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The Super Strong, 2016-Appropriate White House Eggnog

December 22, 2016

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.

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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."

John Ficklin saves eggnog from one year to the next and uses it as 'mother of nog,' adding the old to the new batch.
Washington Post, 1982

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.

Every year, the holiday season was kicked off with the 'running of the 'nog,' [...] the tour of the House we made with the eggnog.
Walter Scheib

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.)

How do you take your eggnog? Tell us in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mercedes Narez
    Mercedes Narez
  • mary
  • Dayn Riegel
    Dayn Riegel
  • Renie
  • Willisue
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Mercedes N. December 28, 2016
I use 8 eggs.
1/2 lb powdered or granulated sugar, but I always use powdered
1 pint whipping cream, I whip it not too stiff but I think you can add it without whipping it
1 quart of milk
Ground nutmeg dashed on top of each serving
I separate the yolks from the whites and beat the whites not too stiff and I add the sugar to the whites
Then I beat the whipping cream and add the beaten yolks to it and add the milk and fold in the whites.
I use a very large bowl to combine everything in, then I pour it into my Santa Pitcher and serve it in Santa mugs with a dash of nutmeg on top and if you want liquor then I let the individual add brandy to their desired amount and leave the rest for the children to enjoy it without the liquor of course.
It separates quickly so I'm giving it a good stir periodically to keep it combined.
My mother got the recipe from a customer of hers at my father's grocery store back in the 1940's and it's been a staple for us at Christmas time.
Honestly, my mother's hand written notes say to beat the egg whites and yolks separately and add the sugar to the beaten whites then combine the beaten yolks and blend gently then stir in desired amount of liquor (Rum, Brandy or Bourbon whiskey) and add 1 pint of whipping cream and 1 quart of milk and mix in the egg mixtures all together. Chill in refrigerator and serve with nutmeg on top.
mary December 26, 2016
wow! first of all, can we move back to the eggnog recipe? please? second, I envy the chef's ability to save the nog from one year to the next, using it as a "mother." I tried that myself a few years back; however, living in the Pacific Northwest and having been victimized by one too many wind storms with subsequent power outages, I found it best to start from scratch each year.
Dayn R. December 25, 2016
Wow! Eggs, booze = nog. Article/writing about nog = political whining. I often find it funny that people tend to *have* to read into things, whether overt or not, for most times their own sake and ego.

That being said, the article was nicely written, perfectly timed, wholly appropriate and the author's comments are just, well, that. Hers.

That being said, loved the article, will try the recipes and will continue to read and recommend Food52.

Now that I think about it... Food and food-related stuff tends to cause more conflict as it does comfort - yay food(s)!
Renie December 25, 2016
I was looking forward to comments on the eggnog recipe, do I suddenly have the wrong site?
Willisue December 25, 2016
Food blog--political commentary. I don't think so. Editors, where are you?
Kathy December 25, 2016
Amazingly, so many people decided that the last comment was strictly a denouncement of just the upcoming year when, in fact, it is clearly stated that the past year was also difficult. I think the writer very cleverly left it open to interpretation. Maybe it shows more about the reader than the writer...
Kt4 December 25, 2016
I completely concur Kathy. When I think about the year we had, I don't just think about debates & elections. I think about deaths of military members, cops, civilians, twisted media reports, & so many people who lost friendships due to the sudden intolerance of political views. When I wonder about the coming year, I wonder how much worse things will become before they get better. The comments below just cement my concerns.
Gary F. December 25, 2016
It is true that this has been a very tough year, made a bit disgraceful at the last minute by the president's decision to betray our most steadfast democratic ally, Israel. But we can all look forward to the return of America-the-normal starting on January 20th at 12 noon! That is, at least, something to be thankful for---the promise of a far more hopeful, less contentious, and utterly less ideologically extreme, string of Christmases and New Years!
Joyce December 24, 2016
yes, looking forward to 2017, God Bless America!
mary M. December 23, 2016
Aaah, great article until I got to the last sentence, you just couldn't resist it? Sad, really, kind of pathetic for a foodie website.
Moshee December 23, 2016
Last sentence was not only perfectly acceptable, but required, given the title of the post.
mary M. December 23, 2016
I totally disagree. The title insinuates nothing. "Appropriate", in my mind, was nothing partisan, at all, and could easily be referring to "appropriate etiquette" or "appropriate to our current president's tastes". The last sentence, was nothing but, and was completely unnecessary to complete the article.
DaveInCO December 23, 2016
I'm with you, mary moon. Seemed unnecessarily prickly to end the article that way. But Sarah seems to enjoy her little asides like that. Read the narrative for the Malva pudding recipe. She implies that some might not want to try the recipe just because henry Kissinger liked it. But her writing is otherwise so good that it is easy to ignore those silly asides. Usually.