I have always loved eggnog. As a child, regular milk held no appeal. Why drink something so white, so bland? But the minute that ecru, holly-dotted carton appeared in the refrigerator, I changed my tune faster than a Boy Scout tree lot appears in your pharmacy parking lot on Black Friday.
No matter that I was still 12 years too young to temper that suspiciously thick beverage with a good-sized glug of whiskey or (my family’s choice) Meyer’s rum; I didn’t mind. I’d have eaten it with a spoon if I had to, leavened with nothing but the barest dusting of nutmeg, freshly grated from a dedicated spring-loaded grinder kept in the cookbook cabinet for just this purpose.
Today, eggnog hasn’t lost any of its appeal, although these days I’m looking for something a little more sophisticated than the gloppy, premixed Darigold stuff. By making your own eggnog at home, you can control exactly how sweet, how thick, and how boozy you want it to be, while also becoming the hero of any holiday party.
If you’ve never made eggnog before, start with Alton Brown’s excellent recipe, which you can find here. Alton recommends bourbon as your booze of choice; if you go that route, I like something spicy and robust; eggnog’s sweet enough as it is. Four Roses or Old Grand Dad Bottled-in-Bond are good choices, but you could even experiment with something cask-strength like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. In the mood for something sweet and mellow? A wheated bourbon like Old Weller Antique or Maker’s Mark hits the spot.
To Level Up
Did you know you can age homemade eggnog for a year or more? I know, it sounds totally unsafe (raw eggs! Dairy!), but it’s true—as long as it has enough booze in it. Opinions on aged eggnog vary. Some find it smoother and mellower than fresh eggnog, while others feel exactly the opposite way. Will you like it? There’s only one way to find out: make a double batch this year, and taste it on Christmas Eve, 2017.
Eggnog is as much a state of mind as it is a beverage, and for those of you who’ve moved beyond the rigid recipe to a place of experimentation, feeling, and improvisation, you’re ready for Charles Mingus’ recipe for his famous “5-Star Rapturous Deadly Holiday Eggnog.” It calls for ice cream, 151 rum, and whiskey, and while it’s a little loose on the details, Mingus’ recipe is like the jazz of the eggnog world: Not for everybody, but transcendent for the chosen few. Is that you?
Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...