While this year’s unseasonable warmth has made it difficult to get in the holiday spirit, one thing that is sure to spark that glimmer in your eye is Eggnog. As parties become more frequent and our cocktail consumption consequently rises, eggnog is met with mixed reviews. According to a survey done by Poll Position, 44% of people are delighted by eggnog while 34% give it the thumbs down. Most of the negative energy around this delicious drink (guess which side I’m on) has to do with the main ingredient and namesake of drink – Eggs.
For those eggnog haters out there, the most commonly stated cause for dislike is the texture – fair enough, you are drinking the culinary equivalent of warm ice cream. The rest of you eggnog misanthropes pull the raw egg card. In regards to food safety, eating undercooked product is never a good idea. Uncooked eggs are especially at an increased risk of containing Salmonella or other harmful bacteria. The FDA recommends eating eggs only after they have been cooked to 160°F and accurately temped with a food thermometer. It is reasonable to be wary of eggnog, according to The National Center of Biotechnology Information there is a chance (while minimal) Salmonella from raw eggs will affect you.
"...baseline model estimates an average production of 2.3 million SE-contaminated shell eggs/year of the estimated 69 billion produced annually and predicts an average of 661,633, human illnesses per year from consumption of these eggs. The model estimates approximately 94% of these cases recover without medical care, 5% visit a physician, an additional 0.5% are hospitalized, and 0.05% result in death."
Americans are undeterred by the uncooked egg; we consume an average of 122 million pounds of Eggnog (not including the alcoholic add-ins) annually, which is roughly a half a cup of the good drink per person. It’s easy to see why the majority is crazy about the stuff; its main ingredients are cream, sugar, eggs, spices, and booze. I won’t ruin your holidays by telling you how unhealthy it is for you. But if you’re a glutton for punishment, here you go.
Whether you are team eggnog or more of a cider person, we want you to happily and harmlessly enjoy eggnog this holiday season. If you cannot resist sipping some nog, proceed safely by using the following guide.
1. Purchase Store-bought Eggnog
FDA regulation dictates that only 1% by weight of store bought eggnog needs to be composed of egg yolk solids. Hardly any risk of Salmonella, but is it even eggnog?
2. Purchase Pasteurized Eggs
Congrats, you’re a purist, cheers to you! Commercial pasteurization of eggs is a heat process at low temperatures that destroys the Salmonella that might be present. Even if you’re using pasteurized eggs for your eggnog, both the FDA and the USDA recommend starting with a cooked egg base for optimal safety.
3. Cook the Egg Base
The FDA recommends this for those at risk - children, pregnant (non-alcoholic of course), elderly, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
To make a cooked egg base:
- Combine eggs and half the milk as indicated in the recipe.
- Cook the mixture gently to an internal temperature of 160 °F, stirring constantly. The cooking will destroy Salmonella, if present. At this temperature, the mixture will firmly coat a metal spoon. Congrats, you’ve just created custard! (You can confidently confirm the temperature with a Smart Probe.)
- After cooking, chill the mixture before adding the rest of the milk and other ingredients.
4. Store the Eggnog
It takes serious self-control to not immediately consume all the freshly made eggnog. But you are actually better off waiting a while for the best tasting and safest result (Note: plan ahead). According to food science guru Alton Brown:
“As long as your brew contains at least 20% alcohol and is stored below 40°F for at least a month, any microbial nasties that might haunt your innards should be nice and dead. After nog spends six months to a year in the fridge, a curious chemical collusion takes place as egg proteins, alcohol, and milk sugars slowly join forces. The resulting elixir tastes not of eggs, milk, sugar, or booze but simply of eggnog.”
Wes Shonk, spirits and cocktail expert and educator at Whiskey with Wes, shares his best homemade eggnog recipe (trust us, it’s delicious). Remember it is safer practice to cook the egg yolk portion as stated above, but not always standard practice.
HOMEMADE EGG NOG [Serves 10]
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 6 oz Bourbon
- 3 oz Spiced Rum
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Separate egg white and yolks into separate bowls. Be careful not to get any yolks in with the whites.
- Whip egg whites into medium-stiff meringue.
- In a separate bowl, combine the yolks, milk, sugar, cream, bourbon, rum, and vanilla. Stir to thoroughly combine. (Follow steps for cooking the egg base first then proceed adding the rest of ingredients.)
- Add egg yolk mixture to punch bowl and gently fold in the whipped egg whites.
- Garnish with shaved nutmeg and serve.
Imbibe safely and enjoy your holiday season!