What Is Eggnog?

Learn how to make traditional eggnog, alcohol free eggnog and what to do with the leftovers when the party’s over. It’s so easy: make it once, and you’ll never go back to store-bought again.

August 23, 2021


Homemade vanilla Christmas drink Eggnog in glass with grated nutmeg and cinnamon sticks on gray stone background.

Photo by: wmaster890/Getty Images

wmaster890/Getty Images

By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

If you don't know what eggnog is (and by that we mean real, made from scratch eggnog), you're not alone! Eggnog has gone in and out of fashion, and it’s one of those things that you either love or don’t love: like cilantro. If you do love it, you’ll want to learn how to make eggnog and serve it at a winter gathering because it will be so much better than the store-bought stuff from the carton.



Assorted delicious French macarons with egg liqueur or eggnog on blue background

Photo by: brebca/Getty Images

brebca/Getty Images

What Is Eggnog? And What Is Eggnog Made of?

Eggnog is a milk and egg drink traditionally served during the holidays at large gatherings. And you might just want to pull out the punch bowl you inherited from your great aunt for the occasion. In the old days, before we had electricity and refrigeration, eggnog was called milk punch and was a drink served only by the wealthy due to the expense of sugar and brandy. Since serving it was a sign of wealthy, toasts to long life and wealth were made when it was served.

In the 21st century, most people can easily make eggnog at home: it doesn’t require special ingredients that will break the bank. Eggnog is traditionally made with eggs, egg yolk, sugar, milk, heavy cream and vanilla extract. It's often spiked with brandy and topped with freshly grated nutmeg and/or cinnamon sticks.

What Does Eggnog Taste Like?

Eggnog has a sweet and creamy custardy flavor that's cut by the honeyed-sharp flavor of brandy. Thanks to the warm spices traditionally served on top (like nutmeg, cinnamon and sometimes even cloves or star anise), eggnog also often tastes slightly spicy and perfumed - like all the lovely holiday baking ingredients. The texture is thicker than a glass of whole milk, more akin to melted vanilla ice cream. Because the beverage is rich and undoubtedly a treat, it's often served in small crystal or cut-glass tumblers.



Preparing Eggnog for Christmas

Photo by: GMVozd/Getty Images

GMVozd/Getty Images

How to Make Eggnog

There are two ways to make eggnog - the cooked egg version and the raw egg version.

Either way, the basic premise is whisking egg yolks with sugar to increase the volume of the yolks and create a natural thickener. Milk and cream are then added along with cinnamon and nutmeg for the traditional flavor. The final step is to whip the egg whites to peaks and gently fold them into the big bowl with everything else. At this point you get to decide if you’re going to add alcohol or not.

For the raw version, you just take those steps and it’s done. For the cooked version, you basically make a custard with the egg yolks, sugar and milk. Then you add the cream (whipped or not, your call) and the whipped whites.

In both versions, the whites are not cooked, because uncooked egg whites are safe to eat. If you’ve ever had lemon meringue pie, you’ve had raw egg whites, because only the very top layer of the meringue, the brown swirls, are cooked.

Is It Safe to Drink Eggnog?

It's smart to keep eggnog safety in mind, especially if you're serving eggnog to children or immuno-compromized, pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. A surefire way to make safe eggnog is to take the cooked eggnog version. If you're using a recipe that calls for raw eggs, buy pasturized eggs from the supermarket, which have been heat-treated to kill any salmonella.



Homemade Boozy Brandy Milk Punch Cocktail with Nutmeg

Photo by: bhofack2/Getty Images

bhofack2/Getty Images

What Is the Best Alcohol for Eggnog?

One of the reasons eggnog lovers love eggnog is the alcohol that’s semi-disguised in the frothy, rich drink. The best alcohol for eggnog is your favorite - with probably one exception - tequila doesn’t seem like a good fit. Originally, brandy, sherry or Madeira were used, one more reason why only the wealthy were serving it: the spirits were heavily taxed. When settlers came to the new world, they brought the idea of eggnog with them and started using rum, the spirit that was plentiful and wasn’t heavily taxed. Then bourbon made from corn entered the picture, and that became popular. If you’re making it for a large party, you can have a variety of spirits available and let everyone choose their favorite.

Eggnog Without Alcohol

Based on how eggnog is made, all eggnog starts out alcohol-free. When you make it, you can leave it as it is, or get some rum or bourbon flavor in the mix with an extract. Technically all extracts (even vanilla) add a minute amount of alcohol when you use them to a recipe. It is possible to find alcohol free flavorings if you search.

Eggnog Recipes 

Photo by: Devon Jarvis /Studio D ©Hearst Communications Inc., 2012

Devon Jarvis /Studio D, Hearst Communications Inc., 2012

It wouldn’t be the holidays without eggnog served at a party or two. If you’re serving it, go with Capital Eggnog, it’s a classic. For food safety, this recipe calls for pasteurized egg yolks. If you can’t find them, you can use fresh egg yolks, because in Step 2 you’re cooking them, so no worries.

Classic 100 Egg Nog

Photo by: Caitlin Ochs

Caitlin Ochs

Here's another classic. It’s festive and decadent, laced with nutmeg and vanilla. We lightened it up by folding in whipped cream and made the booze optional so that it's good for young and old alike



When you’ve got leftover eggnog or it’s on sale at the market, making a flan with it as the custard base couldn’t be easier. All the flavors are already in the mix, and the caramel is a perfect topping.

FNK NONALCOHOLIC EGGNOG **Holiday, not red and green, but can be Christmasy Food Network Kitchen Food Network Eggs, Sugar, Kosher Salt, Milk, Heavy Cream, Vanilla Extract, Nutmeg, Lemon Zest

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Matt Armendariz, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

This creamy eggnog recipe has all the ingredients regular eggnog has, the eggs and milk are cooked exactly like any other eggnog and it’s topped with the traditional sprinkle of nutmeg. The only thing missing is the alcohol. Perfect for a party with kids when you only have one punch bowl.



Food Network Kitchen's Eggnog Meltaway Cookies from 12 Days of Cookies for THE ULTIMATE FRIENDSGIVING/12 DAYS OF COOKIES/LAST-MINUTE SIDES, as seen on Food Network

Photo by: Renee Comet ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Renee Comet, © 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Rum, bourbon, vanilla and nutmeg bring all the flavors of eggnog together in these snowy-white puffball cookies. Just like snow, they’ll melt in our mouth.

Food Network Kitchen’s Snowman Eggnog

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Copyright 2015

Matt Armendariz, Copyright 2015

These decorated cups filled with Snowman Eggnog are the cutest thing ever. You might need two batches - one for the adults with rum or brandy and one that isn’t spiked for the kids. Just be sure you can tell them apart!

Eggnog for Breakfast _ Jelly Doughnuts

Eggnog for Breakfast _ Jelly Doughnuts

Photo by: Levi Brown

Levi Brown

We consider Eggnog Overnight French Toast easy cleanup after a party: have all the ingredients ready and just add the eggnog. The just pop it in the oven the next morning. To make it even more eggnog-ish, give it a dusting of nutmeg when it comes out of the oven.

This is the receipe for Coquito

Photo by: Kate Mathis

Kate Mathis

Coquito is a holiday beverage from Puerto Rico and is a great stand-in for eggnog, especially if you’re hosting several holiday parties. Or have both: eggnog with alcohol and coquito without.

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