Eggnog is a decidedly dangerous drink. It’s based on raw eggs, which makes most people (other than Rocky) a bit squeamish. Coming in at more than 400 calories a cup, it’s also a danger to your waistline. And the sneaky-strong alcohol content can get you into trouble: Each holiday season, Elmo & Patsy annoyingly remind us of the dangers of drinking too much eggnog and staggering out into the snow. But every year when the mercury drops, we still guzzle glass after glass of the stuff. Because despite the dangers, eggnog is a delightful holiday treat.
Eggnog has a long history as an American winter warmer. The drink was popular among farmers in colonial America, who had access to their own supplies of fresh eggs and milk. George Washington mixed a potent version of the drink: His recipe calls for brandy, Jamaican rum, sherry and rye whiskey. And on Christmas Eve in 1826, West Point cadets had a few too many drams, leading to the Eggnog Riot. The destructive party resulted in the court-martialing and expulsion of numerous cadets, with future Confederate president Jefferson Davis narrowly escaping charges.
Around this time each year, I mix up a batch of eggnog. I like to let it age for a month or so — aging seems to round out the flavors and mellow the sharp sting of alcohol. And though it feels counterintuitive, aging also makes eggnog safer. Researchers at Rockefeller University deliberately contaminated a batch of strong eggnog with salmonella. After a week in the fridge, the bacteria was still alive and kicking. But after three weeks, the alcohol had killed off all of the salmonella, rendering it perfectly safe to drink.
Below, you’ll find the basic eggnog recipe I use each year. In the spirit of holiday sharing, I adapted this recipe from food and travel site Salt & Wind. It calls for making and aging a base, then shaking that base with half-and-half to serve. This method, while not exactly traditional, is super easy, and it allows you to prepare one or two servings of nog at a time. Feel free to adjust the types of booze and amount of sugar to suit your taste.
- 1 dozen fresh eggs
- 1¾ cups sugar
- 2 cups brandy
- 2 cups dark rum
- 2 cups bourbon
- Large pinch of salt
Combine eggs, sugar and salt in a bowl. Whisk until thickened. Slowly whisk in alcohol. Age in the fridge for at least three weeks.
To serve: In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 ounces of eggnog base with 2 ounces of half and half (or more, if you prefer a less strong drink). Shake vigorously. Strain into a punch glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.