Five ingredients are all you need to make the perfect eggnog.

Sheri Castle


Credit: Van Chaplin; Styling: Sissy Lamerton

Recipe Summary test

1 quart

Eggnog is a special holiday treat for many Southern families. We can buy it by the bottle and carton for a few weeks each winter, which is convenient when we need a quick hit, but no store-bought nog can hold a Christmas candle to homemade. Stirring up a batch is an annual tradition in many households, worthy of pulling out the family punch bowl. Eggnog tastes fancy, but is not hard to make. A review of classic recipes reveals five secrets to great homemade eggnog.

First, keep things simple. Fabulous eggnog requires only five ingredients. There are recipes for quirky eggnog variations out there, but people who love eggnog love eggnog and want it to taste like eggnog.

Second, begin with a great custard base. Although many old-fashioned recipes just stir it all up, most contemporary recipes call for gently cooking the base to allay any concerns about uncooked eggs. Plus, many people contend that a cooked custard base keeps eggnog from tasting too eggy.

Third, fold beaten egg whites into the chilled base to ensure the eggnog turns out light and frothy instead of dense and sticky. To double down on the pillowy softness, fold in whipped cream as well.

Fourth, don’t skimp on the nutmeg, the essential scent of great eggnog, including a final dusting on top. Freshly grated, of course.

Fifth, spike it. Or not, actually. Or both, perhaps. Many classic eggnog recipes include booze, but when serving a group of mixed ages and preferences, serving the spirits separately means that everyone can partake from the same bowl. Offering bourbon, rum, cognac, and/or brandy on the side gives grown-up guests the option to doctor their cup to their liking. 


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Beat the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow in a medium-size bowl with a mixer set to high speed. Gradually add ⅓ cup sugar and continue beating until the sugar dissolves.

  • Stir together the milk, 1 cup cream, and ½ teaspoon nutmeg in a small saucepan. Bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Whisking constantly, add the warm milk mixture to egg yolk mixture in a slow, steady stream. Pour into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches 160°F. Pour into a bowl. Stir in the liquor, if using. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

  • Just before serving, beat the egg whites to soft peaks in a medium-size bowl with a mixer set to high speed. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and beat to firm peaks. Fold into the chilled base mixture.

  • Beat the remaining 1 cup cream to stiff peaks, and then fold into eggnog. (Alternatively, fold half the whipped cream into the chilled base and spoon the rest on top as garnish.)

  • Serve chilled, garnished with nutmeg.