Noggin' for the holidays 

Local bartenders put their twist on that divisive, sweet holiday drink: egg nog

click to enlarge Bartender Jacob Rakovan mixes the "Cratchit's Comfort" at The Daily Refresher. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Bartender Jacob Rakovan mixes the "Cratchit's Comfort" at The Daily Refresher.

After talking to people about egg nog, I've come to realize that they either love it or abhor it. Personally, I love the stuff. I'll put it in my coffee, use it in pancake or French toast batter — I'll even buy the pre-mixed stuff at the liquor store.

But I've found what people find most disturbing about the thick, sweet holiday drink is that they think they are drinking raw egg — which is not wrong — but as bartender Jacob Rakovan at The Daily Refresher explains, we consume raw egg in other things that we don't have a problem with.

"We eat meringue," he says. "We eat mayonnaise. We eat raw eggs in its emulsified form all the time. Usually the most dangerous part of the egg is the shell in terms of Salmonella."

Egg nogs, and their popularity, can be followed back to the flip, a mixed drink that dates back to the 1600's, says Dan Kajdas, general manager at La Casa. "People would take a hot poker and stick it in beer with rum and sugar to make it foamy and warm. Eventually they started making nogs that used cream, so flips and nogs are very close; flips will have liquor, sugar, and egg, whereas nog has all that in addition to cream."

"The Rompope" made at La Casa. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • "The Rompope" made at La Casa.

For the holiday season, La Casa (93 Alexander Street) is making a Southern American Spanish-style egg nog called "The Rompope." "We do a take on a traditional egg nog, flip drink with Horchata heavy cream that we make in-house with cinnamon, vanilla, and rice milk that we thicken with heavy cream," Kajdas says.

The drink is made with a whole egg, one ounce of Horchata heavy cream (you can buy RumChata at the liquor store in lieu of making your own), two ounces of Myers dark rum (you can use any spiced rum, but Kajdas recommends an aged rum because it has more notes of vanilla), and a half ounce of brown sugar simple syrup (equal parts brown sugar and water boiled together until sugar is dissolved). Shake the mixture in a shaker with no ice, this is called a dry shake and is used to incorporate the egg with the rest of ingredients, like whisking. Add ice and then give it a strong shake again — the longer the better so you get a nice, foamy head on it — strain into a chilled glass and garnish with nutmeg and cinnamon.

The "Cratchit's Comfort" at The Daily Refresher. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • The "Cratchit's Comfort" at The Daily Refresher.

Rakovan is making a more traditional egg nog recipe called "Cratchit's Comfort" at The Daily Refresher (293 Alexander Street). The drink uses Sorel, a spiced liqueur made in Brooklyn, or as Rakovan calls it, "Christmas in a glass." Start by separating one egg yolk from the egg white, and placing the egg white in a shaker with a quarter ounce of simple syrup and one ounce of heavy cream. Then you dry shake. After shaking, add one and three quarters ounce of bourbon; a quarter ounce of Gosling's Black Seal Rum; a quarter ounce of Sorel; and the egg yolk; add ice and shake hard again. Strain into a glass and garnish with cinnamon and nutmeg. The drink offers a "beautiful, creamy, mouthfeel texture of traditional egg nog," Rakovan says.

"Father Kalikimaka" also at The Daily Refresher. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • "Father Kalikimaka" also at The Daily Refresher.

Matthew Pawloski, also of The Daily Refresher, went downright tropical with his take on an egg nog drink: the "Father Kalikimaka" (think of Clark Griswold staring out the window to Bing Crosby's "Mele Kalikimaka" in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"). In a shaker, combine a whole egg; one and a half ounces of aged, spiced rum (he used Angostura 7 Year); a half ounce of Orgeat (an almond syrup); a half ounce of Dry Curacao; a third of an ounce of fresh orange juice; a third ounce of Falernum (a syrup flavored with almond, ginger, clove, and lime); and a third ounce of Gosling's Spiced Rum (or any spiced rum).

For this cocktail you will reverse dry shake, which means shake first with ice, strain, and then shake again with no ice and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange peel and dust with nutmeg. The end result will look, and taste, something like an Orange Julius. If you're wondering where to get all of these ingredients, they should all be available at your larger liquor stores. The bitters used are from Fee Brothers, which is a local company.

The "Wake N' Bake Apple Pie" from The Cub Room. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • The "Wake N' Bake Apple Pie" from The Cub Room.

At The Cub Room (739 South Clinton Avenue), bartender Michael Bolis has created his version of a nog cocktail, the "Wake N' Bake Apple Pie." The cocktail starts with a whole egg; three quarters of an ounce of Rittenhouse Rye; one to one and a half ounces of Iron Smoke's Rattlesnake Rosie's Apple Pie Whiskey; a dash of lemon, honey, and grenadine; and topped with cinnamon. The egg lends a creaminess that is reminiscent of apple pie with whipped cream or ice cream on top.

While none of these drinks are made with egg nog right out of the carton, as Dan Kajdas explains, "We're basically making fresh egg nog on the fly — we're making it to order when we're making these drinks." Of course there is nothing wrong with breaking out that crystal punch bowl, pouring in a gallon of egg nog and adding brandy, bourbon, or whiskey, whatever you prefer. Either way it's going to be the holidays in a glass.

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