As the holidays draw near and temperatures drop, we welcome a warm drink to help us feel snug and cozy. Nothing hits the spot better than that iconic blend of eggs, milk, sugar, and spices, fortified, perhaps, with a splash of spirits: hot eggnog.
I’m not talking about the packaged, cloyingly sweet, near-gelatinous stuff in grocery stores. Rather, I’m talking about the luscious, frothy, custardlike beverage made from scratch. Although its exact origin is uncertain, hot eggnog has been a mainstay of winter social life for hundreds of years. It can be served hot or cold, with alcohol or without, in dainty punch cups or in substantial mugs.
Eggs in the nog can be cooked to a safe temperature or incorporated raw. Potential food safety concerns can be alleviated by using pasteurized eggs (available in many grocery stores) or by using a recipe that calls for cooking the eggs, as my mother always did for her hot eggnog.
Vanilla and freshly grated nutmeg are standard spices for any good eggnog, but feel free to experiment with small amounts of other flavorings such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and star anise. Some recipes call for almost as much alcohol as milk or cream. Traditional choices are cognac, brandy, rum, bourbon, or sherry; more modern additions include Grand Marnier (orange), Kahlúa (coffee), and amaretto (almond) liqueurs. Spirits can be added to the entire batch or to individual servings.
Use the finest ingredients you can find, and serve your hot eggnog in grand style when entertaining. Just remember, if you offer it warm, use a tempered-glass punch bowl and cups or mugs that can take the heat.
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 12 large eggs, separated (see note)
- 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
- 1 quart heavy whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Bourbon, rum, brandy, amaretto, or other spirits (optional)
- Garnish: ground nutmeg
- In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat milk, vanilla bean and seeds, andsalt over medium heat to 190º. Do not let mixture boil.
- In a large bowl, beat egg yolks with 1 cup sugar on medium-high speed with a mixer for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture becomes pale and has a ribbonlike texture. Slowly pour 2 cups hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture, beating on low speed constantly.
- Pour egg mixture into pot of hot milk, whisking constantly. Add heavy cream, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until mixture has reached 170º and is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove pan from heat; discard vanilla bean, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat egg whites and remaining ¾ cup sugar on high speed with a mixer until stiff peaks form. Pour milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large serving bowl. Carefully fold beaten egg whites and nutmeg into milk mixture.
- Ladle into punch cups or mugs. Add spirits to taste, if desired, and garnish with nutmeg.
- TIP: If you prefer cold eggnog, after removing the pan from heat, cool mixture to room temperature before refrigerating, along with unbeaten egg whites, at least three hours or up to overnight. When ready to serve, whip egg whites with sugar, and continue recipe as directed.
- NOTE: Substitute 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract for vanilla bean if desired. Leftovers can be refrigerated up to two days; serve cold or gently reheat. According to the USDA, people with health problems, the very young, the elderly, and pregnant women should avoid eating foods containing raw eggs. Pasteurized egg whites can be substituted, if necessary.
Sarah Liberta’s company, HERBS by Sarah, provides herbal education, research, and business services. A lifelong educator, Sarah teaches culinary garden classes for Louisiana State University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and other programs.
With Mardi Gras reverie all around, the joy of strolling through the French Quarter with a Bourbon Milk Punch is hard to beat. The barkeeps at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House have their own little twist on the classic drink—they serve it as a milkshake. If you can’t make it to the French Quarter, they gave us the recipe so you can whip up a batch at home.
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1/4 cup vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup Simple Syrup, recipe below
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream
- Garnish: grated nutmeg
- In the container of a blender, combine milk, bourbon, vanilla, Simple Syrup, and ice cream; blend 8 seconds. Pour into glasses, and garnish with grated nutmeg, if desired.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature before using. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 month.
For holiday entertaining, having a smart signature drink like this Snow Angel Cocktail from Le Foret in New Orleans is a must. The bar at Le Foret in New Orleans shared this delightful tipple. It has the bracing bite of a whiskey sour combined with a sweet kiss of cinnamon and allspice.
- 2 ounces bourbon, such as Angel’s Envy
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ¾ ounce Cinnamon Syrup, recipe follows
- ½ ounce pimento or allspice dram liqueur
- 1 large egg white
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Garnish: star anise
- In a cocktail shaker, combine bourbon, lemon juice, Cinnamon Syrup, pimento liqueur, and egg white. Shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Add ice, and shake until cold. Strain into a coupe glass. Add bitters, and garnish with star anise, if desired.
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
- In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil over high heat. Add sugar, and stir constantly until dissolved. Add cinnamon, and simmer 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool. Remove cinnamon, and transfer syrup to a heatproof container. Cover, and refrigerate until cold. Store up to 2 weeks.
- ½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole star anise
- ½ gallon apple cider
- 1½ cups bourbon
- Garnish: sliced jalapeño peppers, cinnamon sticks
- In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, ½ cup water, jalapeño, cinnamon, and star anise over medium-high heat; cook, stirring frequently, until sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 20 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; discard solids.
- In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine cider, bourbon, and sugar mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes more. Serve warm. Garnish with jalapeño peppers and cinnamon sticks, if desired.
- 2 ounces apple juice
- 1 ounce Chartreuse
- 1 ounce Cinnamon Syrup, see recipe on page 97
- 5 ounces Champagne
- ½ ounce fresh lemon juice
- Garnish: lemon peel
- In a Champagne flute or coupe, add apple juice, chartreuse, and Cinnamon Syrup. Add Champagne and lemon juice. Serve with lemon peel, if desired.
- 2 (2-inch) pieces orange peel
- ¾ teaspoon cane syrup, such as Steen’s
- ¾ teaspoon water
- 6 drops Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters
- 2½ ounces straight corn whiskey, such as Mellow Corn Garnish: orange peel
- In a cocktail shaker, add orange peel, cane syrup, ¾ teaspoon water, and bitters. Muddle until fragrant. Add ice and whiskey, and stir until cold. Strain into a glass of fresh ice, and serve with an orange peel, if desired.
- 2 cups demerara sugar cubes
- 1 cup water
- 4 orange slices
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 teaspoon Angostura bitters
- 1 teaspoon orange bitters
- 8 ounces dark rum
- Garnish: Maraschino or brandied cherries, orange slices
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and 1 cup water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour into a heatproof container, and let cool. Cover, and refrigerate up to 5 days.
- In a large cocktail shaker, muddle orange slices. Add juice, bitters, and 2 tablespoons sugar syrup. Strain evenly into four glasses. Add ice cubes and 2 ounces rum per glass, and stir. Serve with cherries and orange slices, if desired.
Ice cold champagne must be one of the most ideal antidotes to a steamy summer afternoon. Combined with sweet elderflower, bright bursts of citrus, and the distinctive herbal notes of gin, who could resist this gin cocktail from The Village Cafe in Lafayette?
- 1½ ounces American dry gin, such as Blue Coat
- ¾ ounce elderflower liqueur, such as St-Germain
- 1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
- 1 ounce cranberry juice
- 3 drops lemon or orange bitters
- Brut rosé Champagne
- Garnish: lemon twist, edible flower
- In an ice-filled cocktail shaker, combine gin, elderflower liqueur, juices, and bitters. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Pour Champagne on top. Garnish with lemon twist and edible flower, if desired.