Aged eggnog: How does it taste? | Bleader

Aged eggnog: How does it taste?

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Four-week-old eggnog
I brought some of the aged eggnog I made a month ago to a party this past weekend, and happened to be looking at friend who was sitting across the room as she took her first sip. Her eyes got wide, but I couldn't tell if she loved it or hated it. She looked back at me, and asked, "Are you trying to kill me?"

She's not a big drinker, and the eggnog was pretty boozy. I wanted to tell her that it wasn't nearly as strong as it had started out, though. The recipe I followed called for about a 1:1 ratio of alcohol to milk/cream, with a couple cups of sugar and a dozen egg yolks thrown in for good measure. I tasted the mixture immediately after making it and it was unpleasantly boozy, with a sharp alcoholic burn.

After three weeks, the eggnog had mellowed out quite a bit: it was no longer unpleasant, but still pretty intense. I tried a little of it straight—probably only an ounce or two—and enjoyed the first few sips, but after that I didn't have much desire to drink any more. It still tasted pretty boozy (though the aging had eliminated the alcoholic burn), and was incredibly rich. According to Alton Brown, eggnog is technically stirred custard—like ice cream, except with too much alcohol to freeze. And melted alcoholic ice cream, while it could be delicious, isn't something I'd want to drink a ton of.

I should mention here that I'm not a huge eggnog fan. I don't dislike it, but having it once or twice a year is generally enough for me. And I haven't had a lot of spiked eggnog; my family usually buys a half gallon of store-brand eggnog each December, consumes about a third of it (sans alcohol), and throws out the rest in January.

So why would I make my own eggnog? Well, I figured that not liking eggnog on the basis of years of store-bought nog is kind of like not liking coffee because you've only had Nescafe (or Starbucks Via packets, maybe?). Everyone says that homemade eggnog is exponentially better—so why not try it? Yeah, it's kind of a pain to make, but the benefit of aged eggnog is that after three weeks, the alcohol has killed off any salmonella that may be lurking in the raw eggs. That means that you can drink a little at a time and not worry about what might be growing in it.

Back to the eggnog I brought to the party: I'd read that you can add whipped egg whites and cream to the eggnog. I meant to add both (even though the raw egg whites sort of defeat the purpose of aging the eggnog, as far as salmonella risk goes)—but the frozen egg whites I'd reserved when making the eggnog took longer to thaw than I thought. Instead, I added about a cup of cream and a cup or two of whole milk to a quart of eggnog. It cut down on the booziness quite a bit, enough that I enjoyed it, and no one at the party (aside from my startled friend) complained that it was too strong.

The next evening, with the egg whites finally thawed, I decided to try the eggnog with whipped egg whites incorporated. I didn't go back and read the instructions, which say that you should beat them to soft peaks—so I went ahead and created stiff peaks, which made folding it into the eggnog interesting. I also added about a tablespoon of half-and-half and a good shake of cinnamon (I didn't have any nutmeg) to each glass.

It was quite a bit stronger than the previous night's version; the egg whites made it foamy and lighter, but didn't do much to tone down the alcoholic kick. As I mentioned before, the booziness wasn't unpleasant—it actually tasted pretty well-balanced—but it's an intense drink.

I've still got about a quart and a half of eggnog left, but I think I've had enough for a while. Fortunately, this eggnog is supposed to get better the longer it ages—for up to three years. I'll have to see what it's like next winter.

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Wednesdays.

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