When we talk about eggnog, let’s get rid of the mass-produced drink that consumes shelf space during the holidays. Some, of course, including myself, may enjoy the drink, poured thick in a carton and too filled with spice and sweetness.
However, a well-made and handcrafted eggnog can be a rich, creamy, boozy (or virgin), and elegant drink that embodies all the warmth associated with vacations, family, friendship and coziness. Eggs may seem intimidating, but the process is relatively straightforward and well worth the extra effort. Eggs in cocktails – like a flip or fizz – can create an experience like few other ingredients can.
“You will get a richer texture, you will get a smoother, rounder drink. It’s less astringent and less tannic in nature, ”said Meagan Schmoll, Whitefish-based bartender and spirits educator. “The vegan alternative is chickpea brine, or aquafaba. “
The aquafaba is the liquid obtained either by draining a can of chickpeas, or by reserving the rest of the cooking liquid. About an ounce can be used to create the similar concept of an egg white.
The lineage of eggnog probably dates back to around 13th-century Britain, where posset – a mixture of milk and wine or beer – was used as a medicinal remedy. The alcohol would curdle the hot milk, creating a viscous mass at the top with the alcohol separated at the bottom. The rich, who had access to better ingredients, mixed a similar concoction of milk and finer alcohol, plus the addition of sugar and spices. Spoons were used to consume the sugary top crust while a straw was used to drink the alcohol below.
The drink became so popular that specific posset jars – some with clay straws (like a faucet) built into the cups themselves – were designed to consume it. William Shakespeare has mentioned the posset in several plays, as a medicine or as a means of dispensing poison.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, eggs became a more common addition as thicker versions of the drink became more popular across Europe. It was also around this time that the popularity of egg milk drinks arrived in the American colonies. With easier access to farm foods, sugars and spices – as well as whiskey and rum – the delicacy has become more accessible to everyone.
It was also around this time that we see the use of the term “eggnog”, although theories are mixed on the origin of the term. In America, the slang term for a drinkable dessert was “egg ‘n’ grog”, while it was also served in a wooden cup known as “noggin”.
The recipe for eggnog hasn’t changed much over the decades. Still, a wide variety of recipes can be found – from favorites of home or professional bartenders to those attributed to Presidents George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower – and experimentation is part of the fun.
To try it at home, choose a recipe that has flavors that you personally appreciate. The recipe included here is from Dale Degroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, using Whistling Andy’s Spiced Rum, a limited-edition bottle released each year as the holidays approach.
An egg-based cocktail trick that Schmoll passes on: “Some people hate the smell of sulfur in egg white. If you are (creating) an egg white drink, be aware of the first scent you experience when the cocktail arrives at you. Some people put aromatic bitters on top… or a pinch of nutmeg. Then you get into the flavors and it’s really cool.
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 liter of milk
1 pint of cream
6 ounces of bourbon
6 ounces of spiced rum
1 whole nutmeg, for grating
Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they turn light in color. Add ½ cup of sugar slowly while beating the eggs. Add the milk, cream and liqueur. Beat the egg whites until they become soft peaks, slowly adding the remaining sugar. Gently fold the whites into the mixture.
In a riot at West Point after the American Revolution, students defied Colonel Sylvanus Thayler’s orders and got drunk on eggnog over Christmas. Twenty students were court martialed after the incident.
Ways to shake an egg cocktail
The dry shake: Add all the ingredients to a shaker without ice and shake. It does not dilute or cool the drink.
The wet shake: Usually this follows the shake and involves shaking the ingredients with ice. This dilutes and cools the drink.
Reverse dry shake: First shake the drink with ice but without the egg. Strain the ice from the drink and shake again without ice.