Virgin eggnog is a non-starter. Alcohol-free beer, wine, or cocktails? All do-able. But eggnog without the booze? It’s like a spicy, egg-yolk infused, malty-melted milkshake. It just doesn’t quite work. Even once a year.
The only real way to make nog enjoyable is to add a few shots of rum, whiskey, cognac, or… well, there are a lot of options here. Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California likes his eggnog spiked with brandy.
“I’ve tried it with rum and with bourbon,” he says, “and even occasionally with rye, and they all work… a bit. But brandy has a unique complexity. It adds a slightly fruity quality that integrates well with eggnog, but it still has the spice notes that you might want from a bourbon. It’s the best of all worlds.”
Other bartenders have different ideas. So we asked some of our favorites to tell us the best bottles for spiking your holiday eggnog.
Old Forester 100 Bourbon
Ashley Wischmeier, bartender at Barrio Tacos in Cleveland
I actually make my own eggnog and I use Old Forester 100 with a little bit of Zaya 16 rum in it. The Old Forester is cheap and easy to use in bulk and Zaya has a great allspice taste that brings a lot to the ‘nog.
Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum
Suman Pradham, director of outlets at Viceroy Snowmass in Snowmass Village, Colorado
Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum. It’s a delicious St. Lucian rum that has a bold body and includes classic baking spices to warm up and add a ton of natural flavor to any eggnog. Though this rum creates a depth of flavor, it won’t add a ton of weight to your eggnog. It’s a blended rum — aged for five years in American oak with an additional six months after blending. To make the spiced rum, a blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, coconut, allspice, lemon, and orange are used.
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, it also includes bois bande, an herb rumored to have, aphrodisiac effects.
Ron Zacapa 23 Rum
Deena Sayers, bartender at Common Ground in New York City
An aged rum like Ron Zacapa 23. It’s got vanilla, molasses, and baking spices — perfect additions to eggnog without being overly sweet.
Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey
Jane Danger, beverage director at Mother of Pearl in New York City
Jameson. I enjoy making my eggnog a little Irish. The Jameson Black Barrel is my go-to. It’s the best of both worlds. Irish whiskey aged in double charred bourbon barrels. It’s nutty with notes of oak, caramel, vanilla, baking spice, and apple.
Perfect match for your favorite ‘nog.
Dewar’s 8 Year Caribbean Smooth Cask Whisky
Samantha Casuga, head bartender of Dead Rabbit in New York City
Dewar’s 8 Year Caribbean Smooth Cask Finish. I love rum, but I love whisky more. The flavors of a gorgeous blended, super smooth Scotch like Dewar’s will always pair well with the vanilla, spices, and sweetness of the eggnog. And the rum finish with those tropical fruit, brown sugar, and caramel notes… it’s just a no brainer.
An unexpected-yet-delightful combo.
Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum
Seth Falvo, bartender at The Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach, Florida
Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum makes an exceptional cocktail in general, and eggnog is no exception. The caramelized banana and baking spice flavors of the rum compliment eggnog very nicely, and its distinct funk adds some depth to the holiday staple. Plus, the high proof will cut the eggnog’s sweetness and egg flavors, which are two common flaws with eggnog recipes.
Monkey Shoulder Whisky
Sebastien Derbomez, brand advocacy manager at William Grant & Sons
My go-to will be Monkey Shoulder Whisky. It’s a superb, blended malt whisky made with single malts from Speyside. The result is a smooth, creamy, and very malty Scotch whisky that works superbly well neat or over ice, but truly excels in cocktails.
Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon
Yasin Orhun Akinci, manager at Orient Express Bar in New York City
Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon combined with cognac and Smith & Cross rum. I think the best trio to combine for eggnog. Warning: that’s a boozy ‘nog.
Facundo Eximo Rum
Fatima Kuras, general manager at 15 East @ Tocqueville in New York City
Eggnog is best served with dark aged rum. Facundo Eximo rum is a good choice, due to its walnut and vanilla finish.
Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Evan Williams Black Label is a classic throw in to turn up the ‘nog. Not too overpowering, but enough kick to make it a fun toast.
Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac
Brooks Cloud, founder and managing partner of Proof Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup in Decatur, Georgia
My recipe for eggnog nog is one ounce of bourbon (go with Bulleit), one ounce of cognac (Pierre Ferrand Ambre, great bottle for a reasonable price), and ½ ounce Proof Pumpkin Spice. That combo is what I use for milk punch and would pair perfectly with eggnog.
Bayou Spiced Rum
Robert Gleim, managing partner of Bamboo Willie’s Beachside Bar in Pensacola, Florida
We tend to go with our own frozen daiquiri version of eggnog as a fun Christmas specialty. We make it with Bayou Spiced Rum and Bayou Silver Rum. Made in Louisiana with pure sugarcane and molasses, the spices give it a nice touch on the back of your palate.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Matt Mendez, bartender FireLake Grill House, and Cocktail Bar in Bloomington, Minnesota
I’ll put a heavy splash of Maker’s Mark bourbon in my ‘nog. It’s the only way I can tolerate it and typically I leave it on the side. The caramel, vanilla, and charred oak flavors temper the not-so-palatable eggnog flavors.
Slane Irish Whiskey
Joel Liscio, bartender at Johnny and June’s at the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel in Asbury Park, New Jersey
Slane Irish Whiskey is my pick for using in eggnog. With eggnog bearing similar properties of custard, it allows for the vanilla and butterscotch notes to shine through. Let’s not forget that cinnamon and sweet spices from Slane mix seamlessly with clove. This all comes together with whiskey’s smoothness and a hint of sweet fruit for lift.
All you need is a roaring fire, some carolers and it’s Christmas.