I can still remember the moment when my childhood love of eggnog gave way to my young-adult love of spiked eggnog. There’s a nostalgic joy in the virgin version, for sure; but sweet and rich as it is, eggnog really begs to be cut with a little something stronger.
Dark spirits are the usual liquor of choice; rum is a classic, or brandy, and bourbon absolutely does the trick. But Jake Larowe, bar manager of the 1950s-themed Birds & Bees in downtown Los Angeles, branches out in his Christmas Palm Tree Eggnog—adding mezcal along with whiskey, for a uniquely Southern Californian spin on the classic. “We didn’t want to go too far from a traditional eggnog, while also adding our small twist,” he explains.
Why these spirits? While the rye contributes traditional baking spice flavors, Larowe says, which “bring out the nutmeg, cinnamon and creamy vanilla bean that goes into a classic eggnog,” the mezcal gives the drink a smoky character, “which balances those spiced notes.” Smoke, plus eggnog: novel, but delicious.
Larowe starts by infusing both spirits—letting vanilla bean steep in the rye, and a single chili pepper in the mezcal. They’re added to a classic base of egg, sugar, milk, and cream, and then rested in the fridge, at least overnight, and up to four or five days, with the flavor improving as it ages. “The high-proof rye whiskey and mezcal keep the yolk from going bad, while the flavors blend together, and the texture thickens up,” he says.
The ideal scenario to sip this drink, Larowe thinks, is in front of the fireplace on Christmas Eve. But his own version of a perfect holiday night? “An ugly sweater party, getting a little tipsy with my girlfriend.”
Christmas Palm Tree Eggnog
For those on the more adventurous side, Larowe recommends adding a little pinch of chili powder to the garnish, “sprinkling over the top while humming your favorite holiday tune.”
8 ounces rye whiskey
4 ounces mezcal
1 vanilla bean
1 dried arbol chili
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
Whole nutmeg and cinnamon sticks, to garnish
Split vanilla bean down the middle, and place it a jar with the rye whiskey. Repeat with the mezcal and the chili. Seal both and let sit overnight. (The rye can be soaked for up to 24 hours, to get the most flavor from the vanilla.) Strain out solids before using.
With a whisk or stand mixer, whisk egg yolks while adding sugar, until the yolks turn a light yellow color and become smooth and creamy. Slowly add the milk and cream while continuing to whisk, then add infused whiskey and mezcal. Cover and rest mixture in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. Cover and save egg whites.
To serve: whisk saved egg whites into stiff peaks. Pour eggnog into a punch bowl. Gently fold in the egg whites. Ladle into cups, and grate nutmeg and cinnamon over the top.
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