If this post looks familiar, no wonder: Every year since the debut of this blog in 2010, I’ve offered the same eggnog recipe at holiday time. It was given to me by my friend Merritt Rathje, a local wine and spirits broker. The recipe supposedly recreates George Washington’s version of eggnog, although the drink probably predates him by at least a century – it was popular among the aristocracy in Britain, and not just at Christmas.
In the beginning, eggnog was a simple mix of raw eggs, sugar, rum and milk or cream. Since rum was both cheap and plentiful in colonial America, the drink became a sensation. It was consumed throughout the year and frequently found a place at the breakfast table (it does have eggs in it, after all). Historical evidence suggests that it was served either hot or cold, depending on the time of day.
Yes, it’s possible to go to the supermarket and purchase pre-mixed eggnog, to which you simply add your favorite spirit. You can also find low-fat versions of the drink. But the holidays are about excess, and you’re likely to ingest more calories than you should. Why not absorb them in liquid form?
If you want to party like the Founding Fathers, follow these instructions. It’s time consuming and expensive, but worth it.
• 1 quart cream
• 1 quart milk
• 1 dozen eggs
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 pint brandy or Cognac
• 1/2 pint rye whiskey
• 1/4 pint dark rum
• 1/4 pint Sherry
1. Mix the liquor first.
2. Separate the egg whites and yolks. Add sugar to the beaten yolks and mix well.
3. Add the liquor mixture drop by drop at first while beating slowly; add the milk and cream and continue slowly beating everything together. Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold slowly into the mixture.
4. Let set in a cool place for seven days, and taste frequently.
The advice about letting it sit for seven days is an obvious bit of wishful thinking. What will likely happen is that you’ll take the part seriously about “tasting frequently,” and that will be the end of the story. His recipe doesn’t mention nutmeg, but if you want to be authentic, buy some fresh nutmeg and a nutmeg grater and do it right. Life is but once.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. Friend of the Devil, his first novel, was released in 2016; his second novel, The American Crusade, a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, is now available on Amazon.