The Land of Forgotten Cocktails

photo/John Myers
photo/John Myers

The Gift of ‘Nog
A tradition of my own making — one I’ve actually stuck to these last few years — is to treat the onset of Thanksgiving as Eggnog Season. From Thanksgiving Eve through New Year’s Day there’s usually a batch in the refrigerator or the fixin’s to whip one up. You’ll almost never find milk (the fresh kind) in my cooler during the rest of the year, and eggs get eaten too quickly to be caught languishing in the refrigerator door. I consider Thanksgiving the wintertime version of Labor Day, when it’s finally OK to sip gin-and-tonics while wearing white shoes.

Homemade eggnog is fast becoming a lost art, a forgotten ritual, and that’s a sad thing. It’s not hard or time-consuming to make, and it ages surprisingly well. Among the ’nognoscenti, eggnog is not considered ready to drink until it’s aged several weeks, when it turns into an even lusher, richer quaff. Only then is eggnog suitable to be given as a gift, preferably in a handsome corked bottle with a fancy, homemade inkjet label. (If you go the gifting route, be certain of your target’s receptivity — I love a candy apple as much as the next kid, but Halloween taught me they’re usually full of razorblades.)

Eggnog is almost certainly an American invention — the use of rum and the free hand with milk and cream give it away — but its lineage runs squarely back to English drinks like Rumfustian and the various possets and flips in which eggs and beer (or wines like Madeira or sherry) are boiled and served warm with hints of spice.

’Nog-heads are a procedural bunch — nothing gets them fired up like discussing the process of introducing a ’nog to the world.  Some beat the yolks and the whites separately. Some also whip the cream. Some use only cream, while others will use a mixture of milk and cream. Then there are those who insist on letting the liquor “cook” the yolks (think ceviche) for an hour before the dairy is introduced.

I’ll walk you through my recipe — it’s tasty, relatively simple, and can be executed manually in about 25 minutes. The use of appliances may promise to cut your prep time significantly, but once you get all the various pieces together (make that “if” you get ’em together), find an open plug and wash everything, it tends to even out.

What you’ll need…
6 eggs, separated
1 pt. cream
1 qt. milk
3/4 cups sugar
6 oz. rum
6 oz. American whiskey
1 tsp. orange zest

Beat the yolks with 1/2 cup of sugar and the orange zest until lemon-colored. Add the booze to the yolks and mix well. (Here you can wait an hour and let the yolks “cook.”) In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with the remaining sugar until soft peaks are formed. In yet another bowl, whip the cream till nearly stiff. Add the milk to the yolk mixture, then fold in the whites and the cream till well incorporated but not fully blended. Dust with nutmeg and dash the bitters onto the fluffy clouds that should be floating on top.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can split the liquor rations depending on what you have on hand, or just for effect. In other words, the 6 oz. of rum can be split between dark rum, spiced rum or a rich and lush aged rum. I tend to go 50-50 with 3 oz. spiced rum (like Cruzan Black Strap) and 3 oz. aged rum. The same can be done with the whiskey — rye and bourbon, or a blend of Tennessee whiskey and bourbon, are nice, or feel free to go completely off book and substitute 3 oz. of cognac for half the whiskey.

A quick “’Nog on the Fly” can be executed thusly…

Shake vigorously with ice:
2 oz. liquor of choice
1 tsp. sugar
1 large egg
8 oz. cream or milk or a mixture

Strain into a tall glass and dust with nutmeg.

— John Myers

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