Classic Eggnog Recipe

Whipped egg whites lighten up this classic, but don't make it any less rich.

Two coupe glasses of creamy eggnog, garnished with freshly grated nutmeg.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Whipping egg whites into a meringue makes for an extra-light and frothy eggnog.
  • Beating the yolks until they're ribbony ensures that they fold smoothly into the whipped whites, resulting in smoother eggnog.

I’m not a festive person, but I love the holidays for the simple fact that I can shamelessly drink mugfuls of what's essentially the equivalent of melted ice cream. I’m talking, of course, about eggnog. The best eggnog is creamy and frothy, and should give you a swift kick in the pants from a generous splash of booze.

Around the holidays, the dairy aisle in your local supermarket is probably locked and loaded with a whole array of premixed eggnogs, from dairy-free almond-milk-based concoctions to pumpkin-spiced potions. But most store-bought versions can’t hold a candle to the stuff you can make at home. Luckily, homemade eggnog is only five ingredients away, and the simple base can be customized any way you choose.

Here are two methods for making your own delicious version of this holiday classic.

Rich and Frothy Eggnog

If you want to make a large batch of eggnog that has a foamy head and lighter mouthfeel, then reach for your stand mixer, hand mixer, or even an immersion blender. This eggnog is made especially frothy and light with whipped egg whites and thick, ribbon-y yolks.

I start by separating the eggs and placing the whites in the bowl of my mixer. (You can also do this by hand with a whisk, a bowl, and some elbow grease—it will take longer, but there will be eggnog to quench your thirst after you’ve worked up a sweat.) I whisk the whites until they’re frothy before slowly adding sugar, continuing to whip them until they're thick enough to form soft peaks. Then, I transfer the meringue to another bowl and set aside.

Next, I place the egg yolks in the original bowl, along with additional sugar, and beat the yolks until they’re thick and pale before pouring in the milk, cream, and alcohol. Rum or brandy is a traditional addition to eggnog, but whiskey also works, and a splash of allspice dram adds some spicy bite. A few dashes of Angostura bitters can help balance the sweetness of the sugar and the heat of the alcohol.

Once everything is whisked together, I gently fold in the whipped egg whites to lighten up the mix. You can serve the eggnog right away, or age it in the refrigerator for months; as it ages, new and complex flavors will develop, which some people find especially delicious. (Kenji taste-tested eggnog that had been aged for one year to see if it was all it was cracked up to be—you can read all about his findings.) If you don’t serve the eggnog right away, much of the lighter egg white foam will rise to the top over time—just be sure to give it a good shake or stir to redistribute the froth. I like to garnish each glass with freshly grated nutmeg just before serving.

If you’re worried about consuming raw eggs, research has shown that as long as the eggnog contains at least 20% alcohol, the mix will become sterile after 24 hours. But if you’d rather avoid any risk, or if you prefer to leave your eggnog un-spiked, you can also either use pasteurized eggs or cook the egg and sugar mixture over a water bath.

To do this, combine the whole eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and warm them over gently simmering water, stirring constantly with a flexible rubber spatula. Once the mixture reaches 155°F (68°C), return the bowl to the stand mixer, and whip until it’s thick and fluffy before adding the milk, cream, and alcohol. Cooking the eggs denatures their proteins, allowing them to whip readily without being separated, so this method is just as quick and easy as making a raw eggnog. The texture will be every bit as light, but the nog will have more of the deep flavors of a custard.

Overhead view of two goblets of eggnog, garnished with fresh nutmeg.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Smooth and Creamy Eggnog

If you don’t care much for fluff, or need a drink for one (don’t worry, we’ve all been there), this cocktail-shaker method is an easy way to make single-serving batches of velvety eggnog.

In a cocktail shaker, I combine two eggs with milk, cream, sugar, and alcohol before giving it all a dry shake. A dry shake is the process of shaking a drink without ice; most cocktails containing egg or cream get a dry shake before they’re shaken with ice (or sometimes after, depending on the bartender) to ensure that all the ingredients are thoroughly emulsified. After giving it a good shake, you can strain and serve right away, or shake it again with ice if you prefer your eggnog extra chilled.

If you want to break from tradition, we’ve got enough variations on the drink—including coconut eggnog, Nutella eggnog, and maple bourbon eggnog—to keep you tipsy through all 12 days of Christmas. All that cream and sugar might put some winter weight on you, but don’t worry—that’s what ugly holiday sweaters are for.

1:59

How to Make Rich and Frothy Eggnog

December 2011

This recipe's headnote was written by Sohla El-Waylly, while the recipe was written by J. Kenji López-Alt.

Recipe Facts

4.3

(4)

Active: 10 mins
Total: 10 mins
Serves: 12 to 16 servings

Rate & Comment

Ingredients

  • 8 eggs, separated

  • 2/3 cup sugar (5 ounces; 140g), divided

  • 3 cups (700ml) whole milk

  • 2 cups (475ml) heavy cream

  • 2 cups (475ml) dark rum, brandy, or a mix

  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish

Directions

  1. For Basic Shaken Eggnog: In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 eggs, 2 1/2 tablespoons (37g) sugar, 3/4 cup (180ml) milk, 1/2 cup (120ml) cream, and 1/2 cup (120ml) rum, brandy, or a mix of the two. Shake vigorously until homogeneous and frothy. Strain into 3 to 4 goblets and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Repeat process with remaining ingredients for further batches.

  2. For Extra-Light and Foamy Eggnog: Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on low speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric mixer or hand blender in a large bowl.) Increase speed to medium-high and, watching carefully, beat until egg whites are about the consistency of shaving cream, about 90 seconds. Reduce speed to medium. With mixer running, add half of sugar and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Transfer whites to a large bowl. Do not wash mixer bowl.

  3. Add egg yolks and remaining sugar to now-empty mixer bowl and beat at medium-high speed until pale yellow and ribbony, shutting off machine and scraping down sides with a rubber spatula as necessary, about 2 minutes total. Add milk, cream, and alcohol and mix on low speed to combine.

  4. Using a rubber spatula or handheld whisk, fold whipped whites into egg yolk/milk mixture until completely incorporated. Serve by ladling into goblets and garnishing with grated nutmeg.

Special Equipment

Cocktail shaker, stand mixer

Notes

Eggnog can also be aged in the refrigerator indefinitely. Transfer to a sealed container and place in the refrigerator. It will gain complexity with time, though it may also get harsher. Blend aged eggnog with fresh eggnog to tame the harsh edge while retaining the complexity.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
250 Calories
15g Fat
12g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12 to 16
Amount per serving
Calories 250
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 9g 43%
Cholesterol 131mg 44%
Sodium 64mg 3%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 12g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 86mg 7%
Iron 0mg 3%
Potassium 124mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)