Although egg nog cocktails used to be somewhat of a seasonal staple in most bars around this time of year, craft cocktailing has seemed to make this tradition almost disappear entirely. The classification of egg nog cocktail just relies on booze plus nog, although the liquors paired with nog most frequently are cognac, brandy and rum. We've found two rum-based nogtails in town clinging onto this Christmas classic, while updating it with homemade egg nog, freshly ground spices and (wait for it, wait for it) bacon. While you can try them both through the end of the year, only one of these creamy concoctions will win the title of the holliest, jolliest X-mas drink.
In This Corner: The Hog Nog at District American Kitchen and Wine Bar
The Setup: With the halls of the District lightly decked in holiday gear including large trees covered in big red and gold ornaments, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas for this nogtail knockout. Our first stop in this battle is off Van Buren and Third streets in the Sheraton Hotel. District is known for erring on the odd side sometimes with their experimentation, including questionable use of cheese balls in dishes. However, the Hog Nog, a baconed-up nogtail, might just be the experiment that blows us away.
The Good: Billed on the menu as a $9 Schreiner's bacon-infused Rogue hazelnut rum with housemade cinnamon eggnog and candied bacon, we had no immediate qualms with any of the components involved. Despite being known mostly as a beer maker, Rogue puts out some quality spirits, including a pretty great gin aged in pinot barrels. Plus it's bacon-infused and not a bacon-flavored liquor, so that's also reassuring. The cinnamon egg nog is delightfully foamy and frothy with a perfectly velvety texture. Its spiced aroma and creamy sweet flavor was definitely the best part of this nogtail.
The Bad: Alright, kids, time for bed -- it's Grinch time. We were promised candied bacon and got none. We assumed there'd be bacon flavor in the Hog Nog, but tasted none. Honestly, though, we could've overlooked the lack of bacon if the cocktail was solid on its own. Unfortunately, the heavy-handed rum pour all but ruined our drink. Rarely is a strong spirit flavor an issue, especially when it's quality, but we were really hoping for balance that showcased the delicate and delicious egg nog that District made from scratch. Instead, our poor nog was entirely overpowered by its rum counterpart.
In The Other Corner: J&G Steakhouse
The Setup: Feeling like king of the mountain this Christmas? Do you want to? That view at J&G will have you feeling like a million bucks. Although the normal décor is pretty glitzy and festive, we didn't see much in the way of Christmasizing at J&G in the Phoenician Resort. That doesn't lose the cocktail battle for them, but it also doesn't help the cause.
The Good: Aside from really loving the opportunity to peer out that massive window down onto the twinkling city of Scottsdale, J&G's egg nog cocktail (which wasn't actually listed on the menu yet when we tried it out) had two elements working for it. It had homemade egg nog and booze. A small grind of nutmeg provided the flavor to this drink, which would have otherwise been completely underwhelming.
The Bad: That's right. Grinch time again. We were hoping one of these spots would be a nogtail beacon in a world where it's all but fallen to the wayside. However, J&G charged us $12 for a small glass of egg nog with (ugh) Captain Morgan spiced rum. Captain Morgan? Really? This is an opportunity to use all of that brandy on the back shelf you never touch in the summer or even grab some very en vogue Rhum Agricole. For $12, you better not give me Captain Morgan. All that aside, the drink tasted like milk mixed with rum with nutmeg on top--we're not at all impressed.
And the winner is... By default, District takes it. We prefer the consistency and flavor of their nog, along with the rum choice and lower price point, above J&G. However, the lack of bacon garnish and any noticeable bacon flavor in our "Hog Nog" was pretty disappointing. In both cases, there was little balance or finesse finding the ratio of liquor to egg nog, making all of them aggressively spirit-forward. Honestly, this might be a year to go DIY with your nogtail cravings.