National Eggnog Day (or, as some people like to call it, Christmas Eve) is right around the corner, and we're smack in the middle of December, AKA National Eggnog Month. How did a drink made with eggs get to be the most ubiquitous holiday cocktail around?
If you ask Richie Moe, bar manager at Citizen Public House, it might be eggnog's ability to transport you to Christmastime. "Whether in Chicago, New York, Phoenix or Alaska, no matter what time of year it is, I feel like if I'm drinking eggnog, it's cold outside," he says. "I think I'm the one maniac who would actually make eggnog in the middle of summertime here. It's like that scene with Ron Burgundy: "Milk was a bad choice! It's so hot outside!"
A "seasoned eggnog professional," Moe's been doing eggnog as an alcoholic beverage -- in Phoenix! -- for more than a decade. Below, he offers some helpful tips to get you nogged up this holiday season.
1. Raw-nogging: There are two general families of eggnog: cooked and uncooked. Uncooked nogs are exactly what they sound like -- raw, beaten eggs swirled with booze and spices. "It's like the theory of the protein in the morning, Rocky-style," Moe says.
Most people are much more comfortable with cooked eggnogs, and you generally get way more flavor and a little bit more body. "Cooked eggnog can give you that badass, cookie dough, cake batter kind of consistency," he says.
2. The eggs: "You usually start with an even amount of egg whites and egg yolks," Moe says. "I'll add a few more yolks, because that's where most of the flavor comes from. I usually go two parts egg yolk to one part egg white, measured in actual number of eggs."
3. Temperature is key: "The trick to eggnog is cooking it to exactly 160 degrees," Moe says. "That's the point at which you'll kill all the bacteria in there, but you won't cause the eggs to cook too much and start to coagulate. I literally keep a thermometer in there and just watch it meticulously while I stir. As soon as it gets to 161, shut it off. " But don't get the temperature up there too quickly -- cooking eggnog is like cooking barbecue: low and slow is best. Moe says he might stir the eggs for 45 minutes to an hour. "It's very intense and time-consuming," he says. "It's a commitment." But the end result is so worth it.
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4. Spice is nice: While the nog is still hot, you want to incorporate your spices. Adding the spices while the mixture's still hot will allow it to slightly cook the spices, drawing out their flavor. Also, you want to go fresh-ground. "I hate using pre-ground nutmeg," Moe says. "Nutmeg's one of those spices that, if you don't do it fresh, people can tell the difference."
5. Use the right booze: Though Moe's done it all -- egg liqueur eggnog, aromatic eggnog, kick-you-in-the-seat bourbon eggnog, walnut-infused eggnog, gin-based eggnog -- he says the best liquor for the drink will come from a barrel. "All those deep flavors of the barrel tend to meld well with the spices and eggs," he says. But once you get the right stuff, you can't just pour it in. Alcohol tends to curdle eggs and cream, so Moe will take the booze and mix it with some Verpoorten egg liqueur before adding it to the eggs.
Check back tomorrow for one of Moe's recipes.