and as for politics we can all agree that the subject has been beaten to death all 2016.
Lastly is the topic of eggnog. To some it is a delicious holiday nectar and sumptuous vehicle for what the weak would consider too much brown liquor. To others it is the devil’s milk.
Both are understandable. If all you’ve had is store-bought nog, then you’ve been robbed of a truly seductive taste experience. Most eggnogs are thin, overly sweet nutmeg bombs reminiscent of cheap frozen yogurt and leaving you with an aftertaste that is only, disturbingly, egglike. This is often due to the addition of egg flavoring by some producers. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, eggnog is defined as a “milk product consisting of a mixture of milk or milk products of at least 6.0 percent butterfat, [and] at least 1.0 percent egg yolk solids.” How could anything with so little egg could be considered eggnog?
The homemade stuff though? Thick. Luscious. Boozy. It is comfort and joy on the tongue with a spirited kick to the soul.
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Eggnog hasn’t always been eggnog. The drink originated in 13th-century England and was known as a posset. The recipe originally consisted of eggs, milk, spices and ale. Eventually mashed figs were added for sweetness and those who could afford it began to use sherry or Madeira wine in place of ale.
The drink found new life in the American colonies as many farms had an abundance of milk and eggs. According to food historian Tori Avey, “since sherry and Madeira were not easy to come by in the colonies, these liquors were replaced with less expensive and more widely available whiskey and, eventually, rum.”
Today there is some concern about the use of raw eggs, leading many to try recipes where the eggs are gently cooked. Using quality, farm-fresh eggs will help you avoid any unpleasantness.
However, aging is the key to eggnog, as alcohol and time will take care of any bacteria. Aging also allows the liquor to mellow a bit, making the final eggnog much smoother. Two weeks will do, but many age the mix for a month for flavor reasons, allowing the fat in the dairy to be imbued with the taste of the vanilla, nutmeg, and spicier notes from the rum and brandy. Aging isn’t necessary for eggnog, but certainly won’t do it a wrong turn.
Sadly, it’s unlikely you’ll see many local bars carrying homemade eggnog. First, eggnog is usually made in large batches, and preparing the drink to order would be time-consuming. Second, most casual imbibers are only just getting comfortable with egg whites in their cocktails.
“It’s interesting,” says Shady Lady’s operations manager, Carl Wenger. “Some people will eat runny yolks for breakfast but fear whole fresh eggs in drinks.”
Wenger, however, predicts that many are warming up to classic whole-egg-focused cocktails such as flips, fizzes and possets.
If you’ve been itching to make eggnog, then this is the time. Start your eggnog as soon as possible so it can age. The sooner you do, the sooner you can enjoy!
Classic aged eggnog
This eggnog is the classic turned up a notch or two. Brandy and dark rum come together to form extra smooth and rather lit nog. Switch out the cream for coconut milk and use rum exclusively and you’ll make a Puerto Rican version called a coquito. It doesn’t have to age, but it’s certainly more delicious that way.
6 large eggs, separated
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups whole milk
3 cups heavy cream, plus more for garnish
3/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 teaspoon salt
Hefty grating of nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out (or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)
Whisk the yolks in a very large bowl until they turn thick, pale and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and continue to whisk until well incorporated.
Whisk in the milk and half of the cream, then whisk in the rum, brandy, salt, nutmeg and vanilla bean seeds.
Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff, glossy peaks and then fold into the eggnog mixture.
Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form and fold that into the eggnog mixture as well. If a few lumps remain, no worries.
Place the eggnog into airtight containers and age in the fridge for at least two weeks and no longer than a month. The whipped cream may separate out during aging, which is fine. Just fold it back into the mixture before serving.
Not really eggnog, but this vegan version of eggnog created by Tori Avey is so spot-on no one will know it isn’t the real thing, which is great considering how easily it comes together. For a hot drink, feel free to omit the ice cubes and after blending warm the mixture in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming, but not simmering.
3 cups unsweetened non-dairy milk (such as almond)
1 cube (14 ounces) firm silken tofu
1/2 cup sugar, or sugar substitute of equivalent sweetness (stevia, Splenda, etc.)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
8 ice cubes, or more if needed
1/4 cup brandy, bourbon or rum (optional, or to taste)
Cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)
In a blender, combine all ingredients including ice and blend for 45-60 seconds until the drink is creamy. Add more ice for a frostier texture, if desired. Serve in glasses with a dash of nutmeg and a cinnamon stick for garnish.
Brown butter and sweet potato eggnog
A bit out of the ordinary, but this eggnog is sure to become a favorite. Spicy, nutty, earthy and creamy. Naturally, the nog uses a hefty dose of Kentucky rye bourbon because it would be a crime if it didn’t. While this eggnog can be aged, it really is quite delicious warm and fresh.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup puréed sweet potato
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
2 cups rye bourbon
8 large eggs, separated
1⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter turns a light brown color and begins to smell nutty. Add the sweet potato, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground cloves, vanilla extract and salt and cook for 1 minute.
Add the cream, milk and rye bourbon and bring to a bare simmer. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to cool until it’s warm to the touch.
Whisk the yolks in a very large bowl until they turn thick, pale and creamy. Add the brown sugar slowly while continuing to whisk until well incorporated.
Slowly whisk the sweet potato mixture into the egg yolk mixture until well combined.
Whisk the egg whites and once they begin to foam slowly add the white sugar. Continue to whisk until they form stiff peaks and then fold into the eggnog mixture. Serve warm. Garnish with extra ground cinnamon if desired.