Eggnog: Festivity in a glass

Holiday standby eggnog gets an updated twist

Holiday standby eggnog gets an updated twist

December 23, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Raw egg, whipped egg whites, three kinds of liquor -- ugh, traditional eggnog is one of those simple pleasures that seems not so simple.

But really, it's not that hard.

Bartenders, a consumer sciences educator and self-proclaimed "cocktail geeks" have offered tips on how to create slick 'nog recipes without the need for a mixologist's sleight of hand. The recipes they've shared cover high-end tastes with rums straight out the recipe book of a posh New York City lounge. There's also a hip-pocket standby courtesy of the American Egg Board.

"I think eggnog is still a classic drink," said Elijah Gateless, bartender at 3 Onions Bar & Lounge in Shepherdstown, W.Va. The lounge serves up an eggnog martini whose ingredients include Baileys Irish Creme Liqueur, Absolut Vanilla vodka, spiced rum, and a garnish of cloves.

Gateless and others we interviewed addressed common concerns such as which liquors to buy, whether flavor infusing is worth it, when and how to get away with using cheap liquor, plus some ideas for nonalcoholic 'nogs.Lynn Little, family and consumer sciences educator for University of Maryland Extension in Washington County, said eggnog is one of those Christmas food traditions that can be whipped up at the last minute, calling for things most people have in the cupboard and fridge.


It can be made with or without liquor, though usually it involves some combination of brandy, rum or bourbon, said Danielle Eddy, who monitors cocktail trends for the Washington D.C.-based trade group Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

Eddy, whose office is based in New York City, said she was a fan of a holiday fig eggnog served at Bar Pleiades in New York's Upper East Side. The recipe incorporates rums from Guatemala and Venezuela.

Cameron Bogue, Bar Pleiades' bar manager, was willing to share the recipe with Herald-Mail readers. Bogue said his recipe drew influence from Jerry Thomas' 1862 cocktail book, "A Bon Vivant's Companion."

The use of egg in cocktails probably dates back to medieval times with a drink known as posset. Bogue said that as Europe's cocktail scene developed in the early 1800s, there emerged a drink called a "flip," made with a whole egg and brandy.

The flip traveled across the Atlantic, though brandy was replaced by rum or the watered-down rum called grog, which was served to sailors. One theory is that eggnog gets its name came from the abbreviation of egg 'n' grog, Bogue said.

One problem is that traditional recipes call for raw egg. "This is a safety hazard," said Little, adding that old family recipes are the main offenders for the use of raw eggs as ingredients.

As an alternative, Little suggested using a pasteurized egg product or using the Egg Board's recipe for classic, cooked eggnog.

Cooked or not, the same precautions hold true for eggnog as they would with any food made from eggs: Don't let it sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Doing so might cause you to get sick. "Bacteria likes warmth, something to eat - protein and moisture," Little said.

Eddy said the Egg Board's recipe is nonalcoholic, but it does include as an option the use of brandy, rum or bourbon.

"When you're reading the tasting notes, look for vanilla or caramel," said Eddy.

Eddy said to avoid using liquors such as scotch because they are too smoky or peaty - flavors that will clash with the taste of the nutty tastes of the nog. Conversely, flavored spirits could lead to overly sweet 'nog, so pick them carefully.

Eddy said when "flavored" is used on a product's labeling, it opens up the door for producers to add more sugar. The better eggnogs maintain an ideal balance of richness and lightness. Tip the scale too far in either direction and you've got bad eggnog.

Little said this is also true of nonalcoholic recipes.

She recommended using the same kinds of extracts you'd use in baking, such as butter rum or vanilla flavors. However, she said to avoid the use of syrups you'd use in coffee drinks because they are too sweet.

Eddy said infusing your own liquor is another option for recipes with alcohol. Flavor infusion is when an ingredient - in this case, nutmeg, vanilla or cinnamon - is used to flavor liquor via maceration or by being left to soak inside the spirit's bottle.

But Gateless said he would not recommend DIY infusions for first-timers. If done wrong, you're left with strongly flavored spirits, wasting what would have otherwise been a perfectly OK bottle of liquor.

Gateless said most brown liquors with a "warming" effect would work, but rums are virtually fool-proof and are easy on the wallet.

He said you can spend $16 or less per bottle and still get quality alcohol for your eggnog.

Kirk Grooms, wine manager at Longmeadow Wine & Liquor in Hagerstown, said he uses all three spirits in his eggnog recipe.

"I use the cheapest ones I can find," Grooms said.

Holiday fig eggnog

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