I was pretty young the first time I had eggnog, and since the grownups didn’t want to deal with a bunch of inebriated preschoolers (kindergarteners can be ugly drunks), my glass came from the kids’ hooch-free punch bowl.The flavor reminded me of when Dad would make a vanilla instant breakfast shake and add vanilla extract. Only the nog had a strong egg flavor, and it was very milky. I had given up milk after getting a carton of malodorous, lumpy moo juice during snack time at school. Yeah, no, egg nog really didn’t move me.
Then a million years later, I was working as a bartender at a country club in Raleigh. This is actually where my culinary fire was sparked. I was friends with the kitchen staff, and they were my patient, generous tutors.
I began to learn the traditions, unwritten rules, and rhythm of a professional kitchen. I picked up how to observe without getting in the way. I became familiar with, and learned to appreciate, the black humor that is woven through the very fiber of the denizens of the cook house.
And I learned that one of the very best places in the world to be is on the chef’s good side; especially when he or she develops new recipes and recreates old ones.
One night in early fall, Chef Wes came into the bar office bearing gifts. It was a tall frosty glass full of what looked like a vanilla milkshake. I got excited. He told me it was eggnog.I got bummed.He then informed me it was made using the recipe of George Washington. Yeah, the father of our country, and evidently, enthusiastic imbiber of spirituous beverages, George Washington.
I got intrigued.
He handed me the glass and I could immediately smell the hooch. It wasn’t teased by some lightweight eggnog-flavored liqueur, it was chockful of multiple types of hangover-inducing hard liquors.
So, practicing enlightened self-protection, I took a small cautious sip.
First of all, it was boozy. But not the throat burn-y thing that takes your breath away boozy. It was mellow. The alcohol flavor kind of reminded me of one of those fat, hearty gentlemen from a Dickens novel like Mr. Fezziwig; boozy, but jovial and refined. Does that make any sense?The texture of this egg nog was very different. It was thick and creamy, like the milkshake I’d mistaken it for. And it wasn’t too milky or too eggy. This cold creamy glass of good cheer made me understand what the whole eggnog fuss was about. When made right, it was really good.
So, below is what scholars and cooks believe was served at our first president’s table. And since recipes from that era are notoriously skimpy when it comes to details, the directions are from both me, and Chef Wes (Thanks, Chef).
George Washington’s EggnogOne quart heavy cream
One quart whole milk
One dozen tablespoons sugar (that’s 3/4 cup for you and me)
One pint brandy
½ pint rye whiskey (bourbon works just fine)
½ pint Jamaica rum (Debbie here-no disrespect to the prez, but I’m partial to rum from Puerto Rico)
¼ pint sherry
12 eggs, separated
Mix the alcohol and set aside. Place egg whites into mixer and beat until they’re glossy and stiff peaks appear. Remove from bowl and set aside. Make sure you do the whites first because if there’s any yolk in the whites, they won’t beat into stiff peaks.
Place yolks and sugar into the mixer bowl and beat on high until it’s the color of butter and runs from the beater in ribbons. Stir in alcohols, milk and cream.
Then very gently, fold the whites into yolk mixture.
George recommends at this point to let the egg nog rest in a cool place (fridge) for two days before serving.
Makes one honking punch bowl’s worth. Enjoy.I hope you enjoy this Colonial nog. And I hope you get every gift on your list.
But more, I really hope that you, Gentle Reader, and all of your loved ones can spend a few relaxed hours together having fun, and remembering why these are the people that populate your world.
And to all, a good night.
Thanks for your time.