‘Tis the season! If I told you to drink a mixture of heavy cream, sugar, raw eggs, and rum at any other time of the year, you’d think I was crazy! But that’s exactly what eggnog is made of: traditionally, the spiked seasonal drink has milk, sugar, whipped egg whites (to give it that frothy appearance), warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and a good helping of liquor to help wash it all down! It’s a Christmas tradition after all, is it not? The exact origin of eggnog is unknown, but there are accounts of Americans drinking the stuff in the late 18th century, especially when rum became the liquor du jour of the country. Obviously to allay safety concerns, commercial brands don’t sell eggnog with raw eggs in them, but the ingredients to replace the frothiness are far more artificial (and no less weird!) I’ve never been much of a nog drinker, but I feel that, while some traditions are great, there has to be a better way to get your liquor intake this holiday season than taking it with a huge glass of fat, sugar, milk solids, and possible salmonella poisoning. Some wassail or rum punch, perhaps?
But, people are bound by tradition, and that mix of thick, sweet beverage and the kick from the liquor and spices makes lots of people feel in the holiday spirit. You can’t turn your back on an American classic! And the best way to celebrate is by trying a new twist on an old tradition. Lots of bars will be serving some ‘nog this Christmas season, but it’s a good bet that their recipes will most likely be coming out of a carton. But not at the Waterfront Ale House. For years, this pub-style bar–in two locations on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn–has been serving a homemade version of eggnog for the holidays, and it’s considered one of the best in the city. It’s so popular that the recipe has been featured by the grand poobah of all things holiday, Martha Stewart. Whole eggs, not just the whites, and lots of heavy cream are the secret ingredients to owner Sam Barbieri’s “Sam’s Serious Eggnog”–as well as a healthy serving of rum, brandy, and bourbon. Make no mistake, this drink isn’t just the holiday pick-me-up you may imbibe in at the office Christmas party. Sam’s Serious packs a punch, but if you’re hankering for some serious, authentic ‘nog in the city, the Waterfront Ale House is the only place to go.
Waterfront Ale House
155 Atlantic Ave (between Henry St & Clinton St), Brooklyn Heights
“Sam Barbieri, the owner of Waterfront Ale House in New York City, and Pete’s Ale House in Brooklyn. He makes arguably one of the best eggnogs in New York City — and has been doing so for the past 18 years. Taking a sip of his ‘nog, the aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are the first thing you notice, while the creaminess mingles perfectly with the trio of liquors used. It’s beautifully balanced — something not to miss.”–The Daily Meal
“During holiday season, we love the warm cozy atmosphere and the famous house brand ‘Serious Egg Nog’. It’s so tasty and full of good rum that we usually take a couple of bottles home with us. It is our no. 1 holiday drink.”–Wined And Dined
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The place is great for a gathering or an intimate dinner for two, IMO. My favorite is the smoked turkey with cheddar and jalapeño dressing. Wash it down with a Bar Habor Blueberry Ale and life is good. I bring family and friends here all the time. For the holidays, let us not forget the ‘Serious Egg Nog’!. So very tasty and full of good rum!”–Doyle R.
“Pete’s atmosphere is casual and welcoming. They have an old-fashioned wood bar. They have an interesting bunch of regulars, be wary of getting snared by the fellow who thinks the family who smokes pot together stays together. He’s a talker. If you prefer beer to weed or like it just as much, the beer selection is excellent. And during the Christmas season, you should really try Pete’s egg nog. Be careful though, that’s some powerful nog.”–Alice S.
Want that great egg nog-gy feel and flavor without the booze (or the raw eggs), there are tons of places around New York to get egg-nog flavored goodies…without resorting to the lattes at Starbucks. This season brings out all the seasonal flavors from restaurants and bakeries, and traditional favorites like gingerbread, peppermint, and pumpkin spice come out to play. Over at the Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, they’ve come up with a seasonal dessert dish that reminds you the great bakers there do way more than just make cupcakes. (You can also get your seasonal fix with pumpkin and gingerbread cupcakes here, just so you know, you cupcake fiends!) Their pumpkin eggnog pudding is more than just a plain custard: it’s more of a holiday trifle, with spiced pumpkin cake swimming in a thick, sweet, creamy eggnog pudding. The result is a super-sweet mix of textures, soft cake and creamy pudding, and a host of flavors that will always make you think of the holiday season.
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery
126 Rivington St (between Essex St & Norfolk St)
“We’ve been fans of this teeny Lower East Side bakery and its pies, cakes and cupcakes for years. We love the story of these two ladies, Peg and Deb, who met while performing in The Music Man, living parallel lives of auditioning and working together at Magnolia Bakery. They launched this itty bitty bakery over nine years ago and we think it gets better every year. Come October, they roll out their moist and surprisingly light Pumpkin Cake. But the best card they’re holding is the Pumpkin Eggnog Pudding Cake, a mildly spiced trifle layered with moist Pumpkin Cake and a thick and luscious Eggnog Pudding.”–Restaurant Girl
“Banana Pudding and the Chocolate Bomb Pudding are offered year-round at this Lower East Side bakery, but only in the autumn months does the pumpkin pudding make a debut. The pudding looks messy, and it is, but it’s is all part of the fun, with crumbled pumpkin cake layers tossed with whipped cream and eggnog pudding. You’ll end up with a toothache, but it’s worth the sacrifice.”–Serious Eats
“For a rich and creamy dessert, head to Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery on the Lower East Side. The bakery also serves a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese frosting, but the pumpkin-eggnog combination is hard to match. The Rivington Street shop has a bright 60′s/70′s decor, creating the perfect atmosphere to enjoy your pudding.”–Besen Retail
“When we crave that creamy, delicious pumpkin spice, we can turn to Sugar Sweet Sunshine’s Pumpkin Eggnog Pudding. Layered with crumpled pumpkin cake and topped with whipped cream in a savory eggnog concoction, this rich, milky treat will leave you full and gratified.”–Guest Of A Guest
“The Pumkin Trifle may be a sugar overload, but it’s way too good to pass up in all its cloying glory. Eggnog pudding is layered with pumpkin cake crumbles and whipped cream. Get your taste buds ready and toothbrushes on deck.”–Fashion Indie
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“SUGAR SWEET SUNSHINE has been COMMENDED! This LES bakery best known for its cupcakes also makes puddings so awesome I call them whipped cream with superpowers. This seasonal version, with pumpkin cake, egg nog pudding and gobs upon gobs of whip, may not be around for long, so snag some while you can. WARNING: May induce a days-long sugar high.”–The C.
“I ordered the banana pudding, loaded with chunks of fresh banana and ‘nilla wafers….or was it cake? I can’t remember that part, but damn, was it good….. and the “shot” was just the perfect amount after a filling meal @ Katz’s Deli. My husband got pumpkin eggnog pudding, which he loved. I’m not a fan of eggnog, and I really liked his, as well.”–Claudia B.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!