Make Eggnog Now for Holiday Entertaining

For years Fanny Farmer’s recipe for eggnog stood as the Christmas and New Year’s classic at my house, a wonderful recipe and very spirited. After a conversation with Sarah Walker Caron, my editor here at the BDN, who suggested I offer an eggnog recipe this month, I looked around to see what new wrinkles there were in this rich and really quite ancient beverage.

I discovered that lots of newer recipes call for heating the milk and cream then adding them to the beaten egg yolk and sugar mixture. (The old way merely called for beating together all the uncooked ingredients.) I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that was due to the concern many have about eating raw eggs; once you pour hot milk into the yolks they are heated enough, I suppose, to raise the temperature sufficiently without turning the whole into custard. So I gave that a try for this year’s eggnog.

It is a good idea to make eggnog a week or more ahead of serving time. The flavors develop and meld. The alcohol loses its bite and leaves behind its deep flavor. Just keep it cold. The sugar and alcohol are preservatives and you need not fret about whether it is still good for a week or two, or even more. Most recipes for eggnog produce enough beverage to last the whole of the holiday season or to serve at one grand party.

My old Farmer recipe calls for a dozen eggs, a quart each of milk, heavy cream and bourbon and an additional cup of rum. Whee. I end up with about a gallon. Any leftover eggnog is terrific for making French toast, or adding to pumpkin puree for pie. (The alcohol is cooked out of it by the time the French toast is done and a pie is baked.)

The recipe that follows makes a little more than a quart as it stands. When I serve it, I add more bourbon and a shot of rum. It is very smooth, sweet, and full of vanilla flavor; you can cut back on the sugar, and also reduce the amount of vanilla, or even eliminate it, if you wish, and no harm done. While it calls for a whole bean of vanilla, you may choose to use extract, and add it to taste.

If you have not yet discovered the fragrant blessing of freshly grated nutmeg, this is a good time to give it a try. Use the finest side of a box grater or a microplane to grate your whole nutmeg. Often, you can reduce the amount of nutmeg a recipe calls for because it is so pungent when fresh.

Because eggnog is so rich with eggs and cream, it is hard, really, to drink so much that you get tipsy though I suppose someone with an iron constitution has managed to get it done. As they say, use eggnog responsibly, and have a lovely holiday.

Serves: Makes a quart and a half.
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split to expose seeds, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg, plus more for garnish
  • 5 large eggs, separated
  • ½ to ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dark rum and/or bourbon, with more to taste
  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine milk, cream, vanilla bean and seeds, and nutmeg.
  2. Stirring only occasionally, bring the mixture just to a boil over a medium heat, then remove from the heat for about five minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until they form thick ribbons when you lift the beater.
  4. Slowly stir in the hot milk, cream and sugar mixture milk until it is completely incorporated.
  5. Stir in bourbon and/or rum.
  6. Refrigerate at overnight or for up a week.
  7. Before serving, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form then fold gently into eggnog.
  8. Serve with more fresh grated nutmeg.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.