Is it worth making your own eggnog?

Illustration for article titled Is it worth making your own eggnog?
Photo: Karl Gustafson

Eggnog is one of my favorite culinary highlights of the holiday season. Thank you, good people of Dean’s Dairy, who create a lovely bottled grocery-store version I have enjoyed for many years, usually with a shot of dark rum and some grated nutmeg on top.


I had never actually made my own eggnog. But loving it like I do, I was curious as to whether the process would be worth it. I found an online recipe dubbed “Amazingly Good Eggnog” on Allrecipes that enthused, “you’ll never buy eggnog again!” Curiosity piqued, I stocked up on eggs and cream and made sure we had sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Lemme tell you about making your own eggnog: It is extremely labor-intensive! There was apparently some discussion at my workplace as to whether eggnog contained eggs: Let me assure you that it does, because I separated an entire dozen eggs for this recipe. (My husband greedily and happily grabbed all the egg whites to make consommé.) I whipped the egg yolks with sugar while heating up some milk and spices on the stove. Then I whisked all that together and was instructed to let it cool. Unfortunately, while I left it on the stove, my husband went ahead with that consommé, so when I went back to the nog, it had curdled a little. Running it through a strainer solved that particular eggnog hurdle. Then I let it cool in the fridge overnight, and brought it in to work the next day.

I was slightly disappointed in my eggnog—I thought it tasted like rice pudding. And I may have been too conditioned by grocery eggnog thickened by guar gum, which doesn’t sound all that appealing but is rich and delicious. Apparently I am in the minority, though, because my coworkers loved my homemade eggnog. Some said it reminded them of what their grandma used to make, and liked it better precisely because it lacked that artificial texture. Weirdly, there was no rum in the office—The Onion office is usually packed to the rafters with all types of alcohol—so we put some whiskey in it. I have to admit it tasted much better with the whiskey.) We also had some leftover pecan pie-flavored whiskey, which made the eggnog straight-up heavenly.

So, would I make eggnog again? Maybe. It’s a definite showstopper—the type of culinary feat that will surely impress guests. You can doctor up your homemade version with as much vanilla or cinnamon as you like (with no guar gum). There are times when I’ll be jonesing for some nog and will definitely just pick up my usual convenient bottle. But other times when I’m up for a major eggnog project, seized by the holiday spirit, I’ll just make sure that I have some whiskey at the ready.

Click here for Allrecipe’s “Amazingly Good Eggnog.”

Gwen Ihnat is the Editorial Coordinator for The A.V. Club.


Lord of the Ducks

If you’re making cooked eggnog, you need to embrace the fact it is a thin custard full of fat and booze. Use whole milk and heavy cream. Bourbon is a great choice of nog booze. If adding rum consider either spiced or coconut rum. The booze should always be to taste. I would start with a bit and add more as needed.

You can always make it a virgin eggnog and then add different liquors at the time of tasting (which sounds kinda like you did that that the office). For the holidays when people are over we will put out several bottle of booze and let people add whatever they like to their cup of nog. It can be fun to try various eggnog and liquor combos.

If you’re worried about your kids being sloshed while opening presents, you can add rum extract instead of rum. About 1tsp extract per cup booze replaced.

I would either go ahead and beat the cream (room temp) into the yolks. Then temper the yolk mixture as normal or just add it to the milk straight away.If adding it to the milk, I would bring it to just 200F and not boiling. The milk proteins will be denatured enough at that temp.

If your nog seems too thin, you can cook it longer or add more yolks or a touch of cornstarch slurry. If you add the heavy cream to the yolks, you will have a better idea of how thick the final drink will be as it cooks; stop a little shy of the thickness you want at the end. Keep in mind the booze will thin it out somewhat.

It helps to avoid curdling if you beat the eggs until light in color, then add the sugar and beat some more. Duck eggs make a great eggnog.

Use a whisk. A good whisk makes it so much easier to get everything incorporated quickly and evenly.

Cinnamon and clove are not needed. Tradition is just nutmeg. I will sometimes add nutmeg and mace. Fresh nutmeg is better if you have it. If not, even the ground stuff from the dollar store will do, though you may need to add a little more. Add the nutmeg into the yolk mixture. This will help bring out the flavor even more.

If you are bit more daring I suggest you try a raw eggnog. Alton brown’s recipe is good place to start (though no consommé for your husband as it uses the egg whites)

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown


  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 ounces bourbon
  • 1 1/4 ounces dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 egg whites


In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until the yolks lighten in color and the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon, rum, and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve.