Holiday Recipe: Uncle Ezra’s Eggnog

December 12, 2013

by Margaret Cabaniss

Holiday Recipe: Egg Nog

It seems fitting that my family’s favorite recipes from my mom’s (Kentucky) side are basically just bourbon-delivery systems — and we love them for it. While she doesn’t actually drink her state booze all that often, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without my mom at the blender, whirring up a batch of Uncle Ezra’s eggnog.

I should note that I have no idea who Uncle Ezra is; he’s not related to us, anyway. For some reason, I picture him as a kindly Colonel Sanders type — except with bourbon instead of fried chicken. (A Southern Santa Claus? Whatever; you get the picture.) At any rate, this stuff is miles better than anything you can buy at the store — and I know I say that all the time, but here it’s really true.

A disclaimer up front: Yes, it contains raw eggs. In the past, my family has usually dealt with this issue by looking the other way when cracking them in the blender, and maybe adding an extra glug of bourbon for good measure…and while none of us has ever gotten sick, I admit it’s not exactly scientific. The truth is, the bourbon will kill some bacteria, and the likelihood that healthy adults will contract salmonella from raw but otherwise sound eggs in the first place is relatively low (moreso if you buy fresh eggs from happy, healthy chickens) — but to be completely safe, food safety experts recommend heating your eggs with a little milk (from the recipe) on low until they reach 160 degrees, then chilling the mixture before proceeding, or buying pasteurized eggs at the store.

The good news: Eggnog actually becomes more delicious the longer it sits in the fridge, a tip I learned from our friend Jimmy at The Book of Jimmy (and independently confirmed through extensive testing last Christmas) — so you can save yourself some trouble by heating a great whack of eggs all at once, mixing a huge pitcher of eggnog, and then just dipping into your supply all week long, as the holiday spirit moves you.

Holiday Recipe: Egg Nog

The rest of the process is pretty simple. For one milkshake-sized serving (or two heart-healthy ones), combine the following in a blender:

  • 1 egg (heated, pasteurized, or plain, if you’re feeling daring)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (any kind’ll do; it doesn’t have to be fancy)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 crushed ice cubes (not strictly necessary, but I like how it cuts the cream just a bit and makes it extra cold)

Really pulverize the stuff to get the eggnog good and frothy (a minute should do it). If you can stand the wait, let it chill in the fridge a bit (and if it settles, whip briefly to recombine before serving); if not, pour directly into a glass and top with a generous grating of fresh nutmeg. (Yes, fresh makes a huge difference. I tend to get a little carried away, as you may have noticed in the above photo.) Enjoy the slowly spreading warmth and good cheer.

Not a bourbon lover? I feel for you, but there are variations you can try; Jimmy recommends this brandy and spiced rum combination. And, of course, to serve a crowd, simply scale up accordingly. Merry merry!

Images: Margaret Cabaniss

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1 Judy C December 12, 2013 at 10:32 am


“Uncle Ezra” was a recipe we were introduced to in the 70′s (maybe 80′s?) when we gathered with our neighborhood gourmet club in New York. All of our meals included a “spirits” recipe, and this was from our Pennsylvania Dutch dinner. (Now I just HAVE to run out and get some bourbon!)


Margaret Cabaniss 2 Margaret Cabaniss December 12, 2013 at 10:51 am

Funny! I did eventually discover that the first appearance of “Uncle Ezra’s Eggnog” was in a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook from 1935. I didn’t know they were so into bourbon…


3 Anna December 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

About the eggs, I’ve never heard of any actual cases of salmonella contracted from eggs that have been stored properly – usually something has happened like the mixer in the institutional kitchen wasn’t cleaned properly between uses so the bacteria had a chance to multiply. My understanding is that even if the chicken is infected, so few of the actual bacteria are in an egg that they won’t make you sick unless they’ve had a chance to multiply at room temperature. And I think salmonella infection of eggs is pretty rare these days anyway – I read that the USDA calculated a few years back that less than 1 in 20, 000 eggs contained salmonella.


Margaret Cabaniss 4 Margaret Cabaniss December 12, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Thanks, Anna. You’re right that a very small fraction of eggs are actually contaminated with salmonella, but the FDA estimates that they still cause 142,000 illnesses a year. As you pointed out, though, many of these illnesses come from eating egg-based dishes in restaurants where large numbers of eggs come into contact with the same surface, bacteria have a chance to grow, etc. (Another argument for making eggnog at home!)

I think everyone will have different tolerance thresholds here: I know some families that fastidiously avoid any trace of raw eggs, while others eat homemade mayo and raw cookie dough with abandon. I’m not overly concerned about it myself (though it’s funny that I never think twice about eating runny fried eggs, while somehow drinking raw eggs feels different…), but I wanted to include ironclad-safe alternatives for anyone who was still skittish.

Still: If you’re a generally healthy person, buying intact eggs from a reputable source and storing them correctly (i.e., in the fridge), odds are you’ll never have to worry about it.


5 P Flooers December 12, 2013 at 7:28 pm

My Grandaddy told me that if you mix the eggs with the liquor (we like a mix of bourbon and rum) and let that sit a few minutes, then add in the sugar and stir, and then add the cream, the eggs will be sterilized.

He remembered growing up before cars. His parents always threw a huge Christmas party and his mother would send eggnog out to the carriage drivers waiting with the horses.


Margaret Cabaniss 6 Margaret Cabaniss December 12, 2013 at 11:06 pm

That might be the most Christmassy Christmas memory I’ve ever heard. I love it!


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