This holiday season, while most people relaxed and enjoyed themselves, I was hard at work perfecting what will years from now be looked back on as the perfect Christmas drink repertoire. The way I see it, every self-respecting drinker needs five go-to libations to get them through the five drinking stages of Christmas: (1) pre-Christmas; (2) Christmas Eve Dinner; (3) Christmas Eve After-Dinner; (4) Christmas Morning; (5) Christmas After-Dinner. Serve a little wine with Christmas dinner and this collection of seasonal drinks will guide you smoothly through next year’s “most wonderful time of the year.” So without further ado, I give you the perfect pre-Christmas drink . . .
Stage 1: Pre-Christmas – Rye Egg Nog
Growing up all I knew of egg nog was the rich, syrupy sweet store-bought stuff that always arrived in our house around the holidays. It wasn’t until last year that I discovered the homemade stuff, and now I can’t imagine ever buying another carton. Not only is homemade egg nog delicious, it’s a lot of fun to make, especially when you factor in the anticipation of having to let it age for three weeks. Making a big batch around Thanksgiving and giving it a few weeks mature ensures that you have an easy crowd-pleaser on hand for unexpected guests. It also does the trick to wash away those long stressful days of last minute shopping, or as a boozy treat to help get you in the holiday spirit.
Rye Egg Nog (adapted from CHOW, makes about 1 gallon)
12 large eggs (read this to allay concerns about using raw eggs)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups whole milk
4 cups Old Overholt rye whiskey
1/2 cup Myer’s dark rum
1 cup Korbel XS Brandy
Pinch of kosher salt
Whole or ground nutmeg (for garnish)
1. Separate egg yolks and whites. Combine yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk until blended and creamy.
2. Add cream, milk, rye, rum, brandy and salt, then stir
3. Bottle and refrigerate immediately for a minimum of 3 weeks to allow egg nog to age.
I love the spicy bite that using a rye brings to the drink, but if you are looking for something a little sweeter, bourbon will also work well here. I’ve made this with regular Korbel brandy and with the XS, and I prefer the XS for its sweetness. Plus, Korbel is a surprisingly nice bottle for the price. That being said, any quality brandy or cognac will work, and it would be interesting to experiment with some different combinations.
There are plenty of egg nog recipes out there, but the magic of this particular one is the aging. Beware, when you first prepare this and put it in the canister it will taste and smell like pure gasoline – practically unpalatable, all booze, no nuance. But somehow by sitting for three weeks it emerges as a much softer, sweeter, and rounder drink. The boozy flavors are certainly still there (I can attest that a glass of this packs a punch) but without the harshness or burn you would expect from a drink with this much liquor. I like to think of the aging process as rounding out the edges. And while three weeks in the minimum time to age before serving, some suggest aging for 6 months or even a year for maximum effect. Needless to say, this egg nog will keep for a good amount of time, I’m just not sure I’m willing to wait that long.
The egg nog can be served a number of ways. This year we ladled ours into Irish Coffee glasses with some homemade whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg. The nog also does great on the rocks, but always with a good dusting of nutmeg. And for those of you really trying to ramp up the presentation, whip up 10 egg whites and 1 1/2 cups heavy cream to soft peaks and fold them into the eggnog, topped with nutmeg. Enjoy!
Watch for the How to Drink: A (Holiday) Instruction Manual part 2 featuring the perfect Christmas Eve Dinner libation – The Pomegranate Bourbon Cocktail!