In Kentucky, there’s no substitute for whiskey in your eggnog; we always make bourbon eggnog. The baking spices inherent in the spirit, the sweetness of it and it’s ability to cut through the cream to still shine through makes it a perfect match for this holiday drink.
I hated eggnog until I made it. My honey and my Mom are eggnog fiends. Every Thanksgiving they start plotting when they’ll get their first eggnog, what they’ll use to “nog” it, as we say, so about 5 years ago I decided to make some homemade eggnog for them. Even though I hated it at the time. Let me tell you, homemade eggnog is a completely different beast from store-bought. It’s creamy, it’s thick, it’s sweet and full of baking spices and a hint of spirit. It’s melted vanilla ice cream with a kick.
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We think eggnog came from a medieval British drink called a “posset” – it was a warm drink with milk, ale and spices. Sometime around the 1700s the word eggnog came into general use and referred to something closer to what we consider the drink today. It was associated with the holidays because it contained ingredients like eggs, milk and sherry – easier for the wealthy to find. So, around the holidays, to splurge or celebrate prosperity the drink would be made and shared.
There is talk that the “nog” part of the name came from the word “noggin” – a wooden cup, or a very strong beer or ale. It’s related to cocktails which contain a whole egg, the category of drinks called flips. Today’s sensibilities mean that flips aren’t as popular as they once were, but a traditional eggnog recipe, which includes eggs, cream and spirits fits into that category nicely.
My Bourbon Eggnog Recipe
Once I decided to make eggnog, I asked around for a couple of recipes and received two family recipes that were very close, except that one used the egg whites and the other just the yolks. One used brandy and Southern Comfort and the other used just bourbon. So I took some liberties with the spirits used to suit the flavors traditional to my family and added amaretto as well as bourbon. The base recipe I used is from my cousin Laura, whose eggnog recipe is award-winning. I didn’t do much to it to improve on it.
The ingredients are simple: eggs, cream, half and half, sugar, vanilla and spirits. This is not a cooked eggnog recipe. Given the amount of sugar and bourbon (and the fact that I used farm fresh eggs) the drink won’t last long enough to spoil. If you’re concerned, though, purchase pasteurized eggs to make it.
How to Make Bourbon Eggnog Like a Pro
Nothing about making eggnog is difficult if you have a stand mixer. In fact, the bulk of the time you’ll spend is letting the mixer do the work for you. First separate out the egg yolks and whites. You’ll beat the egg yolks until thick, then add in the sugar. Once you add the sugar, continue to beat until the liquid looks like a thick cake batter. Add in the vanilla and nutmeg at this point and stir until combined.
Next up, add your spirits. I use 1.5 cups of 100 proof bourbon and ¼ to ½ cup of amaretto. If your family prefers, use brandy/cognac or a combination of brandy and rum. For me, there’s no substitute for bourbon in my eggnog, but put something you love in it. In this step, I add the spirits a tablespoon or two at a time. Adding it in slowly helps it combine better.
Now the hard part. Put the eggnog into a jar and store it in the fridge for at least 24 hours to let it cure. Letting it steep for up to a week is even better. As it sits in the fridge, the bourbon works its magic with the eggs and sugar and becomes increasingly fragrant. Don’t worry, with the amount of sugar and bourbon in the mixture you’re not in danger of it going bad.
Once cured, shake up the jar vigorously and add in 3 cups of heavy cream whipped until thick, but not to soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the yolk/bourbon mixture in a large mixing bowl. Next, add 3 cups of half and half (more if you want your eggnog less thick), and fold to combine.
Taste test the eggnog, you might need to add more bourbon, but the bourbon taste expands as it sits, so I usually make mine a few days before I want to drink it so it’s got a lovely bourbon bouquet wafting off the top. I usually end up testing it the day I serve it and adding bourbon to taste.
This makes a large batch – about 2.5 liters! But it’s a great gift, and people love homemade goodies over the holidays, so keep some for yourself and give the rest away.
Other Holiday Drinks You Might Like
- Peppermint Chocolate Old Fashioned
- Chai Highball
- Warm Hearth, Warm Hands
- All Hot n Buttered Rum Cider
- Peppermint Chocolate Mocha
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You probably already have these, but you may need them, too:
- 12 egg yolks save the egg whites for sours
- 1 ¾ c sugar
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 ½ cups bourbon – 100 proof
- ¼ to ½ cup amaretto
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream whipped
- 3 cups half and half
- Optional: additional bourbon as needed to taste
- Garnish: fresh grated nutmeg cinnamon stick
- Beat egg yolks in a stand mixer for 5 minutes or until lightened a bit.
- Add in the sugar, and mix until the batter is thick – almost like a cake batter.
- Add in the vanilla and nutmeg.
- Add the bourbon and amaretto in small amounts at a time, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time.
- Transfer to a glass jar or container and refrigerate at least 24 hours. Three days to a week is even better.
- Fold in the whipped cream and half and half.
- Store in the fridge until ready to serve. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg.