Among the great tragedies of the holidays, nestled between fruitcake and unannounced visits from in-laws, is eggnog.
Every year by the time Thanksgiving comes around, grocery stores across the nation are stocked with cartons upon cartons of premixed eggnog on their shelves. But the sweet, gluey mess that comes out of these quart-sized containers hardly resembles the rich, creamy, deliciously-spiced and lightly sweet spiked punch that was the holiday drink of our forefathers.
Eggnog originated in England, where it was a drink for nobles, as the milk and eggs used to make it were in short supply. When the Colonists traveled to America, they brought the recipe with them, possibly naming it Egg and Grog - which was eventually shortened to eggnog. Unlike their London-based brethren, the colonists had no shortage of milk and eggs, making it much more accessible to the common folk.
When the English crown levied taxes on brandy and wine those Colonists, who enjoyed a “wee dram” every now and then, found their access to eggnog to be quite handy, as it allowed them to do an end run around the King. Brandy and wine were the winter drinks of choice at the time, so the new taxes forced these enterprising proto-Americans to make do with rum. According to several accounts, they would spike batches of eggnog to mask and “civilize” the harsh liquor for consumption. This provided a little warmth and festivity during the frigid colonial winter without running afoul of the tax man.
All this colonial history makes one thing clear - good eggnog, like bourbon, tobacco and apple pie, is the birthright of every American. Since the homemade stuff not only tastes better, but is easy to make, somewhat healthier, and mixes with liquor better, there’s not really any reason to suffer through the store-bought stuff.
This is especially true when you want to impress a crowd, or at least a date, with your bartending skills. Despite the simple recipe, people are always amazed when someone goes through “all the trouble” to make homemade eggnog. Best of all, like most punches, you can make it in advance in large batches, so there’s no need for the host to take a break from socializing to mix yet another drink.
The eggnog recipe below will serve about 30, and can be scaled up or down to suit any size party. As tradition dictates, it does a spectacular job of smoothing out the harshness of any liquor, leaving only a lingering warm glow as it goes down.
Traditional Holiday Eggnog
12 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 cups superfine sugar
2 pints rum
3 pints milk
1 pint heavy cream
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick. Then stir in the rum, milk and cream. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and pour into a punch bowl or pitcher. Beat the egg whites until stiff and stir into the eggnog. Stir in cinnamon and sprinkle the nutmeg on top.
It’s easy to change the recipe up as well. Add a little sophistication to the mix and stick it to the English by replacing the rum with brandy- celebrating the fact that all our liquor taxes now go to our own duly elected government. Or make it a truly American drink by using bourbon. The natural sweetness of Kentucky’s finest matches well to the creamy eggnog and adds a mellow burn to the cocktail. Plus, it adds a little testosterone to the drink. Given that few make it through a glass of eggnog without a milk mustache, it can't hurt to man it up a little. Even if you’re a woman.
Other options include:
1 pint of coffee liqueur, such as like Kahlua, mixed with 1 pint light rum - which would result in a incredibly creamy coffee-flavored concoction on a par with the most delicious Frappucino of all time.
1 pint of pumpkin liqueur, such as Bols Pumpkin Smash, mixed with 1 pint bourbon - delivering a delicious, and drinkable, pumpkin pie.
2 pints of tequila with a tablespoon of cayenne pepper in place of the cinnamon and nutmeg- a spicy take on eggnog perfect for the tequila craze. Just make sure to use a good silver or reposado tequila, such as Don Roberto or Patron.