Don't Knock The Nog Until You've Tried This One

Dec 23, 2013
Originally published on December 23, 2013 4:51 pm

We ran an unofficial office poll at NPR last week, via email: "Where do you weigh in on eggnog? Love it? Hate it?"

Those who hate it really hate it. They used words like "detest," "loathe" and "ick." They also used font sizes well above 14 point and broke out the red type to emphasize their distaste.

But the haters were in the minority. By about 2 to 1, NPR is an eggnog drinkin' kind of place, but — and this was emphasized by many — only if it's eggnog done right. That means: not too sweet, not too thick and just the perfect amount of booze.

Fortunately, we might be able to satisfy the lovers and convert some of the haters with Maria del Mar Sacasa's recipe for this seasonal concoction.

See, the author of Winter Cocktails was once an eggnog hater, too. Her first encounter with eggnog at a holiday party had her covertly pouring her drink into a potted plant. There was plenty not to like. "How it tasted," she recalls, "how awful the texture!"

Years later, while researching the drink for her book, she realized she might have been put off by eggnog done badly.

"I ran out to the supermarket and I bought a few of the eggnogs and I tried everything from the really cheap versions in the cartons to the higher end ones, and unfortunately they were exactly what I did not want in my eggnog," del Mar Sacasa says.

That is to say, artificially flavored, flat tasting, too sweet and too thick (these are similar complaints that cropped up in NPR's unofficial office poll).

So del Mar Sacasa set out to make her own eggnog.

"I tested a lot of recipes I found in books and in magazines and online and I did come across a few that had an interesting twist, which was adding egg whites whipped into soft peaks into the mixture," del Mar Sacasa says. "And this gave it this really beautiful airy, fluffy quality, similar to cappuccino."

After playing with milk-to-booze ratios and spice combinations, del Mar Sacasa believes she has the perfect recipe for basic eggnog. "This tastes like melted ice cream. It does. I promise."


Classic Eggnog

Makes about 2 quarts (12 to 14 servings)

Eggnog is a milk- or cream-based beverage sweetened with sugar and spiked with spirits such as rum, brandy, whiskey or a combination thereof. Eggs, of course, are the main ingredient — and are responsible for the drink's shady reputation for harboring germs. However, fresh eggs are unlikely to cause salmonella infection or other bacteria-bred illnesses. And since eggs give eggnog its characteristic velvety texture and cloud-like froth — the yolks build the custardy base and the whites add lightness — there are no substitutions. If you're concerned about bacteria, wash the eggs before using them because any bacteria would come from the shell.

8 large eggs,* separated

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

Pinch salt

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1 cup brandy**

1 cup dark rum

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Freshly grated nutmeg

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, brown sugar and salt until thickened and pale brown in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in cream and milk, followed by the brandy, rum and vanilla.

In a separate large, clean bowl, whip egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar and continue whipping until firm, glossy peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Transfer cream mixture to a punch or serving bowl. Fold in egg whites with a rubber spatula and ladle portions into cups. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg and serve.

*Eggs are more easily beaten and incorporated into recipes when they are at room temperature. Either let them sit at room temperature for at least an hour or soak them in warm tap water for about 10 minutes.

**All eggnog recipes may be made without alcohol.

Pumpkin-Bourbon Eggnog

This eggnog variation goes hand-in-glove with the coming of the colder months and holiday festivities. Pumpkin puree, brown sugar and spices blend with milk, cream and bourbon for a drink that rivals dessert.

Makes about 2 quarts (12 to 14 servings)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling

1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice

Pinch salt

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1 1⁄2 cups bourbon

1⁄2 cup brandy or cognac

8 large eggs, separated

1⁄4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice and salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in cream, milk, bourbon, and brandy or cognac and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, brown sugar and vanilla until thickened (wrap a damp kitchen towel around the base of the bowl to keep it steady while you whisk). Pour the pumpkin mixture into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly until well incorporated. Pour mixture back into saucepan and cover to keep warm.

In a separate large bowl whip egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar and continue whipping until firm, glossy peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Transfer cream mixture to a punch or serving bowl. Fold in egg whites with a rubber spatula and ladle portions into warmed heatproof glasses or mugs. If serving cold, allow the pumpkin base to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until well chilled. Fold in egg whites and ladle into chilled glasses.

Excerpted from Winter Cocktails by María Del Mar Sacasa. Reprinted with permission from Quirk Books.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We start today's Found Recipe with a seasonal etiquette dilemma. This is for those of you who do not like thick, milky, boozy drinks made with raw eggs, that rich concoction sometimes poured directly from the carton. Here's the scene: You're at a holiday party, and this pleasant young woman introduces herself.

MARIA DEL MAR SACASA: Hi. I'm Maria del Mar Sacasa.

SIEGEL: And she hands you a drink.

SACASA: Which you know is eggnog.

SIEGEL: That's right. Eggnog, the drink that you've been dreading all year. What do you do?

SACASA: Do you politely refuse and make up a dairy allergy or say you're not drinking? Or are you wondering, this woman has completely lost it and is she trying to poison me?

SIEGEL: She is not. Maria del Mar Sacasa is trying to convert you with a taste of her own freshly mixed eggnog.

SACASA: This tastes like melted ice cream. It does. I promise.

SIEGEL: This lady was once a hater of eggnog. But now, Maria del Mar Sacasa is a lover of eggnog. What turned her around was the research she did for her book "Winter Cocktails."

SACASA: I found that it was actually a historical drink. It dates back to England, to 1600s or so. And at first, it seems it was just milk and then liquor of any kind. Apparently, they were putting wine in there. Some people describe it as curdling the milk. Curdled milk with booze sounds so appealing. And then, eventually, it did become an aristocratic drink because eggs were expensive and spirits were expensive. But when it came over to the Colonies, dairy and eggs were more accessible, and apparently booze was pretty cheap.

So there are chronicles of mixing this and people having it for breakfast because it was so hearty. I'm thinking like that Sylvester Stallone milkshake in "Rocky" where he dumps the raw egg. So you're getting your dairy and your protein, and why not? It's a good booze to keep you warm during the winter.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SACASA: Now, I tested a lot of recipes and I did come across a few that had an interesting twist, which was adding egg whites whipped to soft peaks. And this gave it this really beautiful, airy quality similar to cappuccino.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SACASA: That quality elevated it and didn't make it this thick drink that you really were having trouble choking down. I wanted balance because the two things that I found really repulsive about eggnog was that they were either too sweet and cloying and always had too much liquor. It was like the liquor was added as an afterthought, almost like a frat punch, I would say. Here it is. Let's just dump some in and I'm sure it'll kill all the other flavors.

I just started testing a lot with ratios and adding spices. And I really do love my pumpkin eggnog. It tastes like drinkable pumpkin pie. I melt butter and I add a few spices, like allspice and cinnamon. And then I stir in pumpkin puree. I add the milk and the cream, and then I do bourbon in there. And then egg whites that are beaten to soft peaks. They get folded in, makes it cloud-like and fluffy. I am begging you to try this one because it is spectacular.

SIEGEL: So don't turn that glass down. Maria del Mar Sacasa's recipe for pumpkin eggnog is on the Found Recipe page at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.