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Aged Nog (Updated)

Aged eggnog is having a moment at the, uh…moment (?) leading some to surely credit a hip bartender or two with its invention. To the contrary, wizened-old nog was being imbibed, vigorously and often, by the American colonists, and maybe earlier than that.

According to Death and Co.’s Tyler Buhler, aging nog was originally just a method of preservation—a way to have eggs between laying seasons and to use up gluts when the chickens were working overtime. It wasn’t uncommon for large batches of eggnog to be laid down for months or even years!

As an added side-benefit, the aging process would mellow the eggnog and contribute a complexity that is often lacking in the fresh stuff. Many claim that aging also softens the harshness of the alcohol but this is up for debate.


Is it safe?

According to a study performed by a team of microbiologists at Rockefeller University: yes. Really safe. Safer than fresh. In honor of a deceased colleague, herself an aged eggnog enthusiasts, the researchers whipped up a batch of her special recipe—the one she had made for years just before every Thanksgiving, aged for several weeks, and then served to her coworkers around Christmas. This time, however, they spiked the batch with a large dose of Salmonella. In three weeks time the eggnog was completely sterile. The reason? Alcohol, duh. Another good argument for putting booze in and on everything.

If you’re particularly concerned though, you can use pasteurized eggs and even—as Cook’s illustrated suggests—leave out the dairy until you serve it. This ensures that the ABV of your batch is unquestionably in the range of total bacterial annihilation. This seems like overkill for us though so we’re doing neither.

Rotten Journal assumes no responsibility for stomach cramps and/or death.


Here's a recipe for the batch we mixed up earlier today. It’s now resting in the back of our fridge, waiting for xmas. We’ll flip a coin to decide who drinks first. The other of us will be sure to remove this post if they die. The following specs are for one drink. We made a double-batch but feel free to scale up as you see fit. We’ve got a small fridge and we need room for beer.

Also, consider making a little extra and having a round now while it's fresh. We certainly did.

(Not)Rotten(we hope) Aged Nog

1/2oz Cognac

1/2oz Irish whiskey

1/2oz tawny Port

1/4oz Averna

2oz half and half

1 whole egg

1-2 heaping barspoons granulated sugar

3 swipes fresh nutmeg

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of salt

Whisk together egg(s) and sugar until very smooth. Add all remaining ingredients and whip until combined and slightly aerated. Pour into a sterilized jar (make sure it’s cool to the touch). Label, date, and refrigerate. Age for at least three weeks and up to three years (we hear it starts to get weird at this point). Serve over ice. A quick turn of a whisk or a ride in a cocktail shaker probably wouldn’t hurt either. If you're making a particularly large batch don't be shy about using a blender.

Feel free to experiment with types of booze. We didn’t use rum this time around but it’s certainly a welcome replacement/addition and very traditional. If you’ve got ‘em, a little splash of fortified wine (Sherry, Port, Madeira, even sweet vermouth) and/or a rich, dark amaro (Averna, Amaro Ciociaro, Montenegro, etc.) really are a nice touch. Just make sure these have a little heft behind ‘em (e.g., a delicate fino Sherry would be wasted here) and be sure to take their sweetness into account and adjust your sugar accordingly. Also, be sure to keep an eye on alcohol content i.e., don’t replace too much full-proof spirit with low-proof fortified wine, amaro, etc.

Other than that, feel free to experiment. Let us know what you come up with (and if you survive it)!


Post-Tasting Update

We went live on Instagram on xmas day to taste our aged batch agains't some fresh stuff. We invited friends to join us so we could get a variety of opinions. Some thought the booze had mellowed, others thought it was more intense. Some thought the aged was "eggier" (myself included) while others disagreed. This result is consistent with everything we've read on the matter; aged nog is basically a Rorschach test—everyone finds a little something different in the mess. What we did all agree on was that the two batches were different. Better or worse, the aged was a little more complex, bringing some nuances to the party that you just couldn't quite put your finger on. We also agreed that the differences were subtle—maybe too subtle.

Our final conclusion is that one month is just not enough time to see worthwhile results. If we weren't leaving the country in a few weeks, we'd likely already have another batch aging. Some of our readers are doing just that, planning on six months to a year. Good luck and let us know when you crack em open.

Thanks to all who tuned in to our live tasting and especially those who aged their own batches and tasted along with us. Let's do it again next year!


For a look at last year’s eggnog and french fries Daring Pairing (including an even simpler recipe for eggnog that you can make in a McDonald’s parking lot) click here.


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