Breaking news: Eggnog ought to taste like eggs.
This may not come as news to everyone. After all, it says "egg" right in the name. It's the first three letters in the name, in fact.
But you know those containers of eggnog you buy at the store? They can (legally) contain as little as one percent egg yolk.
Now, I don't know what sort of nog that 99-percent-not-egg stuff is, but it's certainly not eggnog.
Made properly, eggnog is essentially a drinkable custard — rich, creamy, boozy, golden-hued and festively spiced. And custard needs eggs.
Eggnog is Made Using Raw Eggs
In the case of eggnog, that means raw, unpasteurized eggs, and I say this as someone who has spent a good portion of his food-writing career spouting vague warnings about the dangers of consuming raw eggs.
And to be clear, it's a small but real risk. Let's put it into perspective, though. Current statistics suggest that driving to the store to buy the eggs is literally about a thousand times more dangerous than the eggs themselves. Over the years I've come to accept that consuming raw eggs, especially if they're fresh and have been handled properly, is very, very low on the list of things to worry about in life.
Having said that, people in a high-risk group, such as kids under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system, should stay away from raw eggs.
But look: We're talking about eggnog here. Those first two groups of people probably ought to stay away from eggnog anyway.
Beyond that, though, if you can get your hands on really fresh, organic, pasture-raised eggs, this would be the time to do so. Not only are these eggs probably safer than conventional eggs, but they'll taste better, too.
What About Pasteurized Eggs?
So what about pasteurized eggs? If you can find them, they're a good option for anyone in the high-risk groups I mentioned earlier. The yolks emulsify just fine, so they're perfectly acceptable for making mayonnaise, or Hollandaise, or Caesar salad dressing.
On the other hand, the whites don't whip up as well, so they're basically terrible for making meringues or souffles or anything else involving whipped egg whites. Including eggnog. It's nearly impossible to get them to form stiff peaks, and it will take twice as long, and even then they'll start to collapse almost immediately.
I also find that pasteurized eggs can have an odd, funky smell. All things considered, fresh, organic, pasture-raised eggs are your best bet. Farmer's markets are a good place to find them.
But at a minimum, I encourage you to dig into the back of the egg case at the supermarket to find the freshest cartons. (Yes, I actually do this.)
Use the Best of Everything Else
So we've covered the egg part of the equation, but let's not forget the rest of your ingredients. If you're going to go to the trouble to get really good, fresh eggs, you should do no less when it comes to the other ingredients.
Like the half and half, the liquor, and certainly the nutmeg. Forget about those jars of ground nutmeg that are already stale before you even open them. If you do nothing else, buy a whole nutmeg and grate it yourself with a spice grater like this Microplane.
- 6 whole eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar, divided
- 1 qt half and half
- ½ cup bourbon
- ½ cup brandy
- ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg, plus extra for garnish
- Whole cinnamon sticks for garnish (optional)
- Separate the eggs and collect the yolks in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer or a glass bowl.
- Using the mixer's whisk attachment or an electric beater, beat the egg yolks and ½ cup sugar until it's a light yellow color.
- Stir in the half and half, the bourbon, brandy and the nutmeg.
- Beat the egg whites plus the remaining ¼ cup sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk-cream mixture. Transfer to a refrigerator and chill for at least an hour.
- Ladle into cups, garnish with an additional dusting of freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon sticks and serve.