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12/11/2017 09:52 am ET

What Is Eggnog Made Out Of, Anyway?

Mmmmm, raw eggs.

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Eggnog is pretty much synonymous with Christmas. What other time of year do we drink something that’s basically custard spiked with booze? 

Whether you love it or hate it, chances are you don’t actually have any idea what’s in eggnog. The kind you buy in a carton is pretty mysterious ― just read the ingredients, and you’ll see it’s often filled with high fructose corn syrup and thickeners such as guar gum and carrageenan. YUM.

But what exactly is in the real, true, honest-to-goodness, homemade eggnog? Are there even eggs in there? And if so, are they raw or cooked? What else is even in there?

We’re settling this once and for all, breaking down what’s really in most traditional eggnog recipes. It’s not as terrifying as you might think, unless you’re counting calories. Or cholesterol. Or fat.

Whatever, it’s the holidays. Everything in moderation!

  • 1 Egg Yolks
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    Every recipe uses a different number of egg yolks, but they are always present -- usually around four yolks per quart of finished eggnog. And yes, they are often left raw, just whisked in with the other ingredients and refrigerated. Here's a very scientific explanation for why there's very little risk of getting salmonella.
  • 2 Sugar
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    While George Washington's original recipe calls for 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup), every recipe is a little different, depending on how sweet you want your final product to be.
  • 3 Whole Milk
    Tetra Images via Getty Images
    Whole milk is the foundation of eggnog, so use the good stuff.
  • 4 Heavy Cream
    Brian Yarvin via Getty Images
    Egg yolks and milk not rich enough for you? Never fear, eggnog contains heavy cream as well. There are usually two parts whole milk to one part heavy cream.
  • 5 Bourbon/Rum/Cognac
    Andreas Levers via Getty Images
    Choice of spirit (or whether you use it at all) usually depends on personal taste, but most eggnog recipes call for a brown spirit of some kind. Our very scientific taste test revealed that the best-tasting combination is cognac and rum, but 
    George Washington's recipe featured rye whiskey, Jamaican rum and sherry, and Martha Stewart prefers using bourbon, cognac and dark rum.
  • 6 Nutmeg
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    Some recipes also call for cinnamon, vanilla or other spices, but nutmeg is compulsory, and it's best when freshly grated.
  • 7 Whipped Egg Whites (Sometimes)
    Foodcollection RF via Getty Images
    Most recipes include this as an optional ingredient because people get so stressed about the fact that they're technically raw. Adding whipped egg whites to your eggnog lightens it up a bit, stretches it a little further and also makes use of the whites you separated from the yolks.

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