Ima Nogg: Restoring Eggnog’s Reputation

Revisiting the holidays’ most misunderstood libation

By Scott Vogel December 1, 2013 Published in the December 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

In his new book Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked, TV newsman and occasional screech Chris Matthews argues persuasively that there was a time in America when politicians, regardless of individual orthodoxies, put aside their differences and worked together for the good of the country. What, one wonders, would Tip and The Gipper think of our present discourse? Presumably, they’d be appalled, and rightly so, at the toxic partisan divide and the impasse created thereby. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the case of eggnog, about which opinions have been sharply divided for centuries. In the past, however, its obvious lightning rod status never prevented those who loved eggnog from gathering around a common punchbowl with those who loathed it, especially at Christmastime. Something’s happened over the past decade, clearly. For whatever reason, the rhetoric inspired by this always-polarizing potable has grown coarse, as coarse as the freshly-ground nutmeg at the heart of the debate.

Nevertheless. After five or so cups of the stuff I believe I have found a way to reunite the American Family. My own concoction, based on an ancestral recipe so ancient it predates both cable punditry and AM radio, will remind all of you of eggnog’s many unimpeachable virtues, and inspire the coming together that our nation so needs. My own concoction, based on—oh, wait. I said that.

For the past few hours, I have labored tirelessly to fine-tune what for me is a perfect slurry of eggs, cream, sugar, rum … something else … and rum. I know there was something else. Anyway, have a cup, won’t you?

It’s all gone? Really? Then let’s make some more!

Okay, first you take 12 egg yolks and whisk them together. While you’re doing that, I’ll tell a brief story:

Once upon a time, I was content, like many of us, to have my definition of eggnog co-opted by a milk-carton cow in Santa drag. How little did I know then. The end. Now how are those eggs?

Okay, I’ve got the rum. Oh, wait—we have to do the sugar first. And the milk. And the heavy cream. Okay, I’ve got the rum. Wait. You didn’t even cook the eggs. Do you want to kill us? Move over.  

I’m now heating the mixture to 175 degrees, and because I must do that very slowly to prevent the liquid from curdling, we’ve plenty of time to talk about rum. Let me just say that the quality of your eggnog depends entirely on the spirit you choose to add and how you choose to add it. My preference is for a spiced rum like [name redacted], which I have here. When adding it to the nog, it’s important that you pour the rum slowly into the egg mixture (whisking constantly), and then continue pouring until guests arrive. 

Now some of you will say that cooked eggnog is not real eggnog, to which I reply that it’s this sort of fundamentalism that has poisoned our political climate. Cooked versus raw is yet another false distinction, one promulgated by special interest groups bent on perverting eggnog for political gain. Truth is, when properly prepared, few Americans appear capable of refusing eggnog. In fact, it inspires a general consensus eclipsed only by such issues as gun control and abortion. As Chris Matthews writes in his book Grip and the Tippler—oh, damn! Why didn’t you tell me it was boiling? Great, now it’s ruined. What the hell am I going to do with all this rum?? 

Egg Nog: a Seven-Point Blueprint for America

  1. Whisk together 12 egg yolks in a large pot. Add 1 ¼ cups sugar, 1 cup of whole milk, 3 cups of heavy cream, and ½ tsp vanilla. Keep whisking.
  2. Cook the mixture slowly until it reaches a temperature of 175 degrees, whisking constantly. If you have previously ignored my whisking order, expect a disastrous curdling of the mixture at this point.
  3. Move the saucepan off the burner and quickly stir in another cup of milk and another cup of cream. Turn off the burner. Strain the mixture and refrigerate until cold.
  4. While waiting for the mixture to cool, pass the time by doing shots of rum and reminiscing about legendary family fights of Christmas past. If you neglected to do so in step 3, turn off the urner.
  5. Two long hours later, walk—in as straight a line as possible—directly to the refrigerator and get the eggnog. Retrace your steps back to the rum bottle. Stir in 1 ½ cups of spiced rum
  6. Pour into cups decorated with forced festivity and enjoy.
  7. Turn off the burner. (See steps 3, 4) 
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