Pop always kept carton in the fridge after Thanksgiving, and Nana tippled hers with cheap bourbon to chase away the winter blues. Nowadays, one of the octogenarian members of my croquet club totes courtside a batch of his home brew when the mercury dips into December scarf weather.
Egg nogg’s history is murky, but colorful. Since early recipes feature rum, some say egg nog is a shortening of egg and grog. Others take an entomological approach and see nogg from noggin, a small, carved wooden mug. With no great leap, an egg drink in a noggin becomes egg nogg (with an aesthetically pleasing extra “g”). Anyway you shake it, egg nogg was touted as early as 1607 in Jamestown for its creamy richness and high alcohol—too bad the early Virginians couldn’t apply their verve for boozy sustenance to more practical skills like stopping famine, controlling disease, and repelling Algonquian attacks. Eggs, milk, and spirits were mostly the realm of aristocrats, but settlers in the New World with farms aplenty and cheap Caribbean rum (which replaced wine and ale) turned egg nogg into a drink for everyman, the Budweiser for the churned-butter caste. Back then, cups of nogg were toasted to one another’s good health on Christmas Day. This only-in-wintertime association carries on today, possibly because warmer months before Pasteur and Frigidaire might’ve rendered nogg a deadly, raw egg concoction of nutmeg and salmonella.
Egg nogg won’t be part of the South Beach Diet anytime soon, but those with budding potbellies can cut the calories and cholesterol count by substituting nonfat evaporated milk for the dairy, and using two egg whites in place of each whole egg. In any case, livea little for the holidays. Like a kiss under the mistletoe, a hostess’s offer of a ladle of nogg should never be refused, yet step and sip lightly, as namby-pamby nursers with loudyuletide sweaters will find their mugful quickly skinned over like bad instant pudding. Merriest quaffing as you indulge in three classics. Leave out a ration of nogg for Santa and you’ll surely up your holiday take…even if it risks a reindeer DUI.
Beat the yolks of a dozen eggs, then add 2 cups of sugar. Add a fifth of your favorite whiskey. Stir thoroughly as you add a pint of whipped cream and a pint of milk. For a lightened texture, stiffly beat the whites of the eggs and fold into the mixture just before serving. Once in the punch bowl, generously sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg on top and serve in punch cups with a ladle. Makes 20-25 cups.
Follow steps above with half the sugar, but employ 1 pint brandy and 1 pint dark rum instead of the whiskey. Double the dairy and add 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and ½ teaspoon of salt.
THE DUFFY (for one)
1 fresh egg ½ tbsp sugar ¼ glass brandy ¼ glass Jamaica rum ½ glass Madiera ½ pint milk Shake with ice and strain into a Collins glass. Grate nutmeg atop.
NICE TOUCH: turn that leftover nogg into French toast. Add cinnamon and a beaten egg to the nogg to make a batter for the toast. This is for covered and refrigerated egg nogg, not the clumpy remnants of half-finished punch cups left festering overnight.
THE JONES (Makes 4 quarts. Perfect for a punch bowl.)
• 12 large egg yolks
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 cups dark rum or bourbon, chilled (we recommend Myers rum or Four Roses whisky)
• 1 quart (4 cups) whole milk
• 1 cup cold heavy cream
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 12 large egg whites, room temperature
• cracked ice
• freshly grated nutmeg
• Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high until think and lemon-colored – about 4 minutes.
• Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly add the sugar and bear until mixture is thick and creamy – about 5 minutes.
• Slowly add the booze and beat until incorporated.
• Add milk, cream and vanilla and continue beating until incorporated – about 3 minutes. (Lower speed as necessary to minimize splashing.)
If preparing ahead of time, stop here, cover and refrigerate.
• Place the egg whites in clean, dry bowl with whisk attachment and beat on medium-high until medium-stiff peaks form – about 2 minutes.
• Stir egg whites into egg yolk mixture until they are completely incorporated and the egg nog is pale yellow and frothy.
• To serve, fill cups with cracked ice, ladle the punch over the ice and garnish with pinch of nutmeg.