Eggnog tends to drive even the most dedicated of cocktailians to reach for the premade stuff. But there’s really nothing to fear; anyone can fix a delicious 'Nog. For guidance, we called on Derek Brown, whose Washington, D.C., bar, The Columbia Room, is known for serving big bowls of it.
1. Be Economical
Eggnog is typically made with rum, brandy or bourbon, and Brown likes to start with a combination of dark rum and cognac. But there’s no need to go premium; he recommends using an affordable, high-proof VS cognac. The higher alcohol level will cut through the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients. After all, “Eggnog is not ice cream,” he says.
2. Yes, There Are Eggs in Eggnog
Unlike the nonalcoholic Egg Cream, Eggnog does contain eggs. Brown says the key is to buy fresh and local. “We always get local eggs from the farmers’ market, so we know where they’re from and what the date on them is,” he says.
3. Grate Your Own Spices
“If you want really excellent Eggnog, you have to consider all the products you put into it, not just the booze,” Brown says. That includes the spice responsible for giving Eggnog its kick, nutmeg. Brown advocates grating it fresh. “It’s a really different taste from what you’d get in a jar of McCormick,” he says.
4. 'Nog Keeps
Eggnog will last weeks, even months, if refrigerated. (Brown suggests transferring it to a bottle first.) “Along the way, there are complex chemical reactions happening that affect the flavor,” he says, recalling an intensely nutty and rich year-old ‘nog made by some friends.
5. Quality Over Quantity
With its eggs, cream and sugar, Eggnog has garnered a reputation as something of a once-a-year indulgence. But Brown advises against trying to make the drink more healthful. “There’s simply no substitute for a rich, creamy Eggnog,” he says. “Instead of making Eggnog less caloric, drink less of it. Have a cup and then move on to the light beer.”