Aged Holiday Cocktails: from the Old World and the New
BY AMY PENNINGTON
ast year, I spent the holiday season in Scotland and Copenhagen and I sorely missed the festivities at home. While the origin of eggnog can be debated, there is no denying it has come to symbolize American holiday traditions. I thought it would be jolly good of me to introduce friends to some of my time-honored holiday treats. The Scots were dubious.
Eggnog is made with eggs, sugar, spirits, and milk or cream (or both). In a typical iteration, eggs are blended with sugar and booze creating a thick and sweet beverage, not unlike Baileys. From there, portions of milk and cream are added before serving. Some recipes call for whipped cream, while others fold in whipped egg whites. I took another route entirely and went for an aged eggnog recipe.
Alcohol is a natural preservative, killing off bacteria. I had heard of aged eggnog before—the process seemed so much easier than the last minute preparation required with other recipes. With aged eggnog, eggs and spirits (like rum, brandy, cognac, whisky, or bourbon) are blended and mixed with sugar, the alcohol killing any potential of bacteria from the raw eggs over the course of time. (In fact, some think aged eggnog is safer to drink.)
The real benefit to aging the eggnog, however, can be tasted with each sip. More nuanced then just-made “nog,” aging mellows the boozy nose of this super spiked beverage and makes for a harmonious, blended flavor. Smoother-tasting than fresh eggnog, aging the drink also turns the consistency thin, a nice break from the thick and cloying versions we’ve all come to expect from the store.
To serve, you can fold in whipped cream, if you’re a frothy eggnog lover; just as you can use reduced fat milk if you prefer a lighter version. I add toasted star anise to the jar a few days before I plan to serve it—the warming spices embody all that is symbolic of the holidays in one, small glass. I’m happy to report the Scots I served were pleasantly surprised, resulting in quite a giddy New Year’s celebration.
Over in Copenhagen, I didn’t bother with eggnog and instead reveled in the country’s traditional warm drink, glögg. An infused wine, glögg is served warm with blanched almond slivers and a spoonful of raisins in the glass—something to nosh on while you’re outside enjoying the cold. The version I tasted was not overly sweet, though you can add more sugar if you like. You may also caramelize the sugar first, as my Swedish friend Johanna does. Below, I use the typical ingredients, but add ginger and fresh rosemary to perfume the glass. Glögg can be made a day before serving, or you can let the spices meld with the wine for several weeks, aging a bottle in a cool, dark cupboard.
Whatever your fancy, both drinks promise a cozy feeling and a very festive holiday season. Enjoy!
Serves 6 | start to finish: 30 minutes, plus 4 hours of steeping
1 bottle red wine (Cabernet sauvignon, syrah or pinot noir work well)
1 cup brandy or rum
1/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 cardamom pods
Zest of one orange
3 slices fresh ginger root
1 3-4 inch fresh rosemary sprig
1/4 cup blanched almond slivers
1/4 cup raisins or dried currants
In a large stockpot, add the wine, brandy, sugar, and all of the spices. Over medium high heat, warm the wine until hot and the sugar has melted (but do not boil). Remove the pot from the heat and set aside, steeping the spices for about 3 to 4 hours. Strain spices from wine.
To age: bottle wine in a clean glass container and cover—an old wine bottle or spirits bottle works well, as does a half-gallon mason jar. Store in a cool cupboard for several weeks, or up to 2 months before serving. (You can age the glögg even longer, if you so choose.)
To serve: re-heat in a large stockpot over medium heat until glögg is hot, being careful not to boil. Add a spoonful of almonds and a spoonful of raisins to each glass, before pouring in a ladleful of glögg.
Note: to caramelize the sugar, heat sugar in a stainless steel pan over medium high heat, swirling regularly, until melted completely and amber in color. Pour caramelized sugar into glögg. The sugar may crystalize, but don’t worry—stir until fully dissolved and incorporated into the glögg.
Aged Vanilla Eggnog
Makes 8 lowball glasses | start to finish: 20 to 30 minutes
1 1/2 cups bourbon or whiskey
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
2 star anise, dry roasted (optional)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Whole nutmeg, for grating
Combine all of the spirits and set aside. In a large bowl or standing mixer, add the eggs and sugar. Beat on low speed until all of the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the spirits, drop by drop at first to temper the eggs. When all of the liquid has been added, strain into a clean glass jar (using a strainer will catch any solid bits of egg), cover and store in a cool dark place. Invert the jar occasionally, or at least every three days, for a minimum of nine days and up to three weeks total. Five days before serving, add the vanilla bean pod and star anise, if using.
To serve: strain out the spices and place the eggnog mixture into a large bowl or container. Add the milk and heavy cream and stir to combine. To serve, shake a ladle-full (about 1/2 cup) of eggnog with ice until frothy. Serve immediately, over a lowball filled with ice and top with some freshly grated nutmeg.
Amy Pennington is a cook, author and urban farmer. To find out what she is up to in the gardens and the kitchen, check out her website, amy-pennington.com