A Yuletide Nod to Ale
When properly made and aged to perfection, eggnog takes on a flavor like no other
Used to be, eggnog was only available during the Christmas rush and really from just two places: a sterile carton in the grocery’s dairy case or from your grandmother’s punchbowl that was likely to smell slightly of mothballs.
Much like fruitcake, eggnog is making a comeback via celebrity chefs and nostalgic interest in all things mid-century.
Culinary historians agree only that the spiked, creamy beverage grew out of a medieval ale called “posset,” and eventually claimed “nog” due to the wooden cup used to drink it.
George Washington was an avid fan of the drink, but his was made in the ancient art of mellowing. Compared to the sugar-hyped, grocery-store variety, purists maintain there is a dramatic difference produced by giving the flavors time to meld.
This aging process allows the egg proteins, milk sugars and alcohol to slowly blend and brings about a delicious chemical marriage that results in something much greater than the sum of its parts. By simply storing your mixed recipe in the refrigerator for many weeks, you’ll have an eggnog much closer to what it should be.
If you’re worried about using raw eggs, the pasteurized variety is an option. However, experts say an alcohol concentration of at least 20 percent and storing the concoction at 40°F for at least a month should take care of any bacteria hanging around.
In this spirit, we wanted to give you a modern take on an age-old beverage, one that still respects the patience required for greatness. Take the time to make a batch and then wait — days, weeks, months, even up to a year — before sampling eggnog like you’ve never known it.
Alton Brown’s Aged Eggnog
- 12 large eggs (pasteurized if
- you need peace of mind)
- 1 pound sugar
- 1 pint half-n-half
- 1 pint whole milk
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 1 cup Jamaican rum
- 1 cup cognac
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (plus more for serving)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Separate the eggs and store the whites for another purpose. Beat the yolks with the sugar and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl until the mixture lightens in color and falls off the whisk in a solid “ribbon.” Combine dairy, booze and salt in a second bowl or pitcher and then slowly beat into the egg mixture. Move to a large glass jar (or a couple of smaller ones) and store in the fridge for a minimum of two weeks. A month would be better, and two, better still. In fact, there’s nothing that says you couldn’t age it a year, but it’s hard to wait that long. (And yes, you can also drink it right away.) Serve in mugs or cups topped with a little extra nutmeg grated right on top.