In my house, eggnog season runs from Thanksgiving deep into January. A few days before Thanksgiving, I take down my jug of Maker’s Mark and check its level (I keep my top-shelf, small-batch bourbons for sipping neat). Throughout December, eggnog’s easy preparation makes it a natural for impromptu get-togethers. In January, once the tree is down and the lights packed away, I make a final bowl of eggnog. Usually I can scare up some forgotten cookies or fruitcake, as well as a few friends, for one last bit of winter festivity in front of the fire.
A caveat: You may need to replenish your bourbon supply during the season. Draw a line on the bottle, with a red Sharpie, where there’s enough for one last batch. Next to the line, write “Replenish NOW.” (I’m surprised the bottles don’t come pre-marked.)
With all the worries about contaminated eggs, more people are making cooked eggnog, which is essentially crème anglaise. Don’t get me wrong; I love crème anglaise. But when it comes to eggnog, what I want is the fresh taste of raw egg yolks beaten with sugar, lightened with egg whites whipped into clouds, and fortified with liquor.
Some people suggest using pasteurized raw eggs, but I wouldn’t bother. It’s difficult to whip the pasteurized whites into the kind of peaks that will make your eggnog bowl look like a winter wonderland. Besides, your eggnog is only as tasty as the eggs, dairy, and booze you use. This is the time to seek out pastured eggs, not pasteurized. (That said, this probably isn’t the best holiday libation for the elderly, pregnant women, or anyone who has an impaired immune system.)
Over the years, people have asked me to make non-spiked eggnog for their kids. I’ve always refused. Christmas is all about kids, so it’s only fair we adults get our own special treat. Besides, I like to think the alcohol helps kill any lurking bad bacteria. It’s unlikely, but it can’t hurt.
Separate a dozen eggs.
In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks until light. While still beating, gradually add the sugar. Continue to beat until the yolks become thick and light colored.
Whip in the half-and-half.
And continue whipping until the volume has increased nearly twofold.
Then, slowly add the bourbon and brandy, beating until well blended. Transfer mixture to a serving bowl.
In a large clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks.
Take about ¼ of the beaten egg whites and whisk them lightly into the egg-yolk mixture.
Fold in the remaining whites, leaving snowy mounds on top.
Sprinkle rum over the eggnog.
And grate fresh nutmeg over the whole thing.
Scoop nog into cups or glasses.
Have the nutmeg and grater available for people to add more if they’d like.
Giovanna Remolif Zivny is a writer based in Portland, Oregon. Her food writing has appeared in Gourmet magazine and on her blog, Giovanna's Trifles.
Related recipe: Eggnog
Culinate’s features address the practical challenges and joys of food.
Want more? Comb the archives.
The exuberant Israeli chef
Try quinoa, amaranth, millet, and sorghum
Velvety, earthy, and confident
How to live like Julia Child