Ask any New Orleanian about eggnog and you might hear crickets. In a city defined by its hedonism, other frothy drinks—Brandy Milk Punch, say, or the Ramos Gin Fizz—have louder siren calls. Ask a New Orleanian about frozen eggnog, though, and you’ll unlock a core memory.
For native New Orleanians like myself, it’s a citywide tradition to drive down St. Charles Avenue (or ride the garland-bedecked streetcar) to take in the decorated historic mansions and the thick, wandering oak limbs that canopy the streets, trimmed in Christmas lights, oversized ornaments and Spanish moss like tinsel. The proper drink pairing for these occasions is a Cajun Eggnog Daiquiri in a gigantic Styrofoam cup. Around Thanksgiving, the seasonal flavor makes its return alongside the perennial 190 Octane and technicolor Margarita. Behind the walk-up counters and inside the drive-thru joints, a teenager flips a lever and out comes your drink, smooth as a 7-Eleven Slurpee, which tastes like nutmeg in the same way that Lacroix tastes like fruit.
From-scratch eggnog—spirits, sugar, egg and cream, shaken into oblivion—is essentially ice cream base with booze. Throw that into a Daiquiri machine and, instead of a slushy drink, you get frozen-solid milkfat and a gnarly cleanup job. Bartenders wanting more nuance with their frozen nogs have to get creative.
Manolito's nuanced take on the New Orleans holiday staple.
At Gris-Gris, the Zombi Nog is spiked with a little extra bourbon and praline liqueur, and the secret ingredient—powdered soft-serve mix—plays nicely with the machine. Its name is a nod to Haitian culture, apt in a place known as the northernmost Caribbean city, and the drink is dessert-y but doesn’t smack you in the face. The Little Copa takes a lighter, brighter approach in its Copa Nog, with coconut cream, lime zest and Angostura bitters to perk up the fresh nutmeg. Founder Christy Hebert started the pop-up stand as a COVID-19 side hustle, propelled by a pipe dream to drop out of mainstream society, move to an island and serve Daiquiris from a tuk-tuk. Unlike the eggnog of her family holidays, Hebert’s is served on the rocks for fear of coconut cream gunking up her machine, but true to tradition, it makes its widely anticipated and short-lived comeback every December.
Meanwhile, tucked into a French Quarter side street, Manolito, a bar inspired by the legendary El Floridita in Havana, serves made-to-order Daiquiris from a row of blenders on a bar no longer than a Smart car. True to the ethos of El Floridita, Manolito owners Konrad Kantor, Chris Hannah and Nick Dietrich treat frozen cocktails with the same integrity as any other category of classic cocktail. Their Eggnog Daiquiri is no exception.
The secret is in the ratios. Kantor and Hannah homed in on a formula by extrapolating from Cuban classics, recruiting a small but mighty shot of Dietrich’s eggnog to pull everything into relief in much the same way lime does in a traditional frozen Floridita. As with the Cajun eggnog ritual, with this Daiquiri, says Konrad, “we’re just trying to celebrate where it came from and honor how it started.”