I. Love. Eggnog. Along with watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and day-long family cooking sessions, it’s one of the things I look forward to most during the holidays. Eggnog from scratch is a lot easier than you might think and is a monumental improvement over the carton stuff. As an added bonus, it keeps really well. You can make a batch days, or even weeks, ahead and enjoy it through Christmas week and beyond. More on that below.
My recipe is stronger than most because I think Eggnog should drink more like a proper cocktail, not a glass of lightly spiked milk. I also think it tastes much better this way. That being said, Eggnog is not one size fits all and you'll find a variety of suggested adjustments and substitutions below so you can customize your nog to your liking. Just whatever you do, use freshly grated nutmeg. It makes a huge difference.
Be sure to allow time for your nog to chill down. The colder it gets, the thicker and more luxuriously decadent it becomes. It's an instant ticket to that holiday happy place.
Recipe - makes 14-18 servings.
6 egg yolks (whole eggs are fine too)
1 cup Cognac or brandy
1 cup aged rum
2 tablespoons (1 oz) bourbon
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
In a mixing bowl or serving pitcher, thoroughly whisk the eggs, cream, milk, and cinnamon syrup together. An electric hand mixer or immersion blender makes quick work of this.
Add the spirits while stirring continuously and grate in a whole bunch of nutmeg.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, ideally longer, or put in the freezer for an hour or so. The colder this is the better. If it’s cold enough I often stick it outside, 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal Nog-chilling weather.
To serve, pour into small wine glasses or punch cups and grate a more nutmeg on top.
Note: Don't worry if the batch starts to separate. It's normal! Just give it a shake. It'll hold better the colder it gets.
Eggnog Single Serving
Eggnog for one can be made in a shaker like any other cocktail. Becuase you'll add dilution from ice, I omit the milk. Be sure to shake hard!
2 oz spirit(s) of choice
¾ oz cinnamon syrup (or traditional simple syrup plus a pinch of ground cinnamon, or a scant tablespoon raw sugar).
½ oz heavy cream
1 egg - or just the yolk
Shake with ice as hard as you possibly can and strain into a coupe. Garnish with grated nutmeg.
Eggnog keeps exceptionally well. How long? I honestly don’t know, but much longer than a holiday season. You could make some on December 1st and be sipping it well into the new year. In fact, some people “age” their eggnog for 1-2 years, or more!
I’ve never done this or tasted any results, but supposedly aged nog is smoother and more complex. My basic understanding of why this is possible is alcohol is a very effective preservative of dairy. Though I’ve heard varying accounts on the parameters for aging Eggnog. Here are two good, but somewhat contrasting, articles from reliable sources: Serious Eats and Cooks Illustrated (don’t pay any attention to the recipes though). The Cook’s Illustrated article says you the proof needs to be in the 15% range for aging. If that’s true the above recipe using just yolks should fit the fill. One thing's for sure, when I make Eggnog this year I’ll be leaving some at the back of my fridge, expect a field report next year.
Eggnog is like a classic holiday dish, there's no one way to prepare it. Here are some of the modifications you can apply. Follow your preference. As I often say, it's not about one being better or worse, they're just different styles.
Cinnamon Syrup Substitutes
I think cinnamon syrup is a game changer in this Eggnog, though admittedly, I'm a cinnamon syrup fanatic. In addition to vanilla syrup - which I've been using more and more lately, particularly to blend with the cinnamon, you can substitute in traditional simple syrup or a scant ½ cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, or omit the cinnamon entirely. And of course, feel free to adjust the sugar to taste. When using raw sugar an electric hand mixer will help it to dissolve quicker, though whisking by hand isn't too bad either.
Using Other Spirits
The spirits used to spike Eggnog are fairly flexible. Just stick to things that are brown, aka aged. A split of rum and Cognac/brandy (reminder, Cognac is a type of brandy) is traditional, but no one will complain about an all rum or all Cognac nog. Bourbon is another popular and delicious choice, either by itself or in conjunction with another spirit.
Going an alternative route, reposado or añejo tequila make for excellent nogs as well. As does sherry. I love a split of tequila or aged rum and oloroso sherry, with maybe a bit more spirit since sherry is lower proof.
For a Lighter Nog: Add More Milk
Despite my boozy preferences, there's nothing wrong with a lower octane nog. The best way to achieve this is by adding more milk. This is actually more traditional, most classic recipes probably would probably add another quart or so to mine. I think that's far too much, but 1 cup more? Go for it. Keep in mind, you may have to add more sugar to compensate for additional milk.
For Fluffier Nog: Beat the Egg Whites
Many nog recipes call for the eggs to be separated so the whites can be beaten and folded in at the end for a fluffier texture. I've tried many times to love this style, but to no avail. Not to mention it’s more work. But, if you prefer your Eggnog to have a little more levity, go right ahead. Prepare the recipe using just the yolks and let it chill, chilling the unbeaten whites separately. About 30 minutes before serving, take the whites out of the fridge - cold whites take longer. Personally, I recommend only using ½ to ¾ of the whites and beating them until they form peaks, but not exceptionally stiff ones. Otherwise, I think it becomes a mouthful of foam. But that's just me. Regardless, thoroughly stir the whites into the batch so everything is fully integrated.
For a Richer Nog: Just use the Yolks (and maybe 1-2 more eggs)
I actually prefer just using yolks, as it says in the recipe. Adding a whole egg with whites if fine, but they are really just supplying volume, the yolks are doing the richness legwork. I find yolk-only nog to be more concentrated deliciousness. Throwing in another yolk or two will bring additional decadence, though that will soften the bite of the booze. Up to you.
For a Thicker Nog: Use more Cream than Milk.
Use 1½ cups cream and no milk. Using raw sugar and backing off on the booze will yield a thicker nog as well.
For a Boozier Nog: More Booze, naturally, or higher proof spirits.
I think this recipe can stand up to as much as ½ cup more spirit, but definitely no more. I personally like my nog to be a bit stiffer, as I suggested with the optional ¼ cup of bourbon in my recipe, because it cuts any lingering the sweetness on the finish (anything for an excuse to add more alcohol). Though I've learned over a series of taste tests that not everyone shares my view, which is why I list it as optional. If you're unsure, you could always make it without the extra spirit, and add it in to taste if you want.
Another approach is to use higher proof booze, like Louis Royer Force 53 or Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognacs, or Smith and Cross rum (maybe not for all of the rum portion, just part of it). And of course, there's plenty of overproof bourbon around.
Note: the colder your nog is, the more it'll stand up to booze. So if you add this extra booze it may taste a little intense at first, but once it gets down to arctic temperatures it'll be just right. (Drinker beware!)