The Perfect Holiday Eggnog

After years of eggnog repulsion, 417 Magazine Editorial Director Katie Pollock Estes has a tried-and-true recipe that has turned her entire family into eggnog believers.

By Katie Pollock Estes

Nov 2020

Eggnog Display
Photo by Brandon AlmsEggnog can be a hit or miss in all families, try making the perfect recipe for Holiday Eggnog Purchase Photo

For years, I tried and tried to love eggnog, that quintessential rich drink for winter holidays, but every taste left the same impression: too thick, too sweet, too icky. A few years ago, I started hosting my family’s Christmas party and wanted a special drink to serve. So, I decided to give eggnog another try and started researching recipes to find the appeal and make it my own. Now, a pitcher of eggnog is a Christmas tradition at our parties, with grownups and kids (drinking virgin versions of course) going back for more. 

My recipe is one that I’ve experimented with and tweaked over the years, borrowing a technique from Jamie Oliver here, snatching a tip from Alton Brown there, and making adjustments for my family’s preferences. For example, my mom and I dislike nutmeg and others in my family are not particularly fond of it either. So I replaced it with cardamom. (Turns out, it was the nutmeg that had me hating eggnog all those years.) We also leave out the alcohol and add it to individual drinks at the end, so we can save some liquor-free eggnog for the kids. They like fancy drinks too after all.

The result is flavorful thanks to steeped spices, and silky thanks to whipped egg whites. Garnishing with whole star anise pods adds a spicy fragrance and looks lovely to boot. It won over a family full of eggnog haters, and it’s nostalgia in a glass.

Perfect Holiday Eggnog

Serves 8

3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla bean pod
½ to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
5 eggs, separated
⅔ cup sugar
Bourbon to taste
Cinnamon for garnish
Star anise for garnish 

1. Slice open the vanilla bean pod, scrape out the seeds, and reserve all parts. In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together milk, cream, cinnamon sticks, vanilla bean pod, vanilla bean seeds and cardamom. Bring to a full boil, then remove from the heat to steep while you work on the egg yolks.

2. In a stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick ribbons form. Remove cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean pod from the milk mixture and discard. Slowly whisk the milk mixture into the egg yolks a little at a time until fully incorporated and smooth. Refrigerate until cold and for up to three days.

3. When ready to serve, beat egg whites in a stand mixture until stiff peaks form. Gently fold them into the eggnog. 

4. For each serving, add eggnog to a glass, gently stir in bourbon to taste, sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish by floating a whole star anise pod on top.