When we talk eggnog, let’s dismiss mass-produced drink that consumes shelf space during the holidays. Some of course, myself included, may enjoy the drink, poured thick out of a carton and overly packed with spice and sweetness.
However, a well-made, hand-crafted eggnog can be a rich, creamy, boozy (or virgin) and elegant drink that embodies all the warmth associated with the holidays, family, friendship and coziness. Eggs can feel intimidating, but the process is relatively easy and well worth the extra effort. Eggs in cocktails – like a flip or a fizz – can create an experience like few other ingredients can.
“You’ll get a richer texture, you get a softer, more rounded drink. It’s less astringent and less tannic in nature,” said Meagan Schmoll, a bartender and spirits educator based in Whitefish. “The vegan alternative is chickpea brine, or aquafaba.”
Aquafaba is the liquid obtained by either draining a can of chickpeas or reserving the liquid leftover from cooking. About one ounce can be used to create the similar concept of an egg white.
Eggnog’s lineage is likely traced to around 13th century Britain, where the posset – a mixture of milk and wine or ale – was served as a medicinal remedy. The alcohol would curdle the hot milk, creating a goopy mass at the top with the alcohol separated at the bottom. The wealthy, who had access to better ingredients, would mix a similar concoction of milk and finer alcohol, plus the addition of sugar and spices. Spoons were used to consume the sweet upper crust while a straw was used to drink the alcohol underneath.
The drink became so popular that specific posset pots – some with clay straws (like a spigot) built into the cups themselves – were made for consuming it. William Shakespeare mentioned the posset in several plays, as medicine or as a way to dispense poison.
By the 17th and 18th century, eggs became a more common addition as thicker versions of the drink become more popular throughout Europe. It was also during this time that the popularity of the eggy, milky drinks came to the American colonies. With easier access to farm foods, sugars and spices – and whiskey and rum – the delicacy became more available to everyone.
It’s also during this time that we see the use of the term “eggnog,” although theories are mixed on where the term derives. In America, the slang term for a drinkable dessert was “egg ‘n’ grog,” while it was also served in a wooden cup known as a “noggin.”
The eggnog recipe has not changed much over the decades. Still, a wide variety of recipes can be found – from home or pro bartender favorites 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 one enjoys personally. The recipe included here is from Dale Degroff’s book, The Craft of the Cocktail, using Whistling Andy’s Spiced Flavored Rum, a limited-edition bottle released yearly approaching the holidays.
One egg-based cocktail tip Schmoll passes on, “Some people hate the smell of the sulphur from the egg white. If you (create) an egg white drink, be conscious of the first smell you get when the cocktail comes to you. Some people put aromatic bitters on top … or a sprinkle of nutmeg. Then you get into the flavors and it’s really nice.”
6 eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1 quart milk
1 pint cream
6 ounces bourbon
6 ounces spiced rum
1 whole nutmeg, for grating
Using a hand mixer or stand up mixer, beat the egg yolks until they become light in color. Add ½ cup of the sugar slowly while beating the eggs. Add the milk, cream, and liquor. Beat the egg whites until they become soft peaks, slowly adding the remaining sugar. Gently fold the whites into the mixture.
During a riot at West Point after the American Revolution, the students defied the orders of Col. Sylvanus Thayler and got drunk off eggnog during Christmas. Twenty students were court martialed after the incident.
Ways to Shake an Egg Cocktail
The dry shake: Add all ingredients to a shaker without ice and shake. This does not dilute nor chill the drink.
The wet shake: Usually, this follows the dry shake and consists of shaking the ingredients with ice. This dilutes and chills 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.