Serious Eats: Recipes

Exploring Eggnog

A veritable icon of the holiday season, eggnog is nonetheless a divisive concoction. To some, it is a welcome tradition, to others, an out-and-out anathema. (The latter being a stance that I attribute to the existence of some rather vile grocery-store eggnogs.)

Eggnog may come out of a carton, the consistency of slightly gummy melted ice cream, or it may be frothy and delicate, and made from scratch. Some versions contain raw eggs (more traditional), while others are fully cooked (a contemporary adaptation, generally, that alleviates concerns over the consumption of raw egg).

Eggnog may be served spiked—with rum, brandy, sherry, whiskey, cognac and/or just about any other spirit one can muster—or it may be served sober; warm or cold; plain or enriched with ice cream or whipped cream and dusted with fresh nutmeg...or maybe cinnamon. Adaptations of the stuff might even be flavored with coffee, mint or chocolate.

Among food historians there is no further unity to be found. Perhaps eggnog originated in Colonial America, an egg-enriched rendering of such traditional English tipples as the posset and the syllabub (both milk-based beverages, flavored and thickened/curdled with cider, fortified wine, beer, etc.), or maybe it arose in England itself, in the nineteenth century, as a method for enjoying and extending the life of eggs and dairy.

The term "eggnog" (variously rendered as egg nog, egg nogg, egg-nog) is also of nebulous origin. It may be a reference to the noggin, a small vessel once used for serving beverages in taverns, or it may be an elision of egg-and-grog, grog being a once-common term for rum.

The only consensus on the matter seems to be that eggnog is a beverage, and it consists of a mixture of eggs, sugar and usually milk and/or some form of alcohol (I have found a few versions that include only one or the other).

In the interest of bringing a little more harmony to this holiday staple, I've provided an adaptable recipe, parsed from several, that can be made to suit just about any taste.

About the author: Amanda Clarke is pastry chef at No.7 in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. During her time away from the restaurant, she writes, tests, and develops recipes between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

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