A From-Scratch, Classic Eggnog Recipe and How to Jazz it Up

Get a classic eggnog recipe from New York City's historic Waldorf-Astoria hotel bar. Find out how a few simple ingredient tweaks can transform its flavor.
Photo by Meg Baggott / Styling by Dylan Garret

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.

Optional additions:

Vanilla extract brings luxurious flavor, according to Caiafa.

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).

Add chilled coffee or cold-brew coffee for a creamy nog that channels a mocha latte vibe. Garnish with nutmeg or dark chocolate shavings.

Ingredients
  • 1 egg
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces Cognac, rum or Bourbon
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 2 drops pure vanilla extract (optional)
Directions

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.

Published on December 13, 2017
About the Author
Kara Newman 
Spirits Editor

Kara Newman reviews spirits and writes about spirits and cocktail trends for Wine Enthusiast. She's the author of several cocktail books, including Shake.Stir.Sip. and NIGHTCAP: More than 40 Cocktails to Close Out Any Evening, which debuts in September 2018. Email: spirits@wineenthusiast.net



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