Daring Pairing #1 (Xmas Edition): French Fries/Eggnog
Why we think it will work:
Branden: Salty and sweet, duh. Also starchy foods just seem to be at home with cream (e.g., mashed potatoes, rice pudding, etc.). Such a comforting drink pretty much demands some sort of comfort food. Lettuce was just not going to work here.
Lauren: It didn’t seem to be a far cry from french fries and milkshake(s), which I love. Also, fries are essentially just a vehicle for salt and grease, two things that I always crave the second I start drinking.
Our conclusion: 5/5
This was a great pairing—one that will be present on any holiday bar menu either of us have a hand in going forward. In fact, if we have our druthers, it will probably be a permanent fixture, the fries and the nog simply changing with the season. (Autumn nog is made with apple brandy and served with parsnip “fries.” Summer nog is orange-scented and made with barrel-rested gin and served alongside pub fries with—we’re getting ahead of ourselves). Anyhow, it’s pretty good.
Some Notes on Eggnog
The preponderance of commercially bottled (and cartoned?) eggnog-like products that populate the shelves of liquor stores and supermarkets this time of year is concerning, not only because prepackaged eggnog is gross, but because making it yourself is so damn easy. To illustrate this latter point, we made some nog in a parking lot, mostly using ingredients from a popular fast-food chain (who asked that we not use their name). For sake of simplicity and replicability we chose a basic, no frills, whiskey version but I strongly encourage you, when in the comfort of somewhere other than a parking lot, to expand your horizons beyond the contemporary standard. “Use your tongue and keep an open mind” is my advice for most things, but it is especially relevant here.
Cognac is nice, as is it’s less refined but more expressive brother, Armagnac. Good aged rum is excellent, usually in combination with another spirit rather than on it’s own, but certain bottlings can definitely fly solo (El Dorado 12yr comes to mind). Speaking of combination, amontillado or even cream sherry is an excellent adjunct to any of the spirits previously mentioned. As is a full-bodied Madeira or Port. If you really want to spread your wings try a good quality añejo Tequila. The strong cinnamon character of aged agave spirits lends itself beautifully to cold-weather cocktails. I’ve even had absolutely spell-binding nog made with mezcal (just be sure you like mezcal).
Once your base spirit(s) is/are decided, you can certainly make things more interesting with the (judicious) application of liqueurs and/or bitters. A little Grand Marnier—which I generally avoid—would be acceptable here (let’s say 1/4oz-1/2oz per single drink). As would Cointreau or any other quality orange liqueur. A dash of orange bitters (or, ah, pecan bitters!) wouldn’t hurt either. My personal preference however, is a nice splash of good dark amaro. Averna, China China, or Amaro CioCiaro are all excellent choices (as are many, many others). As with any ingredient, consider it in the context of the entire drink. If your additions contain a good amount of sweetness, adjust your sugar/simple syrup quantities accordingly. Experiment, but remember, less is often more. Too many ingredients, or too much of any given flavor, can leave your drink flabby and/or one-dimensional. The combination of booze, cream, sugar, and egg is pretty damn good on it’s own. Don’t f*ck it up.
Once you’ve decided on your booze, just (loosely) follow this basic recipe and all will be right with the world—i.e., you will almost certainly end up with something enjoyable if not downright addictive.
For a single drink:
2oz booze of your choice, single or in combination
2oz cream or half-and-half
3/4oz simple syrup (or two heaping bar spoons granulated sugar)
1 whole egg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker* and shake without ice (dry shake) to emulsify egg. Add ice to shaker and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is wet and cold. Strain into glass or mug. Garnish with another pinch of nutmeg. Enjoy.
For a crowd:
24oz booze (about one 750ml bottle)
1 cup granulated sugar
12 whole eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Add eggs to blender and pulse until smooth. Next add sugar and blend until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients and blend until incorporated. Cover and chill overnight. Garnish just before serving.**
Makes approximately 12 servings
The recipe we used:
Approx. 2oz good quality Bourbon (I’ll tell you the name as soon as they pay me).
2 single-serving containers of non-dairy creamer (should’ve used 4)
2 packets of sugar (should’ve used 3)
1 whole egg
Pinch of nutmeg
Add all ingredients to effete European cocktail shaker. Dry shake. Add ice stolen from soda fountain to shaker and shake until girlfriend is done taking pictures. Strain into recycled disposable coffee cup. Garnish with pinch of nutmeg. Enjoy with fries.
This parking lot recipe yielded a perfectly delightful eggnog, much better than any of that glop that comes pre-made in a bottle. If you have at least a little respect for yourself though, use the first or second recipe. If you really want to be bougie serve it in a vessel not made of paper. Whatever you do though, make sure to have it—at least once—with fries.
*or blender, hand mixer, or—in an pinch and with full understanding of the task ahead—a whisk. If a whisk is your weapon of choice make sure to properly whip the egg(s) and sugar before adding the other ingredients. In any of these cases, double the amount of cream/half-and-half to account for the lost dilution and subsequently serve over ice (a quick cool-down stir wouldn’t hurt).
**Many recipes call for separating the eggs and subsequently turning the egg whites into meringue and then folding them back in, etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah, and many other such—in this writer’s humble opinion—unnecessary steps. In my experience at least, these extra steps don’t really yield a final product that is especially better than their much less tedious kin, at least not enough to necessitate the extra effort. All that effort is what led people to buying bottled nog in the first place.