There's a Nog for Everyone
Made with cookie-adjacent spices and lots of booze, eggnog seems like a surefire hit. And yet, the drink arouses complicated feelings. A Vox writer recently called eggnog “the holiday season’s most divisive drink,” and an article in Food & Wine reads, “The world can be divided into two types of people: those who love eggnog and those who think it’s gross.”
No matter which camp you typically align with, we at Wine Enthusiast believe there’s a nog for everyone. It’s an infinitely customizable canvas. You can spike it with white rum or spicy rye. You don’t need to use cream or even eggs.
Some of our favorite ways to toast the season are below. Here’s to happy, harmonious holidays!
Jump straight to a recipe
As with much of history in cultures that pass down traditions orally, it’s hard to track down the origins of coquito, Puerto Rico’s rum punch that’s served during the holidays.
The most common story goes that the first coquito was created with pitorro, a moonshine rum made from sugarcane and buried underground to ferment. You would combine that with fresh coconut water and, later, grated coconut. You might also customize your pitorro with tropical fruits. (My grandmother used tamarind.)
Today, the silky libation is embedded in the holiday repertoire of Puerto Rican families. Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and cloves are common. Some use eggs when making coquito, while others would never do so.
If you want to go super old-school with your coquito, you might stick a piece of cheese, typically Edam, or what locals call queso de bola, in the finished bottle. The rum infuses into the cheese, which you can remove and serve, maybe on crackers, when it’s time to drink your coquito.
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut
- 1 (14-ounce) can condensed milk
- 2 cups rum
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground clove
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- Scant amount of salt
In blender, combine all ingredients. Blend on high until well combined. Pour over ice and serve. To store, pour into a two-quart bottle or mason jar. Refrigerated in an airtight container, coquito will last for up to 4 months. Shake well before serving. Serves 6–8.
Eggnog is a classic holiday tradition, made in many ways across the world. But sometimes, cold weather calls for a hot cocktail to warm us from the inside. We decided to see if we could serve this classic egg, cream and vanilla cocktail warmed, to make a beverage that would truly fit the season.
It turns out, “hot eggnog” is surprisingly close to the medieval recipe the cocktail is said to have originated from: a warm British milk punch known as posset, popularized in the early Middle Ages. Wine or ale was added to hot milk, which caused it to curdle, after which sugar, spices and other flavoring ingredients were added. As with many cocktails, this drink was used originally as a remedy for ailments from insomnia to the common cold. At a time when foods like milk and eggs were in tight supply for peasants, the drink tended to be a luxury, popular among the upper classes of British society.
By the time of America’s independence from Britain, the drink had caught on in the United States. George Washington himself penned a favorite recipe that called for the use of brandy, rye whiskey, Jamaican rum and Sherry. In December of 1826, an incident among cadets at West Point became known as the Eggnog Riot, after alcohol-fueled violence involving the drink resulted in 20 men being court-martialed.
Rather than simply heating refrigerated eggnog, this hot eggnog recipe is much like a base for ice cream, just without freezing it. The technique creates something akin to a crème anglaise, or classic vanilla custard sauce. The trick is to incorporate the warm milk with the eggs slowly and carefully to allow the ingredients to combine, while not to cooking the yolks.
Follow this recipe, and we promise you’ll have a delicious winter warmer to keep you cozy all season long.
- 2 eggs
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pint whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup brandy, Bourbon, rum or Sherry
Separate egg whites and yolk, and reserve. Place yolks in mixing bowl, and whisk until light and smooth. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, and beat yolks again until well incorporated. Set aside.
In separate bowl, add egg whites and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk until peaks form. Set aside.
In small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine milk, vanilla, nutmeg and salt. Stir in zig-zag fashion until steam begins to rise and small bubbles appear. Remove from heat.
Pour warm milk mixture into beaten egg yolks slowly, and stir constantly to not cook eggs. Add brandy or desired spirit, and continue to stir. Fold egg white mixture into nog. Ladle into 2 mugs. Top with fresh grated nutmeg for garnish. Serves 2.
Whether you’re a vegan, or simply want to cut back on something (anything) this holiday season, this creamy, coconutty nog is an egg- and dairy-free alternative to classic eggnog recipes.
It’s remarkably versatile, too. Swap or add in other warming spices, like allspice, cardamom, or mace. If coconut milk is too expensive or not available at your local supermarket, this will still make a lovely nog with soy or almond milk.
This version gets most of its sweetness from medjool dates, which add body as well as approximately 16 grams of sugar apiece. If you prefer your nog sweeter, add a teaspoon or two of agave nectar or honey with the dates.
Of course, some vegans don’t eat honey. Be sure to ask about your guests’ dietary restrictions before you serve this, or any beverage, to a crowd.
- ½ cup cashews
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 5 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped roughly
- 1½ ounces Bourbon
In large bowl, combine cashews and milks. Cover bowl and let soak at least 1 hour at room temperature, or up to 12 hours in refrigerator. Transfer nuts and milks into blender or food processor. Add remaining ingredients. Blend until nuts are fully integrated. If mixture looks chalky, add room-temperature water to blender in ½-teaspoon intervals. Pour into glassware and serve. Serves 2.
Classic Eggnog Recipe Courtesy Frank Caiafa, author, The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book
While eggnog seems synonymous with Christmas, the creamy, fortifying drink came into its own as a holiday specialty in the late 1800s, says New York City bartender Frank Caiafa. He managed the bar program at Peacock Alley in New York City’s venerable Waldorf-Astoria hotel, from 2005 until the hotel’s closing earlier this year.
Caiafa dove deep into the Waldorf’s cocktail archives for The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, which has numerous variations that include warm, cold and nonalcoholic varieties.
Despite the historic hotel shutting down, Caiafa hopes its recipes will live on. Here, he shows you how to make his classic eggnog recipe at home. It encourages customization, as you substitute spirits on hand or preferred flavorings.
Here’s how to riff on the classic eggnog, based on Caiafa’s considerable research.
Select the spirit: Cognac, Bourbon or rum (including spiced rum) work well. Caiafa prefers overproof Cognacs and higher-proof whiskeys, something “both sweet and strong enough to retain its identity.” Rye whiskey works as well. Having trouble deciding? Split the base, using half-rum, half-brandy.
Milk or cream? “I prefer cream for its richness, but if you’re planning on enjoying more than one, half-and-half works well enough,” he says. While many older recipes call for milk, Caiafa says that it can make eggnog a bit too thin.
Fortified wines add complexity. Swap an ounce of your chosen liquor for an ounce of Port (this works especially well with rum or brandy) or Madeira (mixed with rum, this variation makes the historic Baltimore Eggnog).
- 1 egg
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 2 ounces Cognac, rum or Bourbon
- 1 ounce heavy cream
- 2 drops pure vanilla extract (optional)
Crack egg into mixing glass. Add syrup and shake without ice for 5 seconds. Add remaining ingredients with ice. Shake well for at least 10 seconds. Fine-strain into small wine glass or chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with fresh-grated nutmeg.
- 1Coquito Recipe
- 2Hot Eggnog Recipe
- 3Vegan Nog Recipe
- 4A From-Scratch, Classic Eggnog Recipe and How to Jazz it Up