I’d like to say that the origins of CraigNog are shrouded in myth. And perhaps one day they will be, if I’m lucky. It has garnered some small measure of fame (or infamy) on the Internet thanks to the erstwhile denizens of the newsgroups alt.showbiz.gossip and later alt.gossip.celebrities, both of which are now shadows of their former selves thanks to vicious infighting and some rather spectacular meltdowns by a few unstable personalities. In its heyday, though, alt.showbiz.gossip was a glorious thing, full of sharp and intelligent conversation, surprisingly witty and sophisticated banter, and juicy inside information on Hollywood celebs and Washington politicos. Several well-known writers actually cut their teeth there, and a number of big name actors posted there regularly under pseudonyms.
The CraigNog recipe became an annual posting, and it won new fans each year. Now the recipe seems to have gotten a life of its own in other Internet quarters. One happy evangelist, in the midst of a discussion of (I believe) quantum physics, told me how wonderful this stuff was and asked if I had ever heard of it. When I told him that I created the recipe, he practically writhed at my feet in a frenzy of self-abasement. (That’s my favorite line from the Noel Coward play Blithe Spirit, by the way.)
Once upon a time my father was the tax consultant and informal business manager for a boarding kennel run by a lesbian couple, Lois and Caroline, who quickly became family friends. I even worked for a few years at their kennel, which they called a country club for pets long before that sort of hyperbole was fashionable, first as a lowly cage cleaner, later as the supervisor of their cattery, and finally writing their ads and brochures. One year they invited our family to their home for a quiet little Christmas party, and Lois made an eggnog quite unlike any other I had tasted. In fact, it seemed to be mainly eggs, milk, and bourbon. Lots and lots of bourbon. I finally wrestled the recipe from her, dutifully made it, and was disappointed to find that it was nothing like the concoction I had so loved.
So I made my own. Inspired by dear Lois, long retired to Palm Springs (assuming she’s still alive; we’ve fallen out of touch, alas), I added and subtracted and tasted and rejected and reformulated until I got something I liked, and one year brought it to the Christmas party of a non-profit organization where I was the office manager. My friend Indigo Bunting took one sip and said, “This is too good to be called eggnog. No, this is—Craignog!” And Craignog it became. (I started capitalizing the N in nog some years later. Perhaps I should call it CraigNog™!)
The spreading Internet version even has blurbs attached to it, if you can believe it, most of them touting its supposed aphrodesiac qualities: “Even reading the justly famous CraigNog recipe produces a sultry little buzz.” “This drink is responsible for at least one engagement that I know of, and certainly more than a few pleasant trysts.” “I loved it, so did my guests. The only change I made was to go ahead and dump the extra liquor in the CraigNog. I don’t believe in giving people free choice at my parties—if you walk in the door, you walk out smashed, unless you have a note from your doctor.” “This is a killer recipe and rumored to leave men and women with hardons for a week.” “[It] would give even Quentin Crisp a raging woody.”
I have tweaked the recipe slightly over the years, combining a few steps to make it less fussy, being a tad more generous with the nutmeg, adding a couple more eggs to the mixture. I even made a low-carb version, though other dieters will be sad to learn that the caloric content is, um, rather steep. Which is why you only make it around the holidays.
Here, then, is my
- 18 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1½ cups plus ½ cup confectioner’s sugar (may substitute Splenda granular)
- 1 cup gold rum (preferably Cruzan or Bacardi)
- ½ cup Kentucky bourbon (preferably Maker’s Mark)
- ¼ cup cognac (preferably Courvoisier) or other French brand
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon rum extract
- 1½ teaspoons nutmeg, plus more for garnish (freshly grated will make a huge difference)
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 to 2 cups whole milk
- 2 quarts vanilla ice cream (preferably Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s; a low-carb ice cream may be substituted, if you can find a good one)
- 12 ounces whipped cream
You’ll need a very large punch bowl, two mixing bowls, and either an electric mixer or a whisk and a strong arm.
Separate the eggs carefully into the two mixing bowls.
Beat the whites until soft peaks begin to form; add ½ cup confectioner’s sugar, salt, and cream of tartar, and incorporate thoroughly.
In another bowl, beat the yolks for a long time until they become lemon yellow. Add the remaining confectioner’s sugar, the liquor, extracts, and spices. Blend thoroughly. Add one cup of the milk and half the ice cream, and blend until smooth. (I seem to remember doing this step in a blender one year, but I can’t believe it wouldn’t overflow with the addition of the ice cream, so I may have dreamed it.)
Pour the yolk mixture into the large punch bowl. Add the whipped cream and the beaten whites, and fold them in thoroughly. If it’s too thick, add another cup of milk. Add the rest of the ice cream, in largish chunks so that it will keep the nog cool while it melts. Garnish with more nutmeg.
Make up a small pitcher of liquor for folks to add more to suit themselves, always in this ratio: 4 parts rum : 2 parts bourbon : 1 part cognac. And yes, you can make it without any alcohol at all. If you must.
My friend Tim always hates it when people say “Enjoy!”, since it sounds to him like more of a command than a hope. So I’ll just say I hope you like it.