In the abstract, the notion that some people don't want to drink eggnog makes sense: diabetics, say, or the lactose-intolerant or egg-allergic, or those principled self-denying oddballs who prefer not to replace their entire body mass gradually with dietary fat and cholesterol until they resemble nothing so much as big, happy, atherosclerotic Twinkies. There are logical reasons not to want to drink a beverage consisting of egg yolks, sugar, and hard liquor, suspended in nutmeg-flavored milk.
But, no! Actually, there are people who dislike eggnog. Dislike the taste of it! The experience of drinking it! I know, I know—it defies belief, but it's true. Who are these creeps? Why have we suffered them to live among us? And to partake of our society? Oh God, maybe you know one of them. Maybe you have sat next to one of them on the train. It's a nightmare beyond imagining.
You may find yourself drawn to the idea that maybe these weirdos have only had bad, sad, Walmart-brand eggnog; that maybe this is why they hate it; that maybe if you prepare some homemade eggnog with love, they'll try it and like it. And then the world will make sense again! And you won't have to grip your can of pepper-spray in your clenched hand when you shuffle furtive and white-knuckled through public spaces, knowing that some deviant might loom out from any dark corner or obscured nook, hating eggnog at you! But, nah. The problem is not the eggnog. The problem is that some people have butts for mouths. They are not capable of liking eggnog. Sad for them.
So, yeah, the eggnog you make at home, perfect and delicious and satisfying and seasonally festive though it certainly will be, probably is not going to change the minds of these soulless anti-nog vampires. That's why we're only going to make a small batch of it. Ready? OK.
To begin, acquire eight eggs. The provenance of your eggs—pasteurized or not; fresh or not; hailing from a dystopian industrial poultry-hell or an insufferably quaint local organic free-range French-immersion chicken-preparatory academy—might actually matter a bit, here. The fresher and higher-grade the eggs are, and the less time their, uh, mothers or whatever spent chilling with their own poo, the likelier they are to be safe for raw consumption; your confidence level, here, will determine whether you make eggnog the preposterously easy way, or the safer way, which is a big pain in the ass.
(Please do note that there's always at least some risk involved in the consumption of raw chicken egg; if you make your eggnog the raw way, that is your damn choice and not mine, especially if that choice eventually causes you to expel your skeleton through the seat of your pants. I believe this clears up my legal liability in this matter, insofar as I don't know what the words "legal," "liability," or "matter" mean, but [sound of car tires screeching into the distance].)
In any case, get the eggs you can get. If they're farm-fresh and organic and free-range and artisanal and homeschooled and all that, wonderful, and if they're sad, lousy eggs from bird-prison, well, we will just make the best of it. Crack the eggs, and separate the yolks from the whites. You can do this the fancy internet way, or you can do it the Home Economics way, by gently tipping the yolk back and forth between two halves of the shell and letting the white drip out into a small bowl. Whichever way you go, dump all eight yolks into a big bowl. (You can pour the whites down the drain or make meringue cookies or an egg-white omelet or whatever, they're your goddamn egg whites.)
Now it is time to decide: raw eggnog, or cooked? Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Heating the egg means no risk of food poisoning, but also the (manageable, but still!) risk that the egg will form curds and turn your eggnog into horrible, cottage-cheese-y pudding. Going raw means you'll be done making eggnog in like four minutes, but also carries the (slim, but also not really manageable!) risk that you will will spend New Year's Eve in the hospital, explaining to a harried nurse why you couldn't just friggin' heat the friggin' eggs in your friggin' eggnog like a smart person.
What'll it be? We'll cover both.
With a whisk (or a standing mixer, if you have one, and boy will it make things easier, here), beat the egg yolks vigorously for a couple minutes. They'll get thicker and lighter in color as you go. Now, gradually whisk in a cup of regular granulated sugar until it's all dissolved in there and you've got a smooth, custardy mixture. Set this aside for a minute.
Yank out a big sauce pot and heat a quart of whole milk with some other stuff in it. Namely, a tablespoon of grated or ground nutmeg, and—if you can get and afford it, no sweat if you can't—some real by-God vanilla that you scraped out of a real by-God vanilla bean that you by-God slit down one side with a sharp knife and gently peeled open like it was a by-God archaeological find. The nutmeg is the important thing, here; they call it "eggnog" because "nutnog" is both weird to say and not a little bit indecent-sounding, but sweetened nutmeg is the taste of eggnog—vanilla's nice to have and inessential, but it's not eggnog without nutmeg. OK?
You'll want to bring this nutmeggy milk right up to a boil, stirring as you go so that it doesn't scald; as soon as it comes to a boil, remove the milk from the heat. Now, stirring or gently beating or standing mixering slowly the whole time, gradually add the heated milk to the egg-and-sugar mixture in the big bowl. Just a steady and very slow pour, stirring and mixing the whole time. Annoying, isn't it? Yes! How we suffer for our, uh, preference for not getting salmonella bacteria in our digestive tracts.
If you take your time with this so that the contents of the big bowl never get too hot, you'll come away with a mixture that is prettily yellow in color and has the thickness of half-and-half, with no chunks or lumps or weird cheesy granularity to it. If you taste it at this point, you'll notice that it's super-duper pancreatic-Red-Alert sweet; that's OK, because you're not done adding liquid to it, and this isn't what it will taste like at the end.
Pour this stuff back into the now-cool sauce pot, and stir it for a while over low heat on your stovetop. Whatever you do, do not, do not, do not let this come to a simmer, or it will turn chunky and irreparably ruined in mere seconds; just get it steaming, and stir and stir and stir. (If you have a food thermometer, you can let this stuff get to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to be sure it's free of salmonella.)
Your nascent eggnog very gradually will thicken as you stir it; when it's thick enough to coat a metal spoon, remove it from the heat and slowly stir in two cups of chilled heavy cream. This will cool the eggnog, thicken it further, and, y'know, add cream to it, which is its own justification.
There. Cooked eggnog. What a victory you have won today against the forces of gastrointestinal disease. Celebrate with some Purell. Pour the eggnog into a pitcher, slap a lid on that sucker, and stick it in the fridge overnight. It'll taste better (and colder) tomorrow, and it'll keep for four days.
With a whisk (or a standing mixer, if you have one, and boy will it make things easier, here), beat the egg yolks vigorously for a couple minutes. They'll get thicker and lighter in color as you go. Now, gradually whisk in a cup of regular granulated sugar until it's all dissolved in there and you've got a smooth, custardy mixture.
Now, uh, go ahead and add all the other stuff. The quart of whole milk, the tablespoon of grated or ground nutmeg, the two cups of heavy cream. If you're using vanilla, go for (good) vanilla extract instead of actual by-God vanilla-bean vanilla, since you're not heating this stuff, and heating helps to spread around the flavor of actual by-God vanilla-bean vanilla. Stir all this stuff together until it's combined.
There. Raw eggnog. What a bold stand you have taken against the encroaching wussification of our once-proud nation or whatever. Celebrate with a punch to your own face. Pour the eggnog into a pitcher, slap a lid on that sucker, and stick it in the fridge overnight. It'll taste better (and colder) tomorrow, and it'll keep for four days.
When you're ready to drink some eggnog, add however much booze you want to add to it. Decide for yourself which variety of booze you go for, rum or brandy or bourbon or whatever, probably not peppermint schnapps, definitely not Bud Light Cran-Brrr-Rita. I like cheap Jamaican rum in my eggnog, but I also just like to drink cheap Jamaican rum, and it's none of your goddamn business so long as I'm keeping my shit together, thank you very mussshh.
Fill up a nice, big mug or glass with your eggnog, sprinkle some more grated or ground nutmeg on top, and fire away. Or! Top it with some whipped cream, and then some grated or ground nutmeg, to really drive home the whole Yeah, this really is an alcoholic Christmas milkshake, this is what my life has come to theme of the occasion. And, take a nice big swig. Hey: eggnog! Raw or cooked, it tastes like ... well, like eggnog. Creamy and outrageously rich and irreducibly seasonal, like the sound of jingle bells in taste form, but thankfully much more pleasant than having some actual jingle bells in your mouth, whatever those grinches might say.
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Albert Burneko is an eating enthusiast and father of two. His writing appeared in Best Food Writing 2014 by DaCapo Press. Peevishly correct his foolishness on Twitter @albertburneko, or send him your creepy longform hate-missives at firstname.lastname@example.org. Image by Sam Woolley.