Mix up a classic holiday cocktail - eggnog

Brian Rung

    Eggnog has been an American Christmas staple as long as we have been independent of British rule. George Washington himself served a highly spirited version of eggnog and it is his recipe that remains one of the most popular with those willing to take the time to make eggnog from scratch.
    Making eggnog from scratch is more akin to cooking than it is to mixology and most of us will choose one of several pre-made eggnogs from our local grocery store to serve at our holiday gatherings.
    Finding a good carton of eggnog is only half the battle, it's what you choose to spike it with that will make or break this classic Christmas cocktail.
    Even though we're not going to make our eggnog from scratch, we at least need to know what's in traditional eggnog. The main ingredient, of course, is eggs - whites and yolks separated and whisked.
    Sugar is added to the yolks and whipped before combining in a large punch bowl with whole milk, heavy cream and the spirit(s) of your choice.
    The egg whites are added once the milk, liquor and cream are stirred in, fresh nutmeg is added in the final step. As you can see, scratch-made eggnog takes a bit of planning and preparation.
    Most of us will reach for the store bought variety, many of which are quite good. Several commercially available nogs have added non-traditional flavor notes making their products more “cocktail friendly.”
    Vanilla, coconut and almond are only a few of the available flavors of nog that you will encounter at your local grocery store.
    These store bought nogs are non-alcoholic, so you will have to make the call as to what to add when it's time to spike your nog.  
    Dark and amber colored spirits are the traditional choice for eggnog, though recently light rum and tequila have appeared in eggnog recipes. Yes, there is a tequila eggnog.
    Most traditional recipes call for brandy, the southern states usually prefer bourbon. The “George Washington” recipe calls for a blend of spirits including rye whiskey, Jamaican rum, and sherry.
    The darker colored spirits used in the Washington recipe tend to be aged spirits which perform well due to the vanilla flavor notes acquired from oak barrels during the aging process.  
    A few dos and don'ts for mixing your holiday eggnog:
    Do follow the ratio. Yes, there is a ratio. Spiked eggnog achieves the most balanced flavor profile at a ratio of one part spirit to five parts commercially prepared eggnog. That comes out to 6.5 oz of liquor to one quart of eggnog.
    Do some experimenting. Maybe grab some coconut eggnog and mix with dark rum, or a vanilla variety to mix with bourbon. Get creative, it's Christmas.
    Do offer the non-drinkers and designated drivers in your group an opportunity to partake in the holiday cheer with some non-spiked eggnog.
    Don't forget the garnish. Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top of each glass before serving. This is essentially a two-ingredient cocktail, but it deserves a garnish. Nobody has to know that you picked up your nog at the store about 30 minutes before dinner.
    Don't use your best Cognac, or any other expensive bottle in your eggnog. The brilliance and complexity of 20-year-old whiskey, brandy or rum will be lost in eggnog. Try to stay well below the $50 price point unless you have a particular nog/liquor combo that you prefer.
    A few of my favorite bottles for spiked eggnog are Wild Turkey or Bulleit bourbon, Myers Dark, Flor de Cana Grand Reserve 7 year, or Appleton Estate Reserve dark rum, Pierre Ferrand Ambre or Courvoisier VSOP Cognac.
    I prefer dark rum over brandy or bourbon in my eggnog. The flavor notes of aged rum are seemingly made for the sugar and cream combo that is eggnog.
    Think about it. Rum is the perfect foundation for the nutmeg-topped Painkiller and the creamy Pina Colada. Why not put it to work in your eggnog?  
    A few of the most recommended commercially prepared eggnogs are Organic Valley, Trader Joe's, Hood Golden Eggnog and High Lawn. If I had to pick a favorite it would be Organic Valley as it has the most balanced blend of “Christmas spices.”  
    Lactose intolerant? You're in luck, Lactaid offers a 100 percent lactose free eggnog and it's no novelty item. In fact it's very good. I don't know how they did it, but their lactose free nog tastes as good as, if not better, than the competition.
    An estimated 135 pounds of eggnog will be consumed this year, most of which will be served on National Eggnog Day, also known as Christmas Eve.
    This will lead to countless hours of fireside naps on the couch while we pretend to be interested in the early college bowl games.  
I know it's early, but Happy Holidays everyone.
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.