“It is too bad that eggnog is associated almost solely with a kitchenful of women armed with egg beaters at Christmastime,” laments S.S. Field in the 1953 American Drink Book. Indeed, the rich mixture of eggs, cream (or milk), spirits and sugar, while a natural fit for the decadence of the holiday season, deserves to be drunk more than once a year. And today’s renditions, with their unexpected twists, demand just that.
A number of bartenders continue to prove that eggnog is, happily, something of a blank slate when it comes to flavor; simple additions, like amari and other liqueurs, can add complexity and depth to the often one-note drink. In Benjamin Smith’s Sleepwalker, for example, a measure of Averna adds a balancing, bittersweet caramel note to the velvety base of chamomile-infused whiskey, whey, honey and eggs, while coffee and coconut liqueur cut through the rich foundation of Frank Caiafa’s Sabbath Calm.
Swapping the base altogether, from the traditional rum and Madeira, to say, tequila, can similarly transform the cocktail. In Jeff Morgenthaler’s Clyde Common Eggnog, for example, añejo tequila and amontillado sherry provide a boozy backbone to the perennial Portland favorite. Likewise, at Brooklyn’s Leyenda, the Coquito Ho Ho—a nod toward, Coquito, Puerto Rico’s coconut-inflected take on the drink—relies on tequila and sherry, this time nutty oloroso, for a hearty winter cocktail by way of the Caribbean.
Other modern renditions are unafraid to double down on the inherent indulgence of the original. To the standard eggnog fare, Clover Club’s Tom Macy adds two classic, cold-weather liqueurs—crème de cacao and crème de menthe—then tops it all with freshly grated nutmeg and peppermint bark for one of the most unabashedly festive recipes out there.
Recognizing the over-the-top nature of the result, Macy admits, “This would be the dumbest drink ever—if it weren’t so damn good.”
Five New-School Nogs