Despite it not coming naturally to me, a person with a framed ketubah on her bedroom wall, I love Christmas with abandon — the lights, the windows, the big tree, baking all formats of gingerbread, making snowflakes, singing Santa Baby off-key while my kids cover their ears and beg me to stop. My family is used to going along with my December whims and often even enjoying them too, but my husband draws the line at eggnog; he doesn’t like it, even though he is wrong. For many years I went without — not caring for the carton stuff, too nervous to order it at a bar, and not feeling committed enough to make a whole carafe, just for me.
And then I started making small-batch ‘nog and all was right with the holidays again. A few years ago I whittled a standard eggnog recipe down to a single egg — as bakers know, about as far as any of us wish to divide anything — and then adjusted everything to taste. You whisk it up in two jars, right in the moment, because it requires no planning ahead, and it makes the perfect amount for two tumblers. Or, the perfect amount to put in a small jar and stick in a gift bag, because people who love eggnog who know people who love eggnog understand that we should not be deprived.
I’ve been meaning to write this up for a few years and the holiday week always gets away from me, but if ever there was a year when a holiday tradition, whittled down to pint size, would be needed, it’s this one. It’s wild to think that there will be a point next December when we have too much to do, too much going on, and will long, briefly, for this quieter one and I cannot wait to get there. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t struggled this year, but I feel heartened by what’s ahead for 2021 — longer days, and a bit more hope, as so wonderfully articulated by the writer Aminatou Sow in her newsletter. Merry Christmas, to those of you who celebrate, and cheers to you, for making my 2020 much brighter.
6 months ago: Pasta with Pesto Genovese
1 year ago: Unstuffed Mushroom Casserole
2 year ago: Baklava Babka
3 years ago: Dutch Apple Pie
4 years ago: Homemade Irish Cream
5 years ago: Eggnog Waffles
6 years ago: Jelly Doughnuts and Endives with Orange and Almonds
7 years ago: Linzer Torte and Breakfast Slab Pie
8 years ago: Cashew Butter Balls
9 years ago: Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
10 years ago: Iced Oatmeal Cookies and Broiled Mussels
11 years ago: Vanilla Roasted Pears and Creamed Mushrooms on Chive-Butter Toast
12 years ago: Cranberry-Vanilla Coffee Cake and Seven-Layer Cookies
13 years ago: Espresso-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies
14 years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast and Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti
- 1 large egg, ideally pasteurized [see Note]
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 6 tablespoons rum, brandy, whiskey, or a combination thereof
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 4 to 6 tablespoons milk
- 4 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- Freshly grated nutmeg
Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar to the yolk and use the same whisk to beat for a full minute, until slightly thickened and more pale in color. Whisk in the first tablespoon of rum, brandy, or whiskey, making sure it’s fully combined before adding the rest. Add vanilla and cinnamon if using, then the lower amount (4 tablespoons or 1/4 cup each) of milk and cream. Taste and add some or all of the remaining cream and milk if you wish, or more sugar.
Pour the yolk mixture into the whites and stir a few times, not fully combining the two mixtures.
Place a couple ice cubes in 8-ounce glasses and pour eggnog over. Grate fresh nutmeg on top. Any extra eggnog, unlikely as it will be, keeps in the fridge for a few days.
Cooked eggnog: In a small saucepan, whisk egg yolk with 1 tablespoon sugar until very smooth. Gradually, slowly, whisk in milk. Place saucepan on stove over medium heat and cook, stirring the whole time, until the the mixture reaches 160°F on a thermometer. Remove from heat, whisk in cream, vanilla, and cinnamon (if using) and let mixture chill completely. Once cold, whisk in brandy, rum, or whisky. Cooked eggnog will be thicker than uncooked eggnog.