As is often the case, a chef’s signature dish or drink often begins with simple curiosity. Take Sun Liquor distiller and operations manager Erik Chapman’s eggnog. His employee’s grandfather’s recipe for aged eggnog sparked Chapman’s interest, and he quickly went “further down the eggnog rabbit hole” researching recipes. Chapman eventually turned up an old recipe for George Washington’s eggnog (yes, that George Washington), which he promptly made and loved. For years, it’s been one of Sun Liquor’s most anticipated drinks and traditions.
Chapman notes that there are many eggnog variations, “but I tend to stick with the cream, eggs, sugar and spirits tradition,” he says. Aging mellows the boozy nose of this spiked beverage and makes for a harmonious, blended flavor—and a more nuanced drink than freshly made ’nog. Aging also smooths the consistency, creating a nice break from the thick and cloying grocery-store versions we’ve come to expect. “Distilling your own rum and brandy certainly makes for a better product, too,” says Chapman of his unique ability to control every ingredient in the mix.
“It is meticulously labor intensive to craft and must be aged for at least 30 days in the proper environment and temperature, so it’s not really possible to make it available for the whole season,” notes Chapman who only serves the eggnog on Christmas Eve and Christmas night at the bar and distillery (Capitol Hill, 607 Summit Ave. E, 206.860.1130; and 514 E Pike St., 206.720.1600; sunliquor.com). Occasionally, a limited bottling is available for sale at both the distillery and at Seattle Total Wine (totalwine.com).
“I’m not a religious person, but I do think there is a kind of magic that time of year, and a special, handcrafted, aged eggnog that is only available two days of the year seems to fit our vibe.”
» OK, how exactly do you “age” cream and eggs? “Traditionally, eggnog was a way to preserve cream and eggs,” says Chapman, who has been making eggnog for the Christmas season since the bar opened in 2006. Alcohol is a natural preservative, killing off bacteria. Interestingly, this natural preservation process also brings out the best in all of the ingredients. “Aging breaks down the proteins and fats in the cream and eggs, producing a cocktail that is silky smooth and perfectly balanced,” says Chapman. “The longer it sits, the better. We have test batches that are 24 months old, and they are the best thing you’ve ever had.”
» What do you need to age eggnog at home? "You need only stellar ingredients, a sealed jar and time. You can start in the fall or wait a few weeks before the holidays to get the batch going—how long you age is up to you.”
Image by: Colin Bishop
Erik Chapman gets cracking on the eggnog
Erik Chapman’s Sun Liquor Eggnog Recipe
For his aged eggnog, Chapman uses cream from Smith Brothers Farms and Sun Liquor’s house-made rum.
4 eggs, separated
16 ounces half and half
8 ounces heavy cream (40 percent)
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 ½ ounces bourbon
1 ½ ounces Sun Liquor barrel-aged rum
1 ounce brandy (apple preferred)
» Mixing: In a stand mixer (or by hand, if you want to destroy your forearm muscles) whisk the yolks in a large-size mixing bowl until they are pale and flowing. Slowly add the sugar. Once the sugar and yolks are forming perfect ribbons, turn the mixer to a low speed and slowly add the spirits and half and half. Set the bowl aside and start whisking the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the spirit/yolk mixture. In the same bowl used to mix the egg whites, whisk the heavy cream until it achieves soft peaks, then slowly fold it into the first bowl. Give the entire mixture a gentle mix with a large whisk.
» Aging: “I like using glass Mason jars for the aging process (be sure to properly clean and sanitize any containers intended for aging—washing in the dishwasher will do). Fill containers and tightly seal, then store in the back of a refrigerator for as long as you like; 30 is a good number of days to age. (I’ve had batches last over a year, but unless you can control temperatures and sanitation, I would stick with 30 days.) You will notice the mixture separates during its aging process; don’t be alarmed, this is normal,” says Chapman.
» Serving: Give the eggnog a thorough mixing before serving. The aging process will have made the eggnog silky smooth with an extremely pleasant aroma and mouthfeel. Pour into chilled cocktail coupes and serve with a light dusting of freshly ground nutmeg. And always serve with friends and family!