I know this is going to sound absolutely bonkers, but I think you should add something to your to-do list this week. You should make eggnog. An eggnog that will take a (very) little effort over the next few days, and will reward you with something impressive and delicious and chock full o’ Christmas spirit (and also just chock full o’ spirits, let’s be real). I understand that eggnog is a very divisive treat, and I know a lot of folks assume they hate it / would never want to try it, but this is an eggnog to change hearts and minds. The recipe comes from my maternal grandmother Mary Taylor, takes three days to make, and requires ungodly amounts of eggs, dairy, and booze, but it is so deeply worth it.
This eggnog is probably one of the first tastes of alcohol I ever had, and what an intro. It also acclimated me to the idea of raw eggs in drinks way before the current craft cocktail scene became a part of my life. It’s creamy and rich enough to make folks exclaim, “it’s like a dessert!” like clockwork on first taste, but also not too too sweet, thanks to the one two punch of bourbon and rum and the very welcome nutmeg note. It’s a drink you definitely don’t need a lot of, but you’re almost guaranteed to want a second cup. In fact, that was one of my favorite moments at a holiday party Hal and I threw just this past weekend–watching our friends going back for seconds of nog. No small thing when it was up against a punch made by Hal, piles of wine our sweet guests brought, and our (horrifyingly) well stocked shelves.
Both the ingredient list and the timing of the steps can feel a little bit daunting, but I promise the whole process is simpler than it looks. Yes, it takes three days. Yes, you should strain the original mixture to protect yourself from eggy bits it’s best not to think about. And yes, you need a dozen eggs, so much dairy, and a full quart alcohol. But once you get right with all of that, it’s really pretty easy. The first night takes the longest, but you’ll still be done in less than half an hour (depending on how long it takes you to separate twelve eggs…). The actual work of both the second and third day is ridiculously easy, and when you’re done on that third day you’ll be both deeply pleased with yourself and able to sit back, relax, and toast to feeling Christmasy as all get out.
A note about the booze. In an email my aunt Carolyn sent to Joie years ago describing the process, she said, “You should use inexpensive bourbon and rum- I made it once with Jack Daniels, and it was so strong that it was nearly undrinkable. Mother used Ancient Age bourbon and Bacardi light rum, so that’s what I do too.” This presented an interesting challenge in the Cannon-Wolin household. When I asked Hal for a bottle of spare cheap bourbon, he looked at me like I had three heads. He couldn’t bring himself to give me anything he considered cheap, so we made ours with Knob Creek bourbon and Brugal extra dry rum, which was delicious. I’d just go for a bourbon you like the taste of on it’s own, but veer away from sharper stuff like JD. Any light / white rum should be great. And definitely don’t forget the nutmeg.
Mary Taylor’s Eggnog
1 bottle of bourbon (most standard bottles are around 750 mL, or just about 4/5 of a quart), and enough additional rum to make 1 full quart of alcohol
2 cups sugar
12 egg yolks
2 cans (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 quart whipping cream
instructions (mostlyas written by my aunt Carolyn)
Dissolve the sugar in the liquor. Pour it over the egg yolks 1 Tb. at a time, beating with an electric mixer at medium speed (if you don’t have a mixer, try to talk a friend into whisking madly while you pour). Strain through a fine sieve into a large container and let stand in the refrigerator overnight. Add evaporated milk and stir to combine; let that stand another night. Shortly before serving, whip the cream till frothy but not thick, and add, then grate some fresh nutmeg over the whole bowlful, and have more for grating over each serving.
p.s. All credit to my seester for the title of this post, and for walking me successfully through my first nogging.