Eggnog is the quintessential Christmas drink. A rich, frothy, stiff alcoholic punch of sorts, it’s more popular in cooler climes where it’s perfect for drinking while sitting near a warm fire. But Hilton Brisbane executive chef, Matthew Wood, reckons that eggnog, served with ice cubes, is equally at home in Australia. “A hot Christmas day celebration on the patio or lawn with a glass of eggnog has become a family tradition in my household,” he says.
Eggnog dates from around the mid-18th century but is related to the much older English posset. Both are spiced, dairy-based drinks fortified with alcohol that acts to preserve the drink. Some of the oldest sources for eggnog direct the maker to age the drink for twelve months.
Wood’s recipe takes far less time. “(It started) as an indulgence for my co-workers to celebrate the end of Christmas service many years ago,” he says. “It proved so popular with the crew that I have used this recipe at home and work every year since.”
As Christmas fast approaches, it’s time to deck the halls, bring Michael Bublé out of hibernation, and get merry!
Traditional Christmas Eggnog
Serves 4 to 6
600ml whole milk
300ml thickened cream
2 sticks cinnamon
1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways (or half a teaspoon of vanilla paste)
4 eggs, separated and at room temperature
100 grams white sugar
Nutmeg for garnish (fresh grated preferred, but powdered will work too)
Place the milk, cream, cinnamon, and vanilla in a medium-sized saucepan and simmer gently over a medium heat, taking care to not let the mixture boil and whisking occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
Place the egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer and use the whisk attachment to beat on high speed until they have doubled in size. Turn the mixer speed down to low, then slowly pour one third of the hot milk over the eggs, making sure you do not let the vanilla pod or cinnamon fall into the mixer.
Switch off the mixer and pour the egg mix back into the pot with the remaining milk and spices. Return the pot to the stove and cook gently while whisking constantly until the temperature reaches 80 ̊C on a digital thermometer, before pouring the mixture through a sieve into a punch bowl or jug. Place in the fridge to cool down completely for two to three hours.
Clean whisk, stand mixer whisk and bowl, and thermometer well in hot soapy water and dry. (It’s important to do this before the next step.)
Place the remaining sugar into a small saucepan with 75ml of cold water and heat gently over a medium heat until the temperature reaches 110 ̊C on the digital thermometer.
Place the egg whites in the clean stand mixer bowl and beat with the whisk attachment on half speed for 2 minutes until you have soft peaks. The sugar syrup should be 115 ̊C. Carefully and slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg whites with the mixer still running, then continue to beat the whites until they have formed firm stiff peaks.
Use the hand whisk to mix in the egg whites, ensuring they are fully incorporated, followed by the rum and brandy. Place back in the fridge. Before serving, give the eggnog another quick whisk to combine, and garnish with a generous amount of nutmeg. Serve in glasses with a bowl of ice cubes on the side if desired.
Chef’s note: This recipe ensures that the egg yolks and whites are almost completely cooked, but if you are at risk of food-borne illnesses, you might wish to abstain from this drink.
Recipe courtesy of Hilton Brisbane executive chef, Matthew Wood.