You’re either in Camp Nog or you’re not.
I considered, when writing this, drawing the line there: Beware all ye who enter here! Back, eggnog skeptics, back! But I’m not going to, because no one deserves homemade eggnog more than eggnog skeptics—the ones who shy away from the sticky, manila-envelope-colored stuff from the grocery store. (Who can blame them? Can you tell I’m among them?)
Real eggnog is nothing like it. You don’t have to cut it with milk just to get it down the hatch. It’s not so sweet you get the sugar sweats. It’s light and frothy and yolky in the way custard is. It’s fresh-tasting and boozy.
Adjust it freely and to your liking: Play with the ratio of milk to cream; use coconut milk or rice milk or macadamia milk instead of dairy; swap out the sugar for maple syrup or honey; up the amount of nutmeg; play with the kind of booze you add (or omit it entirely). You can even make it vegan, in which case I’ll direct you here. If you want your eggnog to have eggs in it, though, keep reading.
Photo by James Ransom.
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How to make eggnog
Here’s what you’ll need for six servings. Scale up or down depending on how many are coming over! One more quick note, while we’re talking about entertaining: You can (and, I’d encourage, should!) make this a day or two in advance of your occasion. It’ll thicken up and get velvety—and more flavorful—as it ages, and it’s good for up for a week.
Gather these ingredients:
- 6 eggs, separated (1 egg per person)
- 1/3 to 1 cup something sweet (white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, or a mix)
- 3 cups dairy of some kind or non-dairy substitute (I like a mixture of 2 cups whole milk with 1 cup heavy cream, for richness; you could also mix and match half-and-half, reduced-fat milks, coconut milk from a can, unsweetened coconut cream from a can, or nut milks of all sorts)
- Up to 1 1/2 cups booze (bourbon is traditional; rum, whiskey, cognac, or brandy all work, too—and feel free to mix and match these)
- Nutmeg, of course! (But also experiment with adding a vanilla bean, a shake of cinnamon…)
This may seem like a lot of information, but keep this in mind: Eggnog is pretty much entirely “to taste.” Adjust at will.
A couple of suggested pairings, to get you going on the riffing front:
- bourbon + maple
- rum + coconut milk
- whiskey + brown sugar
- cognac + honey
Whipping egg whites makes for extra-frothy eggnog. Photo by James Ransom.
Then, make your eggnog:
To make your nog, carefully separate your eggs into two large bowls. Add the sugar or other sweetener to the egg yolks and whisk vigorously, until they’re light and creamy. Add the dairy, booze (if using), and nutmeg, and stir again to combine. Taste and see what you think: Is it too thick or too sweet? Add more milk or a little water. Not rich enough? A splash of cream will take care of that. If something just doesn’t seem quite right, add a little pinch of salt, which makes everything taste more like itself. When it tastes good to you, pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it.
This is the part where I’m obliged to remind you about the potential risks of consuming raw eggs. It’s true. There are some associated risks—though, it should be noted, the presence of alcohol will pretty much kill any bacteria present. Even still, if you’re sharing this eggnog with very little kids, older folks, pregnant folks, or anyone who’s immuno-compromised, go ahead and do this instead:
Whisk your egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Meanwhile, heat your milk and any spices in a saucepan over medium-low heat, until steaming. Remove from heat. Whisking vigorously, temper the eggs by sloooooowly add a ladleful of the hot milk to the egg mixture. Add another ladleful, whisking all the while. When the egg mixture is hot and you’re certain you haven’t scrambled your eggs, add it back to the pot, whisk together until well combined, then let cool completely before stirring in the alcohol, if you're using it. (Otherwise, you’ll cook off the alcohol, and we certainly don’t want that.)
*Gently* fold those whites in. Photo by James Ransom.
Okay, now you have your extremely delicious eggnog base. If you’re not going to drink it today or tomorrow, stash your reserved egg whites in the freezer, and thaw the day you’re planning on serving.
When you’re just about ready for cocktail hour, whip up your egg whites into soft peaks. (Alice Medrich would want you to add a pinch of cream of tartar.) Pull the eggnog base out of the fridge, stir to incorporate, and gently fold in the egg whites. The result should be frothy and light — not dense.
Ladle into cups and serve cold, with a grating of fresh nutmeg.
If you want to serve your eggnog hot, omit the egg whites and add milk to taste and to loosen the mixture; you’ll want to wait to add the booze until you’re ready to serve, too.
Photo by James Ransom.
Grate some extra nutmeg on top, if you please.