Nothing signals the onset of the holiday season quite as much as seeing eggnog hit the shelves of your local grocery store.
This special drink is basically synonymous with the winter holidays and for a good reason! This rich and comforting drink can be enjoyed plain or turned into a holiday punch.
You may have seen punch bowls of eggnog at your holiday parties or spied a carton of nog in the fridge, but never taken the plunge to give it a try.
It can seem a little off-putting if you aren’t sure what it is, how it’s made, or what it tastes like.
So, what does eggnog taste like? Eggnog has often been described as tasting like a sweet, creamy, rich melted ice cream spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. It can alternatively have additional flavors such as the inclusion of vanilla or various alcohols.
Read on to discover what eggnog actually is, how it’s made, what liquors taste best in an eggnog punch, and how to make your own regular or dairy-free varieties from scratch at home.
What Is Eggnog?
So, you might be like me and have a vague idea what eggnog is, but not really know what it’s made of or how.
Historically, it was known as milk punch or an egg-milk punch when alcohol or spirits are added and has its roots in early medieval Britain from “posset”—a milky ale-like drink.
By the 1200s monks were drinking possets made with milk, eggs, and figs, which is likely closer to what we would recognize as an eggnog today. However, current eggnogs have evolved in terms of ingredients and preparation methods.
Modern eggnog is generally a combination of milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites, and egg yolks.
Whipping the egg whites gives the eggnog its light texture while stirring in the egg yolks adds a richness to the milk and cream to create a truly decadent holiday beverage.
Some versions will also add vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, or different alcohols depending on the brand or personal preference if you make your own.
What Does Eggnog Taste Like?
Eggnog has a distinct flavor that isn’t the exact same as anything else really on the market.
It has similar ingredients to ice cream but isn’t churned and frozen the same way. Some folks describe eggnog as drinking a sweet, spiced melted ice cream.
The spiced flavor comes from the addition of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, though not all varieties will include any or all of those spices.
Its overall flavor is sweet thanks to the addition of sugar. If you don’t like winter spices, then eggnog might not be the drink for you.
It is thick, rich, and creamy in texture thanks to the heavy cream, whole milk, and egg yolks.
The egg whites give it a little bit of lightness, but overall the texture is thick and creamy. If you are a fan of rich, decadent desserts or drinks, eggnog is going to tick all of your boxes.
Overall, eggnog tastes like a creamy, rich melted ice cream with the spiced undertones of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. You can cut the rich texture by adding your favorite alcohol such as rum, cognac, brandy, or whiskey.
What’s The Difference Between Storebought And Homemade Eggnog?
When it comes to comparing homemade and storebought eggnog there are going to be those who are staunchly in one camp or the other. I think both definitely have a place on the holiday table since they offer different benefits.
If you are looking for consistency, store-bought eggnog is the way to go.
Companies that make eggnog have their production down to a science, so you will never be disappointed when you open a carton of rich and creamy eggnog from your favorite brand.
Store-bought brands are going to vary slightly across different companies since they will all have their own recipes and production styles, but if you test them out, I’m sure you will find a brand that suits your tastebuds to a tee.
When it comes to homemade eggnog, it might be a little richer, since you are using whole ingredients and not trying to make a profit off of your nog.
Store-bought brands might be slightly watered down or may use regular or skim milk instead of whole, so homemade could be thicker.
You can also customize the flavors and spice levels to your preference since you are in control of the whole process from start to finish.
If you want a sweeter nog, you can add more sugar. If you want more spice, add more nutmeg, cinnamon, or clove. If you love vanilla, go ahead and add a splash to the mix.
The downside is that it takes more work to whip the eggs, heat the milk, and make your nog from scratch than it does to open a carton to start enjoying right away.
If you want the best of both worlds, you can always jazz up your store-bought eggnog by adding more spices, extra cream, more sweetener, an ounce of spiced rum, or some vanilla.
Don’t be afraid to make your store-bought nog your own in whatever way you want.
How Do You Make Eggnog?
If you don’t want to wait until eggnog hits the shelves or you just want to try your hand at making your own, it’s actually a relatively simple process once you figure out what to do.
You will need a few items and a little bit of patience, but the end result is going to be a delicious eggnog that store-bought varieties just can’t replicate.
- 4 eggs, separated yolks and whites into separate bowls
- 1/3 cup of sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar, separated
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- Optional ingredients
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 2 ounces bourbon, cognac, rum, or whiskey
- In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks until their color lightens.
- Once the yolks change color, whisk in 1/3 cup of sugar and set aside.
- Place a saucepan over medium heat and combine the whole milk, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Slowly bring the milk mixture to a gentle boil while stirring regularly. Do not let it get too hot since it can scorch and burn the milk.
- Remove the milk mixture from the heat and measure out 1 tablespoon of the warm mixture. Slowly whisk it into the egg yolks. Repeat 2 more times.
- Once the egg yolks have been tempered, stir them into the milk mixture and return it to the heat, bringing it to a gentle simmer while stirring. If you have a thermometer, bring it to 160°F.
- Once warmed through, remove the mixture from the heat and pour it into a bowl. Place the mix in the fridge.
- Using a hand or stand mixer, start to whip the egg whites into stiff peaks. As you whip them, slowly add the remaining tablespoon of sugar to the mix.
- When the milk mixture has cool, gently whisk the egg whites into it. Add an ounce of your favorite liquor and enjoy.
Can You Add Alcohol To Eggnog?
Yes, you absolutely can add alcohol to eggnog to turn it into a rich holiday alcoholic drink.
Many eggnog aficionados recommend sticking with darker, higher-proof spirits since they will be able to cut through the richness of the nog. Some classic additions to eggnog include:
- Brandy– this alcohol is made by distilling wine and is one of the most common additions to an eggnog drink.
- Cognac– this addition is actually a type of brandy made from double distilled wine. It must be made in a copper pot. Many folks recommending combining cognac and rum for a perfect holiday eggnog punch.
- Rum– dark, spiced rum is especially good since it complements the rich flavor and texture of eggnog.
- Whiskey– always a classic, though you might not want to use one that is too smoky or peaty. Try a blended Scottish whiskey or an Irish whiskey.
- Bourbon– a corn-based whiskey distilled in the states, this spirit makes a great addition to eggnog punch.
As you can see, there are plenty of spirits you can try. And you don’t need to stick with just one type. Feel free to get creative and try combinations of spirits until you find the one that warms you from the inside and makes your taste buds sing.
I suggest having a little holiday tasting party with your friends and family.
You can try plain eggnog, then sample cups with the different spirits (or combinations of spirits!) added to the mix so you can decide which alcohol makes your absolute favorite holiday punch.
Are There Dairy Free Versions Of Eggnog?
While it might seem that milk and cream are a staple part of the eggnog experience, more and more people are choosing to go dairy-free for various reasons.
Luckily for them, some companies have stepped up to the plate to create delicious dairy-free alternatives.
There are several store-bought brands you can find that make their eggnog from plant-based milk alternatives such as soy, almond, coconut, and so on.
One of the thickest and most delicious brands on the market comes from So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog.
It makes a rich and creamy coconut milk holiday nog. It is egg-free as well, so it is vegan-friendly. While you can’t yet find eggnog on the shelves, they will be out before you know it.
A couple of other honorable mentions go to the following brands:
- Blue Diamond- Almond Breeze Almond Milk Nog– this brand is made with almond milk and is another thick option that comes close to that traditional eggnog flavor.
- Silk Nog- Original– the silk brand is generally pretty great with its dairy-free milk alternatives, but this eggnog is a little thinner than some of the other options on the market. It still has a nice flavor and if you like your nog less thick, this might be perfect for you.
- Califia Holiday Nog- Almond Milk– another dairy-free eggnog, this one is quite thin and doesn’t have the closest eggnog flavor, but it will do in a pinch if you can’t find any of the other brands listed above and you really want that eggnog hit.
Since these versions are all vegan as well as dairy-free, they don’t contain the egg yolks and egg whites that give eggnog its distinctive thickness, richness, and creaminess.
If you are dairy-free, but not vegan, you can actually make your own version of eggnog using coconut, oat, macadamia, or almond milk alternatives.
How To Make Dairy-Free Eggnog
To make your own delicious, dairy-free eggnog follow these steps.
- 2 eggs, separated yolks and whites into small bowls
- 2 tablespoons + 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup macadamia or almond milk
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- Optional add ins:
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 2 ounces bourbon, cognac, rum, or whiskey
- In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks until they lighten in color, and then whisk in the 2 tablespoons of sugar until fully incorporated. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan, bring the dairy-free milk and coconut cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring every so often.
- Once the milk mixture has warmed, remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoon to the egg yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Repeat twice more before stirring the yolks into the milk mix.
- Return the milk mixture to the stovetop and slowly heat until it reaches 160°F. Remove from the stove and place in a bowl to chill in the fridge.
- While the milk mixture is chilling, whip your egg whites into stiff peaks using a stand or hand mixer. While mixing, slowly add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of sugar to the whites and beat until they form stiff peaks.
- Once the milk mixture is chilled, whisk the egg whites into it and add your spirit of choice for a delicious, dairy-free eggnog drink.
Can You Find Vegan Eggnog?
Many folks who are dairy-free may also choose to enjoy a vegan diet, so there is a lot of crossover in the dairy-free eggnogs listed above.
Every single one of them is also vegan friendly since they use thickeners or emulsifiers to get the thick, eggnog-like texture instead of egg yolks and whites.
If you’re looking for yummy vegan eggnog, you can try one of the following brands:
- So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog
- Blue Diamond- Almond Breeze Almond Milk Nog
- Silk Nog- Original
- Califia Holiday Nog- Almond Milk
As you can see, there are plenty of choices when it comes to enjoying your holiday nog.
You can pick one up from the grocery store, make your own at home, try a vegan or dairy-free version, add your favorite alcohol to make an eggnog punch, or enjoy a chilled glass straight from the fridge.
The options are endless and the flavor is completely unique: rich, creamy, thick, sweet, and packed with warming spices, eggnog is the perfect winter drink to warm you from the inside out.
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