Washington D.C. is awash with rumors, with controversy, and, as it's recently come to our attention, with conflicting eggnog recipes. (Certainly not the biggest problem of our day, but here we are; it's Christmastime on a food website.)
For decades now, the White House has been known for its eggnog, served at the annual Christmas party, but the exact concoction is not a constant. What hasn't changed? An allegiance to three kinds of booze—and lots of it. Here's a look at some White House nog recipes past, plus one for the books.
First, there's the eggnog that was developed during John F. Kennedy's time in office—"a bipartisan effort," according to the Washington Post, which published the "Secret White House Elixir" back in 1982. Rather than flirt with raw eggs, the recipe, from former White House maitre d' John Ficklin, relies on "commercial eggnog mix." He deemed cream and egg whites too heavy for the drink, but that didn't stop him from adding a quart of eggnog-flavored ice cream to each punch bowl, to make it richer, sweeter, and colder.
Ficklin, who held his position for 37 years, was rumored to save any leftover nog—made with rum, brandy, and bourbon (but leaning towards the latter)—to add to the next year's batch as "mother of nog." Ficklin told the Post that it tasted "so much better for sitting that year, so smooth and mellow."
But at the time the Washington Post published Ficklin's recipe, President Regan was in the Oval Office, and his nog of choice, forwent the store-bought mix for whole eggs. In the recipe, published in the L.A. Times, whole eggs are blended with sugar and vanilla, then stirred with equal parts half-and-half and hard liquor (again, there's the bourbon-brandy-rum triad, but here, no one spirit has more pull than the others).
Finally, there's the eggnog of 1994 to 2005 White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib III, which was supposedly paraded through 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a Running of the Bulls-inspired "running of the nog" that kicked off the holiday season. (You're scratching your head; so am I.)
The most complicated of the three, Scheib's is the only recipe that requires you separate the yolks and whites. The yolks are blended with sugar and then, as in Reagan's preferred recipe, with equal parts bourbon, rum, and brandy (but Cognac, to be specific). The whites are beaten to stiff peaks and folded together with cream (no half-and-half here) that's been whipped to medium peaks. And, finally, just when your arm is getting tired, the components are folded together.
While each nog in the tri-booze trio is its own boozy beast, the general, aisle-spanning consensus over the years has been that the White House eggnog will get you... well... sloshed. In 1982, the Post reported that the nog had "remarkable power." And as recently as 2014, one party attendee recalled that "after the second [cup], I couldn’t feel my face. After the third… well I honestly don’t recall the rest of the party."
Our friend Joanna Goddard of Cup of Jo, who tried the nog herself, at the White House itself, earlier this year, wrote simply that it was "spiked and strong" (and that her husband beelined to it). The recipe we're sharing, from America's Table by way of Joanna, is similar to Reagan's choice nog, but with egg yolks instead of whole eggs. It's very rich and "not for children."
Sounds over the top, but after the year we've had (and, ahem, the year we can expect?), maybe an eggnog that's heavy on the booze is just what the doctor (or the President) ordered. (But seriously, drink it in moderation.)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 6 egg yolks
- 3 cups half and half
- 1 cup bourbon
- 1 cup brandy
- 1 cup rum
- 1/2 pint whipped cream, for garnish
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
- 1 pint eggnog ice cream, optional
How do you take your eggnog? Tell us in the comments below.