Published November 1, 1997.
A custard base provides well-rounded, creamy flavor, and technique that combines the milk and eggs in several stages yields ultra-smooth texture.
Traditional eggnog has a little something for everyone to criticize. Heavy cream, raw eggs, and alcohol, the building blocks of eggnog recipes for centuries, are not on the A-list for many cooks today. The eggnog recipes we gathered fell into two categories, uncooked and cooked. We had no bias toward one or the other when we began testing and were prepared to deal with the issue of using raw eggs if we liked the uncooked eggnog better. Nonetheless, we ended up preferring the custardy flavor and creaminess of the cooked versions. The thing to do now was to find the best one.
Eggnog should be enjoyed in moderation, without fear of the food police. We wanted to create a rich eggnog with a relatively thick, creamy texture and enough alcohol to provide the trademark kick without tasting too boozy.
Starting with a standard custard recipe (6 eggs to 4 cups milk to 1/2 cup sugar), we tinkered around to find improvements. To enhance the custard's flavor and richness, we added two extra egg yolks; a little more sugar and a bit of salt also improved the flavor. Many recipes, though not all, called for the milk to be added to the beaten eggs very gradually. Upon trying this, we found that it did indeed make for a smoother texture. Any remaining tiny lumps or grains were removed by passing the custard through a strainer. The custard base we now had was flavorful and thick, but it was not quite eggnog. Softly whipped heavy cream proved to be a crucial addition, as did some alcohol and the simple flavorings of vanilla extract and nutmeg.list of recipes