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Winter cocktail: Caramelized eggnog with dark rum

I’m back! I know it was just a few days ago that I was saying goodbye until after the holidays, feeling like I couldn’t see the light at the Tunnel of Kitchen Despair, but the clouds have parted and HERE I AM. Look at all that fuss I made! (Oh god, please let the Tunnel be behind me.)

And I didn’t want to wait for this any longer, because (for some reason that always escapes me) the nog window is open for only so much longer, and I don’t want it to pass you by.


I like eggnog. I like it a lot, actually, though to be honest I don’t drink much of it, even during its short season, and I mostly forget about it for the rest of the year.  When I do drink it I like it straight up – no booze, no coffee, no anything else to detract from the flavor and creaminess – and when I buy it I’ll gladly shell out for the nice stuff, knowing what a difference can be made from good dairy and eggs. I’ve made it at home a few times and have never been entirely impressed – it’s never seemed quite as thick and creamy as the store-bought stuff (which must be emulsified in some way to keep it so thick), and making it from scratch forces me out from under the hood of denial that I’m basically drinking melted ice cream.

But this year, I wanted to try again. We love the dairy and eggs we can get around here (Sassy Cow for milk and cream – and nog, if we buy it – and preferably Pecatonia Valley Farm for eggs), and I had some ideas for changing up the flavor a bit. I started with a base of melted sugar, substituted brown sugar for the rest of the sweetener, and added a healthy dose of vanilla, and at the end spiked it with dark rum instead of the more traditional bourbon or brandy. I chilled it for two hours to let the flavors meld, and that they did – the dark rum and the deeper flavors from the melted and brown sugars blended into each other perfectly, and where I often find spiked eggnogs to taste both too little and too much of either element, this version was perfectly balanced. It was a dangerous combination.


Yes, this recipe takes a few more steps and ingredients than a straight-forward nog. But if you’re looking for something slightly different or want something a little more involved for a holiday party or special get-together, it is absolutely worth it – and honestly not that much more involved than a basic recipe. (It’s also entirely worth it for a random Thursday night, I can speak from experience.) The melted sugar and brown sugar add a complexity you won’t find in the store-bought stuff, especially if you chill it for an hour or two before drinking, and despite adding the caramel it’s not as sticky sweet as some eggnogs are. It’s also fantastic without the rum, if desired/needed, and people can add their own rum for a more customized cocktail.

The nog window is open! Don’t miss it.

Caramelized eggnog with dark rum

Makes approximately 6 servings (though really more like 3, if you’re being honest with yourself), easily scalable. 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 cup dark rum (e.g.Whaler’s)
  • Nutmeg for garnish (preferably freshly grated)

– Caramelize sugar Combine cream and milk in a liquid measuring cup or something else that will be easy to pour out of. Heat sugar and water in a small pot over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Let cook another 8 minutes or so, until it turns amber in color, then immediately remove from the heat (on a gas range, just turning off the burner is fine). If the caramel cooks unevenly and a dark area forms, swirl the mixture to distribute it. Immediately whisk in the cream and milk mixture, whisking while pouring in at a moderate speed. It will steam and bubble and some of the caramel may thicken as its temperature reduces – that’s okay! Keep whisking until the mixture is combined. Let cool off-heat for a minute or two before adding the egg mixture.

– Prepare egg mixture In a medium-to-large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla. Pour in the caramel-cream mixture, stirring or whisking constantly (if the caramel is still quite warm, there’s a slight risk it could cook bits of the egg yolk).

– Whip egg whites and combine Using a stand mixer or electric mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold this mixture into the rest of the eggnog – it might take a bit of work to get it combined fully, but that’s okay. You should end up with a fairly frothy mixture – not quite as creamy-thick as store-bought nog, more foamy-thick.

Chill and serve If you have the time, chill the eggnog for at least two hours before serving. It may separate into a more foamy layer and a thicker layer, and that’s totally fine – use a spatula or a whisk to recombine. If serving with rum, add now and stir in. Serve in a pitcher or punch bowl, with nutmeg sprinkled on top (preferably freshly grated, but the ground stuff works well too).

Making ahead/storage: Homemade eggnog won’t maintain its texture very well for more than a day, at most, especially if the rum is added before storing. If storing finished eggnog, keep in a loosely covered container in the refrigerator. You can make the caramel mixture (melted sugar, cream, and milk) up to 5 days ahead, if desired – it will thicken drastically in the refrigerator, but you can warm over medium heat in a pot to soften again. 

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