How to Make Eggnog. Truly Good, Light, Frothy Eggnog.

Eggnog any which way (even for those who claim to not like it).

November  5, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Is there a more divisive holiday drink than eggnog? Made of cream or milk, sugar, and (yes) eggs—usually with a spirit stirred in—eggnog can be a cocktail of wonder...when made well. The right amount of spice, the perfect proportion of dairy to egg, and of course just enough sugar to bring it all together, can make a world of difference when it comes to making a luxurious batch of eggnog at home this holiday season (or y’know, anytime).

Creamy, thick eggnog has quite a, pardon the pun, rich history. The first recorded use of the term "nog" goes all the way back to 1693, (thanks Mirriam-Webster!) and most historians agree that eggnog as we know it derived from posset, which we know these days as a cream-based pudding, but historically refers to a hot drink of curdled milk, alcohol (like wine, beer, or other liquor and flavored with spices), often drunk medicinally or on special occasions. Though the hot toddy has perhaps conquered the market on warm drinks to sip when you’re under the weather, posset of yore—and its transition into today’s eggnog—certainly stuck around as a party drink.

According to Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie, a Professor of History and Foodways at Babson College, the word “eggnog” is a combination of colloquial words used by 18th Century colonists in New York, Boston, Charleston, and Mobile: “Grog,” which referred to rum, and “noggin,” a wooden mug in which grog was often served. The drink, which at this point consisted of milk, eggs, sugar, and liquor, was called “egg-n-grog,” and eventually, eggnog.

Since brandy and wine (typical additions to posset in Britain) were heavily taxed in the colonies, eggnog was made with Caribbean rum. None other than George Washington famously had his own eggnog recipe, featuring a more democratic (and potent!) blend of brandy, sherry, whisky, and rum—not to mention a full dozen eggs, and quart each of milk and cream. "Let set in cool place for several days," say the instructions. "Taste frequently.”

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I have always wanted to try Eggnog. Its not a thing down here in Australia and that's proably because we have a blistering hot Christmas. When I kid and sick Mum always made us what she called an egg flip which is your eggnog minus the cream and booze. I really enjoyed your whole article, especially the story behind the eggnog. I will have to try next Autumn/Winter, now that I have a recipe that makes sense.... I will say I am camp Nog on paper...🤩😎”
— Lindi

Doesn’t quite sound like your cup of tea (or, eggnog)? The beauty of eggnog is that it is infinitely riffable, so you can mix it to fit your tastes. This week, Caroline Lange walks us through how to make eggnog at home—truly good, light, frothy eggnog.

You’re either in Camp Nog or you’re not.

I considered, when writing this, drawing the line there: Beware all ye who enter here! Back, eggnog skeptics, back! But I’m not going to, because no one deserves homemade eggnog more than eggnog skeptics—the ones who shy away from the sticky, manila-envelope-colored stuff from the grocery store. (Who can blame them? Can you tell I’m among them?)

Real eggnog is nothing like it. You don’t have to cut it with milk just to get it down the hatch. It’s not so sweet you get the sugar sweats. It’s light and frothy and yolky in the way custard is. It’s fresh-tasting and boozy.

Adjust it freely and to your liking: Play with the ratio of milk to cream; use coconut milk or rice milk or macadamia milk instead of dairy; swap out the sugar for maple syrup or honey; up the amount of nutmeg; play with the kind of booze you add (or omit it entirely). You can even make it vegan, in which case I’ll direct you here. If you want your eggnog to have eggs in it, though, keep reading.

Photo by James Ransom

How to Make Eggnog

Here’s what you’ll need for six servings. Scale up or down depending on how many are coming over! One more quick note, while we’re talking about entertaining: You can (and, I’d encourage, should!) make this a day or two in advance of your occasion. It’ll thicken up and get velvety—and more flavorful—as it ages, and it’s good for up for a week.

Gather these ingredients:

  • 6 eggs, separated (1 egg per person)
  • 1/3 to 1 cup something sweet (white sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, or a mix)
  • 3 cups dairy of some kind or non-dairy substitute (I like a mixture of 2 cups whole milk with 1 cup heavy cream, for richness; you could also mix and match half-and-half, reduced-fat milks, coconut milk from a can, unsweetened coconut cream from a can, or nut milks of all sorts)
  • Up to 1 1/2 cups booze (bourbon is traditional; rum, whiskey, cognac, or brandy all work, too—and feel free to mix and match these)
  • Nutmeg, of course! (But also experiment with adding a vanilla bean, a shake of cinnamon…)

This may seem like a lot of information, but keep this in mind: Eggnog is pretty much entirely “to taste.” Adjust at will.

A couple of suggested pairings, to get you going on the riffing front:

  • bourbon + maple
  • rum + coconut milk
  • whiskey + brown sugar
  • cognac + honey
Whipping egg whites makes for extra-frothy eggnog. Photo by James Ransom

Then, make your eggnog:

To make your nog, carefully separate your eggs into two large bowls. Add the sugar or other sweetener to the egg yolks and whisk vigorously, until they’re light and creamy. Add the dairy, booze (if using), and nutmeg, and stir again to combine. Taste and see what you think: Is it too thick or too sweet? Add more milk or a little water. Not rich enough? A splash of cream will take care of that. If something just doesn’t seem quite right, add a little pinch of salt, which makes everything taste more like itself. When it tastes good to you, pop it in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it.

This is the part where I’m obliged to remind you about the potential risks of consuming raw eggs. It’s true. There are some associated risks—though, it should be noted, the presence of alcohol will pretty much kill any bacteria present. Even still, if you’re sharing this eggnog with very little kids, older folks, pregnant folks, or anyone who’s immuno-compromised, go ahead and do this instead:

Whisk your egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy. Meanwhile, heat your milk and any spices in a saucepan over medium-low heat, until steaming. Remove from heat. Whisking vigorously, temper the eggs by sloooooowly add a ladleful of the hot milk to the egg mixture. Add another ladleful, whisking all the while. When the egg mixture is hot and you’re certain you haven’t scrambled your eggs, add it back to the pot, whisk together until well combined, then let cool completely before stirring in the alcohol, if you're using it. (Otherwise, you’ll cook off the alcohol, and we certainly don’t want that.)

*Gently* fold those whites in. Photo by James Ransom

Okay, now you have your extremely delicious eggnog base. If you’re not going to drink it today or tomorrow, stash your reserved egg whites in the freezer, and thaw the day you’re planning on serving.

When you’re just about ready for cocktail hour, whip up your egg whites into soft peaks. (Alice Medrich would want you to add a pinch of cream of tartar.) Pull the eggnog base out of the fridge, stir to incorporate, and gently fold in the egg whites. The result should be frothy and light—not dense.

Ladle into cups and serve cold, with a grating of fresh nutmeg.

If you want to serve your eggnog hot, omit the egg whites and add milk to taste and to loosen the mixture; you’ll want to wait to add the booze until you’re ready to serve, too.

Photo by James Ransom

Grate some extra nutmeg on top, if you please.

Are you in Camp Nog or not? Let us know in the comments below!

This piece was originally published in December 2016, but we've updated it for the holidays.

More Holiday Cocktail Recipes

For those in Camp Not, here are some other options:

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rachel Parenteau
    Rachel Parenteau
  • Jill Tennent
    Jill Tennent
  • SophieL
  • Lindi
  • Gordon Cummings
    Gordon Cummings
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Rachel P. December 1, 2020
My hubs usually makes the Martha steward egg nog every Christmas it has a LOT of booze in it is the first drink that goes at the local Realtor parties but id like to try this receipe tone it down a bit thank you guys for the great ideas
Jill T. November 15, 2020
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s tequila-based nog is my go-to - it’s a perfect recipe!
SophieL November 14, 2020
I used to be in Camp Not when I had my first taste of commercial supermarket eggnog and just about gagged on the sweet syrupy drink. Decades later I saw Martha Stewart make her eggnog and I decided to give this holiday drink another try. What a difference homemade makes! I am now in Camp Nog and will save Food52's recipe for future parties.
Lindi November 14, 2020
I have always wanted to try Eggnog. Its not a thing down here in Australia and that's proably because we have a blistering hot Christmas. When I kid and sick Mum always made us what she called an egg flip which is your eggnog minus the cream and booze. I really enjoyed your whole article, especially the story behind the eggnog. I will have to try next Autumn/Winter, now that I have a recipe that makes sense.... I will say I am camp Nog on paper...🤩😎
Gordon C. December 26, 2018
I am in THIS Camp Egg Nog. This is such a great recipe. Will be making it again soon?

Too bad we can not print it out.
S December 18, 2019
Cut and Paste Gordon, Cut and Paste.
Jackie December 25, 2016
Thank you Caroline! I see now that had I read your instructions more carefully, (not skimming over the "Or Do This" part!) I would not have gotten the two parts confused. Thank you for clearing this up, making me go back and read it correctly. Now on to making some eggnog... Cheers!
Jackie December 25, 2016
I'm definitely camp nog and would like to make this. But a little confusion... the instructions have you add dairy after whisking yolks and sugar. Next part says heat the milk and add to temper. Are you to save out part of the milk from the first step of adding dairy?
Caroline L. December 25, 2016
Hi Jackie! If you want to temper, heat all your milk/cream/etc. until steaming but not simmering; meanwhile whisk together egg yolks and sugar. When the milk is hot, remove from heat and very slowly add a ladleful of the milk to the yolk-sugar mixture, stirring constantly, then another, then add the egg mixture to any remaining milk in the pot, stir, and refrigerate until you're ready to drink! Hope this is helpful.
HalfPint December 13, 2016
I'm definitely on Team Nog! And I enjoy Paula Deen's recipe too.
Victoria M. December 12, 2016
My family made homemade Egg Nog last Christmas for the first time. I made a big batch on Christmas Eve thinking it would last till Boxing Day. It was so good we drank our entire stash on Christmas eve! We ran out on Christmas morning to get more eggs, milk and cream to make more!
granjan December 11, 2016
My husband delights in serving my egg nog to guests who've never had the real thing. And once they've had it the 1st thing they say at our holiday parties is"Where's the eggnog?" Just don't make it so boozy you can't taste the nog!
sydney December 7, 2016
I'm a 'shortcut' cook so I love when eggnog appears in stores. It functions as a pudding base for leftover rice for rice pudding; and leftover brioche, pannetone, challah, (etc.) for bread pudding. And throwing some whisk[e]y into a little glass of it doesn't hurt, either.
Beth S. December 5, 2016
Oh, I'm soooo camp nog!