A nod to eggnog
Chicago chefs, mixologists put their own twists on the seasonal drink
A nod to the nog: Coconut milk replaces the traditional cream in Danielle Pizzutillo's eggnog version at Embeya (Beth Rooney/Tribune Photo)
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564 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661, USA
18 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, USA
1941 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
14 S 3rd St, Geneva, IL 60134, USA
611 N Fairbanks Ct, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Clint Rogers, mixologist at Henri, says it might be a distant relative of a similar drink enjoyed in England centuries ago; a posset was prepared with or without alcohol and eventually spiced with nutmeg.
But Rogers points out that some believe the drink was created in America when early settlers made simple cocktails a simple cocktail called a grog with rum, citrus and sugar. "Eggnog might have been an American invention combining egg and grog, and egg drinks were called noggins, and over time I think it makes a pretty logical leap to eggnog," he says. "We don't know if this is 100 percent fact, but sometimes the story is better than the truth."
Chefs and mixologists who create cocktails are adding new chapters to the eggnog narrative by preparing ones inspired by their own perspectives. Here is a sampling of a few we've seen recently.
Kentucky bourbon caramelized quince eggnog:
Executive chef Scott Walton was making sweet-and-sour quince for a dry-aged pork dish at Markethouse when he realized that the fruit would pair well with eggnog made with Kentucky bourbon. So he soaked the fruit in the alcohol for four or five days and then removed it. "I like the subtle fall flavor of the quince which has a tad of sweetness, but also tartness that works well with the richness of the eggnog that has light accents of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla," Walton says. He caramelizes the slices of quince that infused the alcohol to garnish the drink served in a small cup. "They give a little bit of a burnt flavor and sourness to the eggnog," he explains. $12; 611 N. Fairbanks Court, 312-224-2200
Rogers at Henri flavors his whiskey-based eggnog, the Kaliki Tiki, with apricot liqueur — made with the stone of the fruit, to add a sweet, nutty, earthy flavor — and the Italian amaro Fernet-Branca, instead of traditional spices. He says that although the ingredients of Fernet-Branca are a secret, the company is the world's largest consumer of saffron and the spirit also has a heavy dose of mint and a subtle flavor of clove, cinnamon and anise. "Fernet-Branca doesn't have a tropical or baking spice flavor, but a kind of umami spice with a hint of mint," Rogers says. The drink, served with a straw, is garnished with two sprigs of mint and shaved cinnamon. "Every time you drink the cocktail, you're getting the aroma of what's in the drink," Rogers says. $12; 18 S. Michigan Ave., 312-578-0763
At Niche, sommelier Vince Balistreri wanted to make a fruit-flavored eggnog, so he searched through the restaurant's nearly 300 different whiskeys and found a black cherry one, Red Stag, from Jim Beam for his version. He garnishes the drink, which is served in a glass rimmed in cinnamon and sugar, with several house-made dehydrated cherries that he steeps in bourbon to plump them back up. "The creaminess of the eggnog is balanced by the sweetness of the cherries and the bourbon that is a little bit sweet too," Balistreri says. $10; 14 S. Third St., Geneva, 630-262-1000
At progressive-Asian restaurant Embeya, beverage director Danielle Pizzutillo took her inspiration for an eggnog from a prominent ingredient in the kitchen: coconut. She makes coconut milk by steeping shavings of coconut overnight in water with allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, vanilla and cinnamon. It replaces the traditional cream in the drink, which Pizzutillo makes with cognac. To complete the eggnog, she slowly warms the yolks of local pasteurized eggs, enhanced with the same spices plus dehydrated orange chips to highlight the caramel flavors of the alcohol, and then she strains the mixture. She tops the drink with a coconut milk foam and uses a stencil to dust it with cinnamon and brown sugar to form Embeya's logo, a distinctively styled lower case letter "e." "It's a holiday in a glass," Pizzutillo says. $12; 564 W. Randolph St., 312-612-5640
At Storefront Company, chef Bryan Moscatello took inspiration from the ingredients of the Bobby Burns cocktail for his eggnog but tinkered with the proportions. He uses 10-year-old Laphroaig Scotch whisky for a smoky flavor, Carpano Antica vermouth for sweetness and Benedictine for its herbal sweetness. "For a twist on the traditional grated nutmeg, I do a spritz of pimento dram on top which has a clove-y profile and aroma," Moscatello explains. He serves the eggnog with shortbread cookies. He says, "I want people to nibble on something crisp and textural to balance the rich, unctuous eggnog." $9; 1941 W. North Ave., 773-661-2609