Christmas 1966: Mom is dazzling in her swingy cream sweater and Dad's kicked back, shoes off, chatting it up with family. Though the photo is crackled and damaged, it somehow adds to the nostalgia of bygone holidays. And perhaps alludes to the confetti of personalities coming together to celebrate the reason of the season: the birth of Jesus and eggnog.
The legendary Amaretto was concocted in this same house around the holidays, but it's Grandma's Eggnog that most screams Christmas. More particularly, it's Christmas Eve and New Years where this milky toddy shines. Measurements were, unfortunately, never quantified in our family recipes—not to sabotage the outcome, but rather in a quintessentially Southern way of assuming the reader inherently knows how many eggs yield appropriate eggnog-tastic results. So embracing that je ne sais quoi sensibility, we begin:
2 quarts milk—the only measurement included. If you'd like, use half and half cream to make up some of the requisite 2 quarts.
Eggs, separating whites and yolks—a dozen eggs work for 2 quarts milk
In a large pot scald, do not boil, the milk.
Whip egg yolks with a pinch of salt and sugar, starting with roughly ¼ cup of sugar and add from there if it isn't sweet enough. Add this mixture slowly to the scalded milk, a little at a time, stirring constantly so egg clumps don't form in the hot milk. Cook this mixture until it thickens and begins to coat the spoon.
Add vanilla to taste.
Whip egg whites until stiff with 1 tbsp sugar. After the nog has thickened and is cooked, gently fold in the egg whites so they will remain like quarter-sized balls of meringue on top.
For those who like a little "noggy" added, a jigger of Canadian bourbon, straight bourbon or rum should do the trick. Grate nutmeg and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Serve hot and instantly feel warm and cozy. Leftovers can be refrigerated and drank cold the next morning without alcohol in it. Or with—whatever tickles your fancy!