When it comes to holiday cocktails, serving a traditional, cold glass of eggnog is a given.
But at Valentine, that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t supposed to be, anyway.
Proprietor Blaise Faber developed a recipe for the booze and dairy-laden concoction back in his Pizzeria Bianco days, when his cocktails crafted from homemade ingredients tied patrons over while they waited for those famous pies. He moved over to Bianco’s sister restaurant Tratto and regulars requested the eggnog, so he started making it there.
When Faber opened Valentine, the Melrose District eatery lauded for its southwest-driven dishes and cocktails that was named by Esquire among the best in the nation, he didn’t plan on offering eggnog.
But Faber’s seasonal libation developed a following that was persuasive.
“They’d ask, ‘When are you putting on the eggnog?’ And it’s like September or October,” Faber says. “We never intended to put it on here but it was such a popular draw for people.”
The eggnog is made once a week in a 12-quart batch, which amounts to 55 to 60 servings. It’s bottled and kept refrigerated. The large volume of alcohol makes it stable enough to last for weeks if not months. Not that it stays around for that long. The restaurant usually goes through the stash in the five days it’s open during the week.
Once all the ingredients are lined up, the actual process of making the eggnog takes about 45 minutes. Because it requires the whipping of eggs, cream, alcohol, and sugar that need to be thoroughly combined, it is best done big batch-style versus in single servings, Faber explains.
Next, Dunnigan strained the mixture through a double sieve to catch any lumps of residual sugar and bits of the cream’s fat cap, yielding a creamy concoction ready to be served with a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg per order.
The recipe list is 12 items long and boasts five different spirits including Mexican whisky and rum, Italian brandy and two of Faber’s personal favorites: Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth and Marco de Bartoli Sweet Marsala.
These two ingredients also reflect Faber's personal affinity for vermouth and sweet wines, which influenced his passion for cocktail making. Faber uses them to replace most of the processed sugars that traditional eggnog calls for.
“If it has to have some sweetness, I prefer to give it that decadence. I would like it to be something more natural and residual grape sugar is a great way to do that,” Faber says.
Ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, agave syrup, and homemade vanilla extract made by soaking Mexican vanilla bean pods in bourbon join the party. There’s also mesquite powder and Piloncillo, an unrefined whole cane sugar from Mexico that has a caramel taste comparable to dark brown sugar or molasses. Heavy cream from Superstition Farms and eggs from Two Wash Ranch bring home the luxe creaminess and local flavor.
The result is a luxurious, very grown-up, ultra-smooth, and creamy interpretation of a holiday classic. Despite all the alcohol that goes into making it, the eggnog lacks the bite or sting of a too-strong cocktail. It also hits all the key elements of vanilla and warming spices with delicate execution. In other words, it's the modern upgrade classic eggnog was waiting for.
“We do our best little spin on it that we can,” Faber says.
Valentine4130 North Seventh Avenue