Merle’s Famous Eggnog — It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

By many accounts, I make an amazing eggnog. People who resolutely do not like eggnog, or even eggs, love my eggnog. I made my first serious party batch one Thanksgiving in college when several of us stayed at school and made our own holiday meal. Okay, that was a pretty non-discriminating test group. It’s free and it has booze? We love it! But over the years, I have also refined the ingredients and the technique. The recipe that follows makes, if not the best eggnog, then certainly one that ranks pretty high, if I do say so myself.

Holiday Eggnog

makes about one gallon

1 dozen eggs
2-1/2 quarts half & half
1/2 c sugar
3 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp mace
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c bourbon
1/4 c dark rum
1/4 c light rum
1/4 c brandy
1/8 c peach brandy
1/8 c apricot brandy

Strainer, empty bottle and hand mixer.
You will also need at least one gallon capacity in bottles or jars with tight fitting caps, large mixing bowl, mixer, mesh strainer, funnel, spatula, possibly another pair of hands (sorry, a third hand won’t work for this), room in your refrigerator.

Make the Eggnog

Use jumbo eggs when making Merle's famous eggnog.
Into a large bowl or pot (about 6-quart capacity), break eggs, being careful to remove any shell that might fall into your container.

Cream needed for Merle's famous eggnog.
Add sugar, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg.

Mix really well. Make sure the sugar is completely dissolved (trust me on this one), especially if you’re using a hand rather than an electric mixer.

The liquor assortment needed for Merle's famous eggnog.
Add in bourbon, rum, brandy.

Mix again. Tip your container to one side a bit and drag a spoon along the bottom to make sure there is no undissolved sugar. Mix more if necessary.

Taste, of course.

Store the Eggnog for Aging

Place the funnel into one bottle, and lay the strainer into/onto the funnel.

Stir the eggnog again because the spices tend to settle or float but do not stay nicely dispersed.

Carefully, with someone holding the strainer/funnel/bottle if possible, pour eggnog into bottle until close to full. Remove funnel and strainer, put cap on tightly, and set aside. Repeat until you have stored all the eggnog in tightly capped bottles or jars.

Refrigerate. I like to store mine for about 2 weeks before serving, but even overnight makes it much smoother. I think 3 days is really the minimum. I find that it keeps for well over a month. Shake every day or so to keep the spices from settling onto the sides of the bottle.


Merle's famous eggnog - make some for yourself.
Pour into glasses and dust with a little freshly grated nutmeg, and serve.

Tips, Notes & Anecdotes
  • Egg size. I use jumbos, and non-egg likers still like the eggnog. Smaller eggs will not only make it less eggy, but more alcoholic.
  • N/A nog. You can reserve a portion of the eggnog before adding any of the liquor to make a non-alcoholic version, but it will not hold up nearly as long. If you are aging the alcoholic eggnog and want some without alcohol, too, best to make a separate n/a batch that day or the day before.
  • Rum specs. I prefer mostly dark rum with a little light rum, but you can use just one type or any proportions.
  • Fruit brandy specs. The fruit brandies really help make the eggnog smooth. If you prefer to use just one fruit brandy, use peach. The fruit brandies are very sweet: if you use less or more than 1/2 c, vary the amount of sugar accordingly or to taste. I’ve reduced the sugar in this recipe from a standard of 1 tablespoon per egg to accommodate the fruit brandy.
  • You don’t have all that booze on hand? If you prefer not to invest in this wide a variety of liquors, the eggnog is still very good with just 1 c bourbon, 1/2 c rum, and 1/2 c peach brandy. I shoot for a total of 2 cups of liquor for a dozen eggs with 2-1/2 quarts of half and half, which is pretty festive despite what my sister-in-law says. If you’re making eggnog for her, shoot for 2-1/2 cups liquor.

Merle's famous eggnog - make some for yourself.

  • Breakfast nog. Some people, like my sister-in-law, like to use the eggnog instead of cream and sugar in their morning coffee. The other people are her daughter and son-in-law. In fairness, this is a mild eggnog. Many recipes call for 4-6 cups of liquor for a dozen eggs, but after one party I decided less was more, considering what else everyone was consuming at the time. You can always make it stronger.
  • Strain out the egg ickies. The reason for straining the eggnog is to remove any distinguishable bits of egg white. You can definitely dissolve the sugar thoroughly, and beat up the yolks fully, but it’s almost impossible to get every last bit of egg white completely blended in. You will lose a little spice doing this, especially if you grate your own nutmeg, but it’s worth it. If you don’t strain, the non-egg people will not be happy, for sure.

Have a large bowl and spatula on hand when making Merle's famous eggnog.

  • Where the heck is my 6-quart bowl? I used to have a plastic one but it disappeared years ago, so now I use a large stock pot, which leaves plenty of room at the top to help minimize spillage.

stock pot for making Merle's famous eggnog

Pour from a 6-quart bowl without spilling.
  • Hold strainer and use a deep one. Besides getting someone to hold your strainer-in-funnel-in-bottle tower, try to find a strainer that will nest into your funnel pretty deeply. In any case, keep a finger (anyone’s finger) on the strainer so it doesn’t tip while you pour.
  • Bottle in sink. It’s also a good idea to put that whole tower into the sink when you’re pouring (again, trust me). When a plastic bottle is empty, it’s very light and can easily tip as you start to pour. Glass is heavier, but since sinks are not perfectly level, a glass bottle can tip there, too.

A liquor bottle almost fits snugly into the circular opening of my sink rack, so when I use an empty bourbon, rum, or brandy bottle, I put a dishrag beneath it to help keep it in place. If you have a way of wedging the bottle from the sides, that can help, too. These days I use two empty 2-liter plastic seltzer bottles, which I snug up between a sink wall and the sink rack. I stack whatever works in the adjacent sink so I can rest the strainer handle on that to help keep the strainer level.

Except for last year (let’s not go there), I’ve been pretty successful for decades at not spilling this way. And of course anything you do spill spills into the sink.

  • Air out containers. Unless you happen to empty one of your ingredient bottles while making the eggnog or are using an unflavored water bottle, be sure that whatever bottle and cap you use have been thoroughly rinsed and aired out. You don’t want your eggnog tasting like, say, vinegar or soap.
  • Be responsible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using pasteurized eggs for any food or beverage using raw eggs. Always drink in moderation and drive sober.

Cheers, and happy holidays to you and yours!

Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

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