Shortly after the beginning of “The Ref,” my all-time favorite Christmas movie, a customer is heard grumbling to a sales clerk, “I have 25 relatives coming in one hour and you have one bottle of eggnog. What am I going to do? … I promised them I’d have eggnog.”
When the clerk suggests that she make eggnog, the customer’s incredulity and rage boil over. “I can’t make it,” she screams. “You make it!”
Well, this year, you can make the eggnog. From scratch. And it’ll blow your mind how good the real stuff is.
The recipe we offer comes from Christopher Ware, the elixir magician responsible for the cocktails at Jesse Perez’s upcoming restaurant, Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl Brewery. We sampled a few of his concoctions recently, including a barrel-aged cocktail, and asked him to provide us with a punch that was perfect for Christmas.
But first, a few words about punch.
The following background comes from the 1937 classic, “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em” from Stanley Clisby Arthur:
“Punch is the ideal beverage to serve at large gatherings and many are the kinds from which to choose when you are preparing to entertain in a big way.
“The Punch Bowl, or Bowl O’Punch, as our English cousins call it, has long been a feature of Christmas and holiday festivities. The word punch comes from India, and is derived from the Hindu panch, meaning five, the original beverage being composed of five ingredients, viz.: spirits, water or milk, lemon, sugar, spice or cordial. The punch field is covered by arrak, brandy, claret, gin, milk, rum, tea, whiskey, wine, and fruit punch. The drink is usually qualified by the name of the principal ingredient, as, for example, whiskey punch. ”
You can find various conjectures as to the origin of the “nog” part of the name (does it refer to “noggin” or “grog” or what?), but what is important is what goes in it.
Ware’s recipe calls for an Italian walnut liquor called Nocino that you can find in town and a specific rum that has a special quality.
“The actual recipe for the egg nog on its own is 2 ounces rum, .5 ounce Nocino, .5 ounce heavy cream, .5 ounce simple syrup and 1 whole egg,” he says. “I used Smith & Cross Rum in the actual batch, which is one of the last readily available rums still produced that would seem to mimic rums from a hundred years ago. The customer should be wary that this is naval proof, or 57% ABV, so good things shall come from this concoction!”
To transform the recipe from a serving for one to a punch happened as follows:
“To start, I took a 750-milliliter bottle of Smith & Cross and steeped a bouquet garni of allspice berries, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon for 24 hours to bring the spice level to Christmas ideals,” Ware says. “After 24 hours of infusion, add an additional 250 milliliters of water to bring the alcohol content down and remove the spices from the liquid. Take the rum and strain through a coffee filter to remove any additional particulates that may have escaped the bouquet garni.
“Now mind you, we are making a punch, so measuring is important, but so is flavor and balance,” he continues. “We have 1,000 milliliters of rum mixture, which is equal to 33.8 ounces, or for our purposes 34 ounces. This is enough product for 17 to 25 servings of nog, depending on the gluttonous behavior that no doubt will ensue once one or two of these are consumed. Our recipe list should include 17 eggs, 8.5 ounces of heavy cream, 8.5 ounces of simple syrup (to make simple syrup combine equal ratios of granular sugar to hot water), 8.5 oounces of Nocino (Nocino is a traditional Italian Walnut liqueur; commercially I like Nux Alpina Nocino — I got mine at Joe Saglimbeni’s, but it’s also available at Spec’s).”
So, what do you do with it?
“Before combining all of the ingredients, take your 17 eggs and beat them with a whisk till emulsified completely. Next, add your cream, simple syrup, Nocino and rum to the mix while continuing to stir. Once thoroughly mixed, put in the fridge and allow to sit for at least 2 hours, so all of the nog’s flavor will bind to each other and mellow. This batch will keep for upwards of 1 week.”
Unless you know you’ll be drinking plenty of this, you may want to keep the ice in each individual serving, instead of the punch bowl. That way, the ice won’t melt and dilute the entire bowl of eggnog.
Ware suggests that you pour about 3.5 ounces into a glass, then add ice and grate fresh cinnamon over the top, if you like. Only one step remains. “Sit back and enjoy the festivities,” he says.