In most cases, homemade eggnog will not be cooked or pasteurized before serving—so is it safe? Mostly. Consuming raw eggs isn’t recommended for the elderly, young children, and people with weakened immune systems. For everyone else, while there’s still a risk of foodborne illness, salmonella is actually rarer than you may think. Plus, alcohol is pretty much disinfectant (right? right???),* so if you’re adding rum you’re probably fine?**
*This writer is not a doctor and this article should not be viewed as medical advice.
**Seriously folks, I studied literature, please be careful.
Store-bought eggnog still contains eggs, but most are already pasteurized, so even the sickliest Scrooge can likely have a sip. What’s more, the FDA only requires products sold as eggnog in the US to contain a paltry minimum of 1 percent egg solid overall. To account for that significantly lower egg content, eggnog in cartons usually contains stabilizers and binders to match the texture of the homemade stuff, which some blame for an “artificial” or more processed taste.
How do you make eggnog? What kind of alcohol should I add?
“A classic eggnog is just eggs, cream, and sugar,” says H. Joseph Ehrmann, longtime bartender and proprietor of Elixir, San Francisco’s second oldest saloon, “which means [that when you add booze,] it’s essentially a flip.” For the uninitiated, flips are a category of cocktail consisting of liquor, sugar, and—most importantly—eggs, that are mixed or shaken vigorously into foamy perfection. Ehrmann’s eggnog recipe is a seasonal favorite at Elixir, where he mixes the drink with a blend of cognac and rum. From there, he likes to add a few warming holiday flavors like nutmeg and cinnamon to spice things up before serving.
If you’d like a variation on the classic cocktail, there are a few well-known options out there. You can make a Tom and Jerry, an eggnog-adjacent cocktail that’s served hot, but you should be careful when heating the drink to avoid cooking the eggs. Vegans can experiment with plant-based nogs—Ehrmann has been refining an oat-based recipe for veg-nog that he makes by blending together cashews, almond or oat milk, and whole oats. Our dairy-free Cashew Nut Nog opts for the creamy sweetness of coconut milk, although it maintains the egg whites for optimal foaminess.
Feel free to get creative with your eggnog, adding a mix of spirits (like mezcal and crème de cacao) and your choice of garnishes (like allspice or cocoa powder). Ehrmann says bourbon and brandy are both great options but he also enjoys experimenting with other liquors. “I used to do an eggnog with a little bit of sherry and a little bit of añejo tequila,” a mixture I like to call ‘Añeggnog.’ Sure, maybe it’s not traditional, but what could be more appropriate for a classic holiday cocktail than a groan-worthy dad joke?