Williamsburg Egg Nog

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I ran across this authentic Colonial-era egg nog recipe during research for a magazine article for Colonial Williamsburg many years ago. Printed in the original late 17th century English, it was well nigh unintelligible – until I had a professor at William and Mary sort it out for me. Adjusted for modern ingredients and properly aged, the result is a very smooth, sweet cup of Holiday cheer – with a real twist of American history!

Williamsburg Egg Nog


  • 6 Eggs

  • 2 cups Heavy Cream

  • 1 cup Milk

  • ¾ to 1 cup Sugar

  • 1 tsp fresh grated Nutmeg

  • 1/2 cup Rum

  • 1/2 cup Brandy

  • 1/2 cup Whisky (Bourbon)

Mixing instructions:

Separate the eggs (yolk and white), set the whites aside. Mix yolks well, gradually adding the cream, milk, and sugar. Go back to the egg white - WHIP IT (whip it good!) until "soft peaks" form. Fold the white into the rest. Gradually add the alcohol. Either add nutmeg right away, or sprinkle on top later. AGE for at least 2 hours in refrigerator, uncovered. Don’t worry about raw eggs – all that alcohol should kill anything!

  • I made this with half and half for all dairy ingredients (Warning: half and half won’t whip). Be careful of sugar content – it may require more (original 17th Century Rum was sickly sweet). The original recipe called for Jamaican Rum (colonial versions of which were nearly the consistency of honey!) Look for dark Jamaican rum that will have more flavor.

  • I used a cheap Cognac originally – and it was terrible! Look for a moderately priced variant…you can always enjoy the remainder later.

  • The Whisky noted you might assume to be Scotch or Canadian – considering our modern spelling. Use Bourbon (Whiskey). Scotch sounds awful!

  • Original ingredients called for about six quarts of cream (scale recipe accordingly). Like most flavor blends, this drink benefits from being made and aged in large quantities. Calculate proportions carefully.

  • Aged one year, it is so smooth as to be non-alcoholic. Otherwise, it’s pretty rough! That’s an understatement – freshly made, it will tear your head off!!

  • You may want to assemble ingredients about a week before Thanksgiving, test after a day or two and seal the remainder airtight in the fridge for Christmas.

This recipe makes about a quart and a half of eggnog. I usually made about a gallon to get a better mix. Put up in Mason Jars in the fridge, it is nearly immortal – it seems to get smoother with age. Make it up a week or two in advance for outstanding results! I once tried a batch that was refrigerated for over a year. It was wonderful! Didn’t even taste of alcohol, but it was still abundantly present – be careful!

From the unofficial bartender’s guide, here’s another recipe that requires cooking. Sounds like it could be applied to the Williamsburg mix, since heating would eliminate the salmonella dangers of raw eggs, plus make the sugar dissolve more easily:

Egg-Nog - Classic Cooked

Makes 1 1/2 quarts or 12 (1/2 cup) servings.

6 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

1 quart milk, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla

Garnishes or stir-ins, optional

In large saucepan, beat together eggs, sugar and salt, if desired. Stir in 2 cups of the milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon and reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight. Just before serving, pour into bowl or pitcher. Garnish or add stir-ins, if desired. Serve immediately.

Here are a few other ideas you might want to try:

Garnishes and Stir-Ins (Choose 1 or several): Chocolate curls. Cinnamon sticks. Extracts or flavorings. Flavored brandy or liqueur. Fruit juice or nectar. Ground nutmeg. Maraschino cherries. Orange slices. Peppermint sticks or candy canes. Plain brandy, rum, or whiskey. Sherbet or ice cream. Whipping cream, whipped.

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