Serious Eats: Recipes

Holiday Eggnog

Break out the 'nog! [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

At this time of year, eggnog is about as inescapable as elderly relatives wearing reindeer sweaters and gift bags full of scented candles. And as experience has no doubt taught you by now, much of the 'nog you'll encounter will range from tolerable to downright execrable.

While you can find online reviews and tasting comparisons of assorted commercial eggnogs, the stuff just wasn't meant to be made on an industrial level, and any store-bought version will be lackluster when compared to homemade.

Eggnog has a long, rambling history, and the practice of mixing rum or brandy with eggs and milk or cream predates any mention of flying reindeer. While today you're likely to see eggnog spiked with bourbon, during the 19th century everything from rum and brandy to sherry and hard cider found their way into the mix. This is testament to eggnog's versatility—no matter how you like it (thick or thin, boozy or light), there's an eggnog recipe out there for practically everyone.

This recipe is by no means definitive, but it is one I like to break out around the holiday season. Separating the eggs and beating the whites on their own results in a thicker, fluffier texture; if you want a smoother eggnog, you can dispense with this step and simply beat the whole eggs until thoroughly mixed. Likewise, feel free to tinker with the other ingredients. Want it sweeter? Add a little more sugar. Prefer bourbon? Simply substitute it for one of the other spirits. Too rich? Swap more milk for less cream, and maybe leave one of the eggs out. Too potent? Add more milk. And so on.

Whichever approach you take, make sure your eggs are the freshest available. If you're concerned about the safety of consuming raw eggs, you may want to look for the pasteurized-in-shell variety.

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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