Eggnog is one of the most beloved and hated beverages I know. Every time I mention it, I’m likely to get either a confused or quixotic look. The former is from cartons of eggnog with that odd almost plastic-y aroma and melted butter hue, not to mention the mouth coating texture that’s reminiscent of Kaopectate. The latter is from such and such’s grandmother’s recipe, commonly derived from that person’s heritage or familial tradition. These range from eggnog to near-versions like Coquito or Rompope, also holiday favorites in their respective countries.
My recipe is from my grandmother. Gram's recipe was not culled from family history, it came by way of a simple mistake: instead of adding one cup of “brandy or Bourbon or rum,” she added a cup of each, juxtaposing the “and” for “or” in her head. Whoops! Although Gram had seven children, so it’s very possible that her “mistake” was also to her benefit during the busy holiday season. Either way, we always had very festive Christmas’s, if anything else.
Whether intentional or not, Gram was onto something. Using a few different spirits including brandy, Bourbon and rum in the right proportions can add dimension and flavor to the nog. Some people even use Tequila or Apple Brandy with surprisingly good results. However, whatever base spirits you use, I would argue that eggnog is best with the addition of Sherry.
Firstly Sherry is peppered throughout old recipes for egg nog, so it’s not entirely a modern ingredient. Though Sherry drinks have entered the current vernacular as the trade of hipster bartenders, they’re drawn from a long past in America by way of colonists and even our first commander-in-chief, George Washington, whose recipe called for a healthy portion of Sherry. Secondly, from a flavor perspective, Sherry has exactly what it takes to enhance eggnog. Adding an oxidative style of Sherry—meaning it has additional aging in barrels, such as Amontillado, Oloroso or Palo Cortado—lends complexity to the mix with flavors of dried fruits, almonds, walnuts and even savory notes of smoke and salt.
The question of sweetness can be settled with Sherry too. Using a medium sherry, or slightly sweet Sherry, can cut the use of sugar and create a wonderful profile of dark, syrupy fruits like sweet plums. However, I warn anyone who has an old bottle of cooking Sherry or antique version of “Sherry,” meaning long over-exposed on the liquor shelf, it’s time to buy a new bottle. The words “cooking” and “Sherry” should be reserved for different paragraphs of a recipe or in relation to an action: I’m going to cook and drink Sherry.
In keeping my grandmother’s legacy alive, we serve eggnog at my dressed-up bars during Christmas—they’re decorated in holiday themes and renamed Miracle on 7th Street from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve—and serve it as a shot. The recipe has been ever-tweaked by two of our top bar guys, JP Fetherston and Paul Taylor, so it no longer resembles dear Gram’s recipe entirely. That’s OK, I believe traditions are best when they evolve. So, in keeping with that logic, let’s evolve yours—drop the cartons, use fresh eggs and add Sherry.
Below is the recipe we currently use at Miracle on 7th Street. Though I recommend using the suggested proportions, I’ll leave it to you and your family to determine just how faithful your portions and reading comprehension is. Happy Holidays!
Approximately 20 servings
· 1 cup (8 oz.) Amontillado Sherry
· 1 cup (8 oz.) Brandy
· 1 cup (8 oz.) Dark Rum
· 1 cup (8 oz.) Rich Simple Syrup
· 1 Quart (32 oz.) Heavy Cream
· 1 Quart (32 oz.) Whole Milk
· 12 Eggs Yolk
Blend egg yolks, combine ingredients and blend with immersion blender or whip with hand whisk. Serve chilled in punch bowl and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.