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Age Your Eggnog (For Real)

December 12, 2020

Story: Aaron Goldfarb

photo: Lizzie Munro

Age Your Eggnog (For Real)

December 12, 2020

Story: Aaron Goldfarb

photo: Lizzie Munro

Expert nog-heads weigh in on how to coax the most out of the holiday classic.

If you’ve ever considered whipping up a giant punch bowl full of eggnog, well… this would certainly seem like the year not to try it. Communal, self-serve nog, much like the Negroni fountain, has been sensibly put on hiatus for the time being. But I’ve come here to convince you that this might actually be the perfect year to make more—much more—eggnog than is reasonable for one household, and then age it. For a few days, weeks, months—even years. 

No, aged eggnog is not a new thing. Googling it will bring up recipes not from overwrought fringe blogs but, rather, legitimate culinary resources, this one included. I’ve personally been aging eggnog in earnest since the winter of 2015, and some of that stock still remains in my fridge. But the concept predates not just experiments of a half-decade ago, but the internet age, too. In fact, George Washington’s printed eggnog recipe in an Old Farmer’s Almanac specifically instructs aging it in a cool place for “several days.”

While it is proven that prolonged aging above 14 percent ABV causes the booze to sterilize any potential pathogens (a boon for colonialists), today’s nog-aging nuts do it for the improved flavor. Consider Frederic Yarm, who created a nitro-infused aged eggnog for Cambridge’s Loyal Nine in 2015; or Porchlight beverage director Nicholas Bennett, whose aged version has become so famous around New York City that it appeared in Sother Teague’s 2018 book I’m Just Here for the Drinks; or Jay Sanders, a partner and operator at Kansas City’s Drastic Measures, who likes the balance of ingredients you can only get from the aging process. “When it sits, it’s letting some of your base spirit brighten up as the alcohol burn mellows,” Sanders says.

If you poke around on Facebook and Reddit, you’ll see that most amateur home bartenders seem to follow Alton Brown’s recipe, which first appeared in 2005. It’s where I started my exploration as well. But, in the half-decade since, I’ve determined that aged eggnog pretty much always “works” no matter what base spirits you employ, no matter what specs you use; you just need to find your preferred aging timeline.

Sanders goes for just three weeks, Brown likes four to six months, Bennett shoots for eight to 12, and though I’ll certainly push it to five years for shock value, I’ve long been happy with just a couple weeks myself. This year, after my wife and I share a few mugs, I’m going to store the rest of it in my cupboard until the pandemic is finally over. Even if it’s a scorching hot, mid-July day when we can all safely gather, I’ll be pulling out that punch bowl, and serving communal aged eggnog again.

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