It’s called eggnog because, classically, it contains eggs. And, classically, those eggs are raw. Classically, eggnog is also aged with liquor for several weeks (or months!), which sounds insane until you realize that the booze acts as both preservative and sterilizer. Very few bacteria, including salmonella, can survive in the presence of alcohol, as has been proven in lab experiments at Rockefeller University.
Think of it this way: Aged eggnog is another way of preserving seasonal bounty. Eggs and milk gathered at the height of their season — summertime — are preserved with alcohol until a time when they were historically scarce — wintertime. The fact that the resulting preserved beverage makes an addictively good boozy cocktail for holiday celebrations is a win for frugal homesteaders everywhere.
Homemade eggnog is thickened first with egg yolks and then given even more texture by folding in whipped egg whites. Those egg whites transform what can be a fairly heavy, overly rich drink into something airier and frothier — though no less decadent. If you want to make it thicker or creamier, play with the proportion of whole milk and heavy cream, adding more cream for some extra body and richness.
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups bourbon, rum, cognac, or a mix (optional)
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for serving
- Separate the eggs. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in a large bowl (I recommend the 3-Bowl Method for this step). Cover the whites and refrigerate until needed, or freeze if aging the eggnog for longer than a day.
- Whisk the yolks with the sugar. Add the sugar to the yolks and whisk by hand or with a mixer until the mixture is smooth, creamy, and lightened to a lemon-yellow color.
- Whisk in the milk, cream, and liquor (if using). Add the milk, cream, and liquor and whisk until combined.
- Cover and refrigerate. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The more liquor you add, the longer it will keep — non-alcoholic eggnog should be consumed within 1 day; eggnog with 1/2 to 1 cup of liquor will keep for several days; and eggnog with 1 1/2 cups of liquor will keep for several weeks and continue aging and thickening quite nicely. (If aging for longer than a few days, transfer the eggnog to a sealed glass container or a mason jar.)
- Whisk the egg whites. Just before serving, whisk the reserved egg whites in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer at high speed until the whites form stiff peaks.
- Fold the egg whites into the eggnog. Transfer the beaten egg whites to the bowl with the eggnog and gently fold or stir the whites into the base — this gives the eggnog a frothy, extra-creamy texture. Some of the egg whites will also float to the top, like cappuccino foam.
- Serve the eggnog. Transfer the eggnog to a pitcher or punch bowl. Serve in individual glasses with a grating of nutmeg over top.
Raw eggs: This recipe contains raw eggs. Use very fresh, organic eggs if at all possible. Be aware that consuming raw or undercooked eggs can increase your risk for certain food-borne illnesses, especially if you have a medical condition.
Cooked eggnog: If you’d prefer to cook your eggnog, follow these instructions. Warm the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat until just starting to bubble around the edges. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks together in a separate bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the eggs, then return the mixture to medium heat and continue to cook, stirring gently, until thickened to your eggnog-y liking. Serve immediately or chill for up to 3 days before serving. For extra thickness, whip up 1 cup of heavy cream and fold into the eggnog before serving.
Even richer eggnog: Feel free to play with the proportions of whole milk to cream, keeping 3 cups total dairy. Heavy cream will make your eggnog thicker and creamier. Boozy eggnog will also continue to thicken in the fridge as it ages.