Starting the week of Thanksgiving, eggnog begins to appear on store shelves around the country. From lattes to ice cream, truffles to candles, eggnog is a seasonal treat — and scent — that signifies Christmas. While it may be too heavy for some, it’s a holiday tradition in many homes.
If you’re hosting a holiday party this year, serving a punchbowl of eggnog will guarantee your guests have a good time. Eggnog-uninitiated? For tips on making the best eggnog at home, we turned to an expert: Sam Barbieri, the owner of Waterfront Ale House in New York City, and Pete’s Ale House in Brooklyn. He makes arguably one of the best eggnogs in New York City — and has been doing so for the past 18 years. Taking a sip of his ‘nog, the aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are the first thing you notice, while the creaminess mingles perfectly with the trio of liquors used. It’s beautifully balanced — something not to miss.
When it comes to serving eggnog during the holidays, even Sam admitted there are two ways: you can dress-up a quality store-bought brand, or make it from scratch. But naturally, he doesn’t recommend going the store-bought route…
Making Store-Bought Your Own
To dress up a store-bought brand, first choose a quality eggnog product, like Organic Valley or Hood. Then add your own mix of dark rum, 151 proof rum (higher alcohol content), brandy, and bourbon. Some people add grain alcohol, which will super-power your eggnog, but not add any enhancing flavor; Sam suggests sticking to good, full-flavored liquors for the best result. If you like coconut or mint flavors, you can also experiment with crème de cacao or crème de menthe for something more unusual.
Making It From Scratch
Nothing quite beats homemade eggnog. Sam shared his fool-proof Serious Eggnog recipe with us, and while it’s not the same as the one he serves at his bars, the outcome is nearly just as delicious.
He starts off infusing the spices in the liquor, to extract as much flavor and aroma from the spices as possible. And, while some recipes call for a raw egg mixture that will then “brew” in the back of your refrigerator for a couple of weeks, Sam instead chooses to make a cooked custard base. Using the same technique chefs use to make crème anglaise, Sam cooks the eggs with part of the cream until it begins to thicken. He then adds in the remaining cold milk and cream, which stops the cooking and thins out the eggnog. After mixing in the liquor and spices, the mixture is typically cooled — unless you like the concoction served warm, as a “Tom and Jerry." Whether poured individually, or ladled from a punchbowl, Sam likes his cold, and garnished with freshly grated nutmeg. Not a fan of nutmeg? You can also add a small dollop of softly whipped cream, or a mint leaf.
If there is extra eggnog lying around after your holiday party, don’t let it go to waste! While it may be tricky to turn your ‘nog into ice cream, because of the ratio of eggs to milk and the addition of alcohol, it’s easy to spike your morning coffee with a bit, in lieu of milk or cream, for a festive treat. You can also use the eggnog to transform plain old bread pudding or French toast into a special holiday dish for a weekend breakfast or brunch. Simply swap out the milk or cream the recipe calls for with eggnog, taking care to adjust any other spices you might add to account for what is already in the eggnog, so as not to overpower the dish.
Have a favorite leftover eggnog recipe? Share it with us!