How to Make Eggnog from Scratch

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jenifoto/iStock via Getty Images / jenifoto/iStock via Getty Images

With its creamy texture and the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, no other drink embodies the feeling of Christmas cheer quite like eggnog. And whether you prefer to liquor up your 'nog or keep it non-alcoholic, there's a homemade eggnog recipe that has you covered.

Traditionally, making eggnog the old-fashioned way involved heavy cream, sugar, and either whiskey or sherry with nutmeg and vanilla. Modern versions yield a drink more like a sweet dessert than a cocktail. It's often served with whipped cream and has the velvety consistency of a milkshake.

Eggnog’s Mysterious Origins

There's some debate among culinary historians over where the term eggnog originated. Some say it comes from the Latin word nogare, which means "to float." Others claim it comes from a Medieval English phrase, egg-a-nog, the name of a rich, cream-colored beverage made with eggs and ale. It’s also possible that it emerged from the word noggin, a small drinking cup used as far back as the 16th century.

Eggnog’s association with Christmas seems to have taken hold when the drink became popular in the United States in the late 18th century. Allegedly, George Washington created his own special eggnog for guests at Mount Vernon.

Make Eggnog from Scratch with a Few Basic Ingredients

Sure, you could buy a carton of eggnog in the dairy section of most supermarkets, but it won't taste as fresh or give you the same pride and satisfaction as making it from scratch. To whip up an American-style eggnog, you will need eggs divided into yolks and whites, sugar, whole milk, heavy cream, bourbon, and nutmeg.

This tasty recipe, from Food Network personality Alton Brown, suggests making eggnog in two different ways: by incorporating raw egg yolks into the milk-based mixture, and by cooking the entire concoction. If you want to avoid any potential for food poisoning, cooking your ‘nog is the way to go.

It adds the extra steps of boiling the milk and other ingredients on the stove, slowly adding the beaten egg yolks in small batches to avoid curdling, and then chilling the mixture in the fridge. Either way, you’ll finish the recipe by beating the egg whites until they’re fluffy and gently folding them into the chilled ‘nog. Add the booze if desired, sprinkle with nutmeg, and serve.

Customize Your Eggnog

Now that you know how to make eggnog from scratch, you can customize it. Some people like to use plant-based milk instead of dairy cream or omit the alcohol. You may consider spiking it with sherry or whiskey for a more traditional version.

You can also flavor the eggnog with your favorite liqueur (like chocolate, coffee, or orange) and add some cinnamon sticks for a very merry garnish. If you're looking to experiment with this drink, there's really no wrong way of doing it—just remember to always keep a ratio of two or three parts cream to one part liquid, or else you'll end up with something too thin and watery.

Here are a few more recipes for homemade eggnog from around the world. Bottoms up!