Top Nog

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Homemade Eggnog 

 

If a taste for traditional Christmas foods were a gene, I was surely born with a defective one. You could populate a small planet with the number of fruitcakes that have made me gag, and if there were an award for gastronomic martyrdom it would surely go to me for all the sawdust-flavored Christmas cookies I’ve swallowed. I’ve politely licked my lips after eating mealy German lebkuchen and not-so-politely spit out my first ever taste of a British mince pie. I unhappily soldiered through a whole bowlful of dried fruit compote one Christmas in Spain, and I felt my stomach seize up after one leaden bite of steamed Christmas pudding in Ireland. After contemplating the idea that maybe I do suffer from some kind of rare genetic deficiency that prevents me from enjoying these seasonal delights, I decided instead it may just be a blessing in disguise – after all, if I simply avoided all the calorie-traps of the season, I would have that much less dietary damage control to contend with come January. This might have actually worked, were there not one deliciously creamy exception to the rule.

In a word: eggnog. I love it. I also wait all year for it. I usually start thinking about eggnog in early spring, when the memories of last year’s indulgence are a distant memory and the next season’s batch lies an interminable wait away. By late summer I’ll have started suffering tremors and sweating at the thought of it, and by autumn I’ll be calculating exactly how many days, hours and minutes remain until I can legitimately take my first sip. In the U.S. this date is decided for me since eggnog doesn’t hit the shelves until a few weeks before Christmas. In eggnog-less Britain, however, I’m working from a blank slate: if I can make it, I can drink it, no matter what time of year, and it’s only a vague sense of seasonal impropriety that has kept me from declaring it a year-round libation.

The exact nature of eggnog sometimes confuses non-Americans. Unlike brownies and chocolate chip cookies, this particular North American culinary heavyweight hasn’t gained popularity across many international frontiers. Several sources tell me that its origins actually lie in England, where a drink called posset was popular in the nineteenth century among those who could afford dairy, eggs and brandy. Nowadays I’m told it goes by the name ‘egg flip’ in the British Isles, and takes the form of a hasty concoction of booze, eggs and sugar – but let’s be honest, I’ve never been standing around at an office Christmas party and had anyone offer me a cup of egg flip to ease the pain. If it exists, it must be rare.

I also encountered something mildly reminiscent of eggnog in Germany and Holland – Eierlikör, or Advocaat, an intensely sweet liquor flavored with egg yolks and cream that makes frequent appearances in tiny glasses and the interiors of cheap chocolate assortments. I’m told by Germans that nowadays it’s associated with conservative traditions and grandparents’ liquor cabinets, neither of which contribute much to its dwindling popularity. In any case, it certainly can’t hold a candle to real eggnog, with its silken, custardy texture, fragrant bouquet of spices and creamy sweetness that slides down your throat like crushed velvet. Eggnog stands up to the punchy fire of strong liquor, but is comforting and flavorful enough to also be quietly sipped on its own. And until you’ve made your own eggnog, you don’t know just how heavenly it can be.

This eggnog, a recipe I’ve been tweaking for years, is extraordinary. But you don’t have to take my word for it. The first Christmas I spent in Scotland I whipped up a big batch to quell my holiday homesickness and passed it around to a number of skeptical friends. Everyone liked it, but one friend in particular, who comes from India and had no experience whatsoever with nogs, possets or flips, fell head over heels at his first taste. He was so smitten, in fact, that he requested a gallon of it for his next birthday. The only problem was that his birthday is in July. “I’m sorry but eggnog is a Christmas drink – I can’t make in July!” I told him regretfully. He was utterly devastated. “But why not?”

Yes, why not? Most Christmas sweets I’m happy to refuse to allow on my table at other times because really, once a year is already more than enough. But to restrict the consumption of things we really love based on the date alone – well, perhaps that’s just silly. Life’s short enough on enjoyment already.

So yes, my friend now happily gets his eggnog in July, and I get what I secretly wanted all along – another legitimate excuse to drink it.

Eggnog

Yield: just under 2 quarts/liters (recipe can easily be doubled) 

4 cups (1 lt) whole milk
1 1/3 cup (270g) sugar

1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
generous 1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream, cold

freshly-ground nutmeg, for sprinkling
booze of your choice: rum, brandy, bourbon… (optional)

Heat the milk and sugar in a saucepan with a lid. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk; cut the pod into four or five pieces and add it too along with the mace, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Bring everything just to a boil, remove from the heat and let steep, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

Return the pan to the heat and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks until frothy. Temper the yolks by adding about 1/2 cup of the hot milk to them, stir well and then add them into the pan with the rest of the milk, stirring quickly until incorporated. Continue to heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, being careful not to let it boil. Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the heavy cream—this will bring the temperature down and prevent it from curdling as it sits. Transfer to a covered container and chill several hours until cold. Strain the mixture through a fine-meshed sieve, discarding the vanilla and cinnamon. Serve cold, sprinkling each serving with more nutmeg before drinking (this is de rigueur). Drink as is, stir in some of your favorite booze (I like dark rum), or use to whiten (and sweeten) your morning coffee. Eggnog will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

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38 thoughts on “Top Nog

  1. Advocaat was pretty big on the British 70s christmas drinks menu too, they even used to let us kids try it. We used to sip and then screw up our faces, of course and wonder what was wrong with the adults. And we used to make our own versions too, once we were older teens, one of my best friend’s fathers specialized in teaching his daughter and her friends (me) the joys of ‘fresh’ versions of well known brands, hence homemade Advocaat, homemade Baileys, etc…

  2. hi melissa, it’s the perfect excuse to drink what is essentially booze-soaked creme anglaise – i can’t think of anything more seriously indulgent, or utterly festive (have choked on my fair share of pfeffernusse too – urggh!)

  3. My Dad always used to drink something he called egg flip whenever he had a cold. I don’t think it bears much resemblance to your recipe though. And he always drank it out an orange tupperware bowl for some reason. Because of this unappetising sight I’ve never been too keen on the idea of eggnog but maybe I’ll give it a go after all.

  4. In a time far, far away in a galaxy long ago I used to absolutely love Advocaat. Haven’t seen it around for quite some time, so me and Advocaat have sort of fallen out of love lately… Great post, love the story about your Indian friend. Will have to try this on my flatmates this christmas.

  5. What are your views on syllabub? http://www.wwnorton.com/pob/SpottedD/syllabub.htmIf you haven’t tried making it, you seriously should. You’ve got the milk and cream, you’ve got the spices, you’ve got the wine. Just seeing what happens when wine hits the heated-to-cow-temperature milk and cream is worth the price, and the taste is really excellent.(I note that a lot of recipes chill the ingredients and then whip them up. Bah. That’s imitation syllabub, with a sort of meringue replacing the milk-wine reaction, even if the imitation version is from the olden days.)

  6. Melissa, that is one gorgeous mug of egg nog! I’m glad to see that we share a passion for nog, although as you know, I was raised in a family that likes its eggs and cream with a hefty dose of booze! Ours is a rough-and-tumble thing, sophisticated but without an ounce of subtlety. Yours, on the other hand, looks and sounds like a wondrously delicate sort of drinkable pot de creme. I can’t wait to try it. Thank you, my dear!

  7. Eggnog is something that I’ve never tried commercially. In the Philippines, hardly anyone knows it exists, so I can forget about buying it from the grocery store come Christmas. So I make it for myself, and being an egg-lover, I love it, of course. Your recipe looks like the one I’ll do this Christmas. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. I’m short of this gene as well and I totally get your point here. Fortunatelly, most french famillies don’t follow any culinary rules for christmas (or maybe only mine… but that’s enough for me to make up a general rule ;D ).Eventually in France we have a kind of Eggnog that we call "Lait de poule" (litteraly Hen Milk) and it’s absolutely fantastic (I might get addicted to it if I had to drink it all year long).Anyway, thanks for this lovely blog and the gorgeous pictures of yours.Cheers,Fred

  9. Hi Melissa, it seems eggnog is the talk of the town these days! I have NEVER in my life been a fan of eggnog but there are some gorgeous recipes floating around and yours sounds particularly delicious, and the picture makes it doubly tempting. Though I think for my first time making it I will do as Molly’s family does and add that rum "without an ounce of subtlety".. But seriously, Im still shocked that I actually want to try making eggnog now.. I’ll probably love it too..

  10. What a beautiful picture again Melissa! I so wish that you win the best food blog/ photography category (I nominated you with many others) I’ve never had eggnog but this post makes me want to try it!Thank you!

  11. I made the eggnog tonight. It’s in the fridge, waiting to be transported tomorrow to a party. I’ll post a picture of it soon on my blog with all the other goodies I made for the party. I tasted it (still slightly warm) and it’s delicious!Thanks for the great recipe…

  12. I have been looking for THE egg nog recipe. Lovely post and picture, I just need to try it out now. It sounds (and I am sure it tastes) delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

  13. Looks delicious but dangerous for the waist line! I think you may not like Christmas sweets because most pre-packaged goods are made with cheap ingredients. I think standard fruitcake is an abomination, but there is one fruitcake that I love. Various versions are in Alice M’s Chocolat, Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Baking and Cookies and Brownies. If you like chewy sticky fruit offset with a little crunch, you will love the recipe!

  14. Holy sa-moke! That is the recipe-est recipe for eggnog I’ve ever looked at. And I might just give it a try. I just had my first swig of eggnog for the season today. Commercial stuff, and all we added was the rum and freshly grated nutmeg, but good.

  15. I’m back to tell you I made the eggnog. I served it booze-less at my niece’s birthday party. It disapeared very quickly.I didn’t have mace on hand. I replaced it with a star anise (I know, not at all the same "catogory" of taste/flavours but…). The spices lend a very delicate flavor which compliments so well the creaminess of the eggnog.This is definetly a keeper. I have been "ordered" by my brother-in-law to remake it for the family’s Christmas party next week. And he’s known for being a picky eater…Thank you.

  16. I usually don’t like egg nog but won’t be surprised if I like your recipe. ;-) I’m glad you decided to make the eggnog for your friend in July. That IS a birthday present!Best,Paz

  17. I love a good eggnog too, I don’t think it was always for Christmas. In Laura Ingalls Wilders’ book Farmer Boy, eggnog was the mid-morning and mid-afternoon thirst-quenching (and filling I’m sure) beverage during the hot haying season. Her description: "The egg-nog was made of milk and cream, with plenty of milk and sugar.Its foamy top was freckled with spices, and pieces of ice floated in it."

  18. Hi Sam – I’ve always had the impression that Advocaat is one of those drinks that was invented to help people who don’t like the taste of alcohol to drink, since the sheer amount of sugar kills any other flavor. I’ve always found it kind of nasty, but I think that’s mainly because of the feeling that it’s only a sad imitation of eggnog. I’m curious about your fresh version though – how did you make it? Hi J – Ah yes, a very good analogy. I’ve always preferred to think of eggnog as melted vanilla-spice ice cream, but your description sounds slightly more socially acceptable. And indeed it is seriously indulgent – when else in the year would we convince ourselves it’s okay to down liters of liquid cream?Kevin, your family’s traditions never cease to amaze me! I am, I must admit, gobsmacked at the thought of leaving raw eggs ‘ageing’ at room temperature for a month, but I suppose if the tradition has continued for so many years it must not be lethal! But seriously, it sounds crazy enough to try…Dharshi, strangely enough the egg flip seems to have become more popular in Britain’s former colonies than here on the mainland itself. I recently ran across a recipe for egg flip on an Indian recipe site, though I get the impression that any kind of creamy drink with a raw egg in it qualifies as an ‘egg flip’. I’m happy to be corrected, however, if anyone knows more…?Hi Manne – It seems Advocaat is really diminishing in popularity, isn’t it? Well, if you give the eggnog a try let me know how you think it compares – it certainly offers the advantage that you control your own supply chain, as milk, cream, eggs and sugar never go out of fashion!Hi Maureen – That is too funny. I will definitely have to add syllabub to my Christmas eggy libations list. Do you think going through the trouble of finding a milking cow would be worth it in order to achieve the most ‘authentic’ flavor? ;)Molly, sometimes subtlety is highly overrated! I fully intend to whip up a batch of yours as well, it looks so deliciously naughty. And certainly anything that is good enough for your eight-year-old cousin is good enough for me!Thank you, Kat! Hi Lori – It’s the same situation here in the UK, so I’ve gotten pretty adept at whipping up my own as well. And even when I do go back to the US for Christmas, I find I prefer my own to the commercial versions, which are usually thickened with gums and starches instead of an adequate quantity of egg yolks. I certainly hope hits the eggnog-spot for you!Hi Fred – Glad you agree! From my perspective the problem is not holiday culinary traditions per se, but rather the specific foods that have somehow managed to cling to popularity. I suspect that in France nobody minds the traditional holiday fare just because it’s so darn good! ;) And I’m very curious about lait de poule now, I’ll have to dig up a recipe for it!Tom, don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never actually kept it a week either! I think five days is about maximum age it’s achieved, and from that I extrapolated that it would probably last another two…Michele, I can see why you may have been unconvinced, as it’s a rich drink that is often badly made (and when it is, it’s not worth the calories to drink it!). When it’s good, though, it’s a little bit of heaven in a cup. Since you’re such a fan of creme anglaise now, I recommend that you give it a try, and yes, I wholeheartedly agree – no subtlety allowed! Zsofi, thank you!! I am honored that you nominated me, and glad that I’ve tempted you to try something new. Have a wonderful (and delicious) Christmas! Hi Zoubida – Fantastic! I’m sure it was lovely with the star anise as well, I might have to try that version myself. And of course I’m glad to hear it was well-received among members of your family. They can be the hardest to impress sometimes! Hi Andreea – Thank you! Let me know what you think, I hope it fulfills its promise!Hi Jessica – Yes, unfortunately the waistline is under assault from all kinds of things these days, isn’t it? But this is worth it, I promise! :) As for Christmas treats, there are certain things that even when homemade and crafted according to ancient family methods I just can’t stomach. But hey, I’m open-minded and I’ll be happy to have my opinions changed if the right version comes along. Guess I’ll have to look for that fruitcake recipe! Hi Fin – Me too, and can you imagine how good they are when made with homemade eggnog? Yumm…Hi Chubby Hubby – Thanks for the heads up! And enjoy your holiday nog :) Hi Kalyn – Thank you!Hi Cookiecrumb – Thank you, I think… Does recipe-est = good? Must be if you’re planning to give it a try! ;)Hi Paz – It has been known to make converts out of eggnog-haters, but I guess you’ll just have to try it for yourself and see! ;) And as for agreeing to make it in July, I have to admit it wasn’t a totally selfless act, as I have a way of always ‘accidentally’ whipping up a little too much…Hi Carabeth – Great info! Strange that I don’t remember that from the books, though it has been a good few years since I read them. But certainly if Laura and her contemporaries could drink eggnog year round, we can too. I suppose we would really need to work all day in the hay fields, though, in order to justify the calories…

  19. Hey, thanks for visiting. I recommend the Bittman book very highly. I’ve made four things from it and all were things I would make again. I rarely have that experience with a cookbook. He’s great.

  20. Is it terrible that I’ve run out of adjectives to describe your photographs? I’m reduced to just sitting here in awe. As for the Nog in question, I’m one of those that seems to be on the fence – when it is very good, I adore it, but all to often I’m disappointed and leave my cup after the merest of sips. I am always tempted to give it another chance, and between you and Molly I may be convinced.

  21. Hi Melissa,We kicked off our Christmas lunch with a round of your eggnog today. Thank you for the lovely gift, it’s most definitely a keeper! Happy holidays.

  22. Hi Melissa,Wow!!! I’ve just found this site and it’s made me really excited me to try out some of your amazing recipes! Sorry about the late posting here, but it seemed as good a place as any. Maybe you’re right about eggflip being more popular in the colonies – I live in Australia, and my Nanna used to make me her version when I was little. Hers was more like a vanilla milkshake with egg and spices- definitely a kid’s drink. Having missed the boat on the eggnog for last Christmas, I think maybe I’ll save it up for an American Christmas curiosity later this year, and instead try and get my Nanna to make me another of her eggflips. Thanks for the wonderful recipes & writing, beautiful photos, and some nice memories!

  23. The picture looks lush and the recipe sounds great, but for a little Ozzy downunder who knows little about the dizzy heights of Egg Nog – excuse my ignorence, but I am still trying to work out if this is actually meant to be cold or hot drink??? Aussie traditions are BBQ’s and beer, so Christmas in July is a better opportunity to try some of the cooler climates festive cheers :)Any advise??? :)

  24. Hi Karyn, it’s actually a cold drink, though the shot of booze is meant to warm you up on an cold winter’s day (all those calories don’t hurt either!). Sounds to me like just the perfect thing to bring some festive spirit to July. Hope you enjoy it!

  25. Coming from a non-eggnog drinking culture I have always wondered what it was, especially after seeing it in every American Christmas movie. Thanks your post has been very interesting.

  26. I would love to bring this to a Christmas dinner this year but I don’t have any mace. I’m hoping to be able to substitute nutmeg for the mace (i.e., total of 3/4 tsp. nutmeg for 1 L of milk), but I’m wondering if this is maybe a bit too much nutmeg? Should I decrease it to 1/2 tsp.?Can you believe I’ve been thinking about this recipe since the summer?! And with one week to go before Christmas, I can’t wait to give it a try…thank you so much for sharing, Melissa!

  27. Natalie – Don’t worry too much about the mace – it gives a certain je ne sais quoi, but it’s still plenty delicious without! I would go with 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and then wait until it’s chilled to decide if it needs more. Also, keep in mind that the potency will depend on whether you’re using freshly ground or not. Mmm, I hope the wait will be worth it! :)

  28. Hi,This is the 4th year i’m making this egg-nog. It’s all about Christmas!Thank you somuch for letting me and my family have this tradition!Proost! (as we say cheers in the Netherlands)Esther

  29. Excellent, thanks a lot for share, I work in a pharmacy but I don't really like the taste of the coffee in here, I'm gonna make some of this for bring here next time, I hope it will worth it, thanks

  30. If you manage to have any leftovers, soak some thick bread slices in it for eggnog french toast the following morning…heavenly

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