If you’re anything like us, as soon as Thanksgiving is over (or sometimes even before), you get a craving for eggnog. At no other time of year does this thick, heavy, thoroughly-spiced, egg-based drink seem like a good idea. But, there’s something about the holiday season that makes us want to grab a half gallon from our local grocery store (or even make our own). The way we see it, is that if it’s good enough for Clark W. Griswold, it’s good enough for us. And, like Clark, we need a bit of booze added to the mix.
Cole Newton, bartender and owner at Twelve Mile Limit in New Orleans really spikes his eggnog by adding multiple spirits.
“My family’s signature eggnog recipe calls for three different spirits: bourbon, brandy, and rum,” he says. “If you’re just going to go with one, though, a solid dark rum, like Cruzan Black Strap, is critical. Sweet, a little spicy, and with a ton of molasses, it should give your ‘nog a real depth.”
This makes us wonder what spirits other bartenders use to spike their holiday ‘nog. So we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their go-to picks.
Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
Jay Oakley, bartender at B & O Brasserie in Baltimore
I find brandy to work best when making your eggnog into an adult eggnog. I like the blended feel Laird’s adds without being so potent that it takes away from the traditional eggnog flavor.
Andrea Correale, owner of Elegant Affairs Caterers in Glen Cove, New York
Rye Whiskey is my absolute favorite thing to mix into a spiked eggnog holiday beverage. I really like the Stroudwater Distillery brand. They age their whiskey with an accelerated aging process that presents really well and blends with the creaminess of the eggnog like no other.
Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
Erick Arce Martín, bartender at Bosque Bar at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa in Costa Rica
A whisky like Fireball because it already comes with a cinnamon flavor and nice sweetness. The Fireball helps bring out the flavor that is present in eggnog and increases the smells and tastes.
Catoctin Creek 1757 Virginia Brandy
Michelle Hamo, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia
Catoctin Creek’s 1757 Virginia Brandy is made with local grapes (Purcellville, Virginia) and finished in French Bordeaux barrels. It has all the flavors you want to go with eggnog. Smooth vanilla with hints of chocolate, dried fruit, and warm baking spices that marry nicely with creamy, almost ice cream-like flavors of a frothy glass of ‘nog.
Slayde Martin, bar operations manager at Pescado in Rosemary Beach, Florida
Willett Rye, any of the commercial releases of the Family Reserve Rye are absolutely delicious and full of Holiday spice notes. Cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla are the perfect flavor companions to a good eggnog and Willett Rye has those in droves.
Asbach Uralt 3 Year Brandy
Lauren Mathews, lead bartender at Urbana in Washington, DC
I enjoy adding a brandy base to my eggnog. Asbach Uralt 3 Year Brandy is a great addition for its honey notes and subtle hints of almond that balance the creaminess of eggnog.
Plantation Barbados 5 year Old Rum
Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at Kimpton Seafire in The Cayman Islands
Plantation Barbados 5 year Old Rum. It’s a well-priced incredibly versatile rum, and the vanilla, toffee and wood spice notes from bourbon barrel aging work really well to round out the ‘Nog, giving body working with the traditional grated nutmeg garnish.
Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
Luis Lanz, bartender at Cantina Rooftop in New York City
When it comes to spiking eggnog, you can’t go wrong with a spiced rum. That’s why I used Sailor Jerry. The vanilla and caramel of the rum makes the eggnog tastier.
Ezra Brooks 90 Proof Bourbon
Seth Weinberg, head bartender at Bourbon Steak in Nashville
Eggnog spiked with Bourbon is a classic pairing. The sweetness and caramel notes from Bourbon work extremely well with the rich vanilla flavors of eggnog. It doesn’t have to be a Bourbon with too much age, or that is too expensive since it will be mixed. I like using an old-school brand for this, like Ezra Brooks 90 proof.
Appleton Estate Signature Blend
Benjamin Rouse, head bartender at Henley in Nashville
I know that most reach for bourbon or whiskey here, but for me it’s rum! My favorite to use is Appleton Estate. It has the perfect sweetness but also this cool earthy spice that folds perfectly into the cream and spices of eggnog.
Plantation Original Dark Rum
Brandon Lockman, leader bartender at Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon
For eggnog, I suggest adding a spirit that complements the creaminess and winter spice. An aged rum would be perfect, like Plantation Original Dark. It has a good spice and won’t break the bank.
Michter’s Single Barrel Bourbon
Zarko Stankovik, beverage manager at Time Out Market in Miami
When it comes to eggnog, I like to use Michter’s Bourbon because of its strength and complexity of flavors. It’s just over 90 proof, and because of the aging process (8 years), it develops a palate of flavors that work well with eggnog; dried fruits, baking spics, cinnamon and pepper.
Mount Gay Rum
Christa Costa, owner and mixologist at The Artisan’s Palate in Charlotte, North Carolina
I like to use a combination of Rum and Cognac because they bring out the eggnog flavors in just the right way. I like to use Mount Gay rum and Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac. The rum is subtle but pronounced on the back end so it brings out the creamy mixture of the eggnog. And the cognac plays off the nutmeg and cinnamon in the drink.
Crown Royal Maple Whisky
Will Witherow, beverage director at Live Oak in Alexandria, Virginia
I like to add some Crown Royal Maple to my eggnog. When I make my eggnog I like to add the flavors of the season such as, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, etc. The maple flavor from the Whiskey just enhances these elements.
Zacapa 23 Year Rum
Rebecca Edwards, bar manager at Tavola in Charlottesville, Virginia
I like to do a split base of Zacapa 23 Year Rum and Lazzaroni Amaretto. The nuttiness of the amaretto goes perfectly with the nutmeg and cinnamon in the base eggnog recipe, and the rum helps to balance the sweetness of the Amaretto.
Sacred Bond Brandy
Will Lee, beverage director at Grey Ghost in Detroit
If I were to add some booze to my eggnog right now, it would be Sacred Bond Brandy. Sacred Bond is a bonded brandy that’s finished in bourbon barrels. The natural vanilla, apricot notes of the brandy married with the charred butterscotch flavors from the bourbon barrels makes it a no-brainer for spiking eggnog.
Not to mention, coming in bonded at 100 proof makes is great for cocktails.
Yuste Aurora Amontillado Sherry
Jose Medina Camacho, lead bartender at Automatic Seafood & Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama
I enjoy adding Amontillado Sherry (specifically Yuste Aurora Amontillado Sherry from Jerez, Spain), it’s low-ABV and adds a nice nutty, complex flavor. It may be one of the only ways you can get your relatives and friends to drink sherry.
Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky
Bryan Mayer, bartender at Azabu in Miami
When it comes holiday drinks, reach for Nikka Coffey Grain whisky. It has smooth vanilla notes that enhance the flavor and creaminess of the eggnog.