A holiday classic spices up the season thanks to Boston’s bartenders.
“Nog” is a 17th-century term for a type of beer brewed in the English region of East Anglia, where eggnog is thought to have originated.
What is eggnog anyway? How did a drink made with room-temperature eggs ever get onto the short list of holiday traditions? Turns out it was those Colonial ancestors of ours (relatives: the forced guest list). First sipped by the European elite of the 17th century (eggs and milk were luxuries then), the rich elixir was later downed in pre-revolutionary America, but with what could be argued was a much-needed heady twist: rum. Since the American colonies were much closer to the Caribbean islands where rum was made than to the home country, the spirit was a cheap alternative to sherry or brandy shipped from England.
Well, that was then; this is now. Boston’s modern mixologists have revolutionized the ole nog by upping the ante with creative new recipes—concoctions laced with fine liquors and zesty flavors—dedicated to turning a yawn of a tradition into exclamations of “What’s in that punch this year?!”
Bar manager Katie Emmerson of The Hawthorne (500A Commonwealth Ave., 617-532-9150) dreamed up her eggnog recipe, Monkey Business, simply out of curiosity. “We didn’t really grow up with eggnog in my family,” says Emmerson. “So as I’ve had more exposure to it in the last few years, I’ve had a little fascination with it. Monkey Business came mostly from wanting to highlight Monkey Shoulder, a beautiful blend of Speyside Scotches.” Emmerson’s cocktail is a sweet treat. “There is a cool chocolate note in it that I thought would work for an eggnog-like dessert cocktail,” she says.
Karen Small of the restaurant Bel Ari Italian Modern (107 South St., 617-259-1560) also likes to riff on the naturally sweet taste of old-fashioned eggnog. To her winter drink menu, she has added an eggnog cocktail, Black Velvet, that mixes New England tradition with an homage to her native Great Britain. “When I got to the States, I realized many people drank eggnog during the holidays,” Small says. “I decided to create a cocktail that had the deep, dry taste of Hennessy with the sweetness of the eggnog and the subtle flavor of rum.”
Meanwhile, across town, Kristina Gochis of the Lenox Hotel’s City Bar (65 Exeter St., 617-933-4800) is no eggnog virgin. She wants to share the love by turning the bland holiday drink into something that her clients can down all winter, so she mixes up the Winter Warmer, spiked with Cava Brava light rum and Bulleit rye. “My family’s typical holiday cocktail was an ‘any spiced rum and eggnog’ type of drink,” says Gochis. “This is why we wanted to create a specialty cocktail with more than just the typical two-liquor combination. My family is in for a fun change this year.”