Eggnog is one of those persistent holiday traditions evoking either fond memories of family gatherings or a general revulsion for the season. Derived from an eggy English drink once available only to the stuffy nobility, its popularity now is largely an American phenomenon. Steep taxes on wine inspired our colonial ancestors to use rum for the “egg and grog” concoction we’ve come to love (or hate) today.
For me, eggnog is liquid Christmas essence: Its uniquely heady, nutmeg-spiked aroma is unmistakable, as though a drunken Santa Claus pureed his elven workshop in a food processor and emptied his flask into the bowl.
Critics cite compelling grievances for the drink. It’s thick. It’s gloppy. It tastes like French-kissing a spicy, tipsy grandmother. Store-bought varieties can assume hues of substances the body naturally projects from itself for protection. Grumblings of fat, cholesterol and salmonella poisoning abound.
Consider, though, that eggnog is not a drink imbibed year-round. It is a one-time celebration — a yuletide festival for the mouth. Scientists say only one of every 20,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella, with even lower chances of contracting it and getting sick. So snog some nog!
But what makes a delicious eggnog? For the answer, I called upon the advice of Molly Wellmann, Cincinnati’s premier mixologist and co-owner of the new Myrtle’s Punch House in East Walnut Hills.
“If you use fresh ingredients and you make it from scratch,“ Wellmann says, “it’s light and fluffy and beautiful and balanced. That’s the key to great eggnog.”
Indeed, Wellmann’s delicious recipe should have critics sipping with vigor.
Molly Wellmann’s Eggnog
6 large eggs yolks (reserve the whites)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch fine salt
Eggnog with a kick
2 cups of bourbon, spiced rum or cognac
6 egg whites
3/4 cups cold heavy cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
Place the reserved egg whites in an airtight container and put in the refrigerator. Combine the yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until well blended and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients (and the optional liquor) and stir. You can use a blender or a mixer. Place the eggnog base in a pitcher or jar and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to serve, let the egg whites come to room temperature. Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Spoon the peaks into a large punch bowl.
Now pour the heavy cream into the same mixing bowl (you don’t need to wash the bowl) and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. Spoon that into the punch bowl.
Stir the eggnog base with a rubber spatula to re-combine, then add it to the punch bowl. Gently stir the eggnog together until just combined and no large pockets of whites or cream remain (do not over-whisk or you’ll deflate the eggnog). Serve in punch cups and garnish with grated nutmeg.
MYRTLE’S PUNCH HOUSE (2733 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills) serves up a variety of punches and craft beers. More info: facebook.com/myrtlespunchhouse.