How (And How Not) to Spike Eggnog

We tried everything so you wouldn’t have to.

’Tis Christmas season and the tree isn’t going to put lights on itself. Before you poke your hand into those needles (and the needles poke back), pour yourself a present, ideally an eggnog cocktail. There’s nothing better than tippling something creamy by the fire, but what you get out of it will depend a great deal on what you put in. That’s why we put every conceivable liquor into the ol’ nog to see what worked.

Here are the results of our noble yuletide experiment.

Rum: The classic is pretty hard to beat. We recommend a dark rum – spiced works too, but it’s more fun to add spices yourself – poured generously. The Gosling’s left over from your summer Dark and Stormies will get the job done. Sprinkle some McCormick Chili Powder (there’s some in your spice drawer) on if you’re feeling dangerous. Tastes like Christmas en fuego.

Gin: Sounds like an awful idea, but actually isn’t. Seek out something boldly botanical, like Aviation or Monkey 47, and the two tastes should meld together nicely. That said, don’t mix good gin and bad eggnog (you know, the cheap stuff they stock in drug stores). Bad eggnog is too sweet to handle an alcoholic punch. The drink goes down for the count.

Bourbon: Nothing to object to about this mix other than a lack of imagination. Americans have been making Jacknogs for centuries (look up the “Eggnog Riot”) because they taste fine and the buzz is terrific. That said, a peatier whiskey might be a more interesting choice.

Scotch: There you go. You don’t want to waste your best Macallan on Eggnog, but a little bit off the top of a younger bottle will kick your drink up a notch. It’s an advanced approach to a classic play.

Vodka: The main advantage of vodka is that you probably have a handle in your house somewhere. Everyone has a handle of vodka in their house somewhere – it’s one of the unexplainable constants of American life. Can you put it in your eggnog? Absolutely. Will it taste good? Probably not. If you’re dealing with very good vodka (think: Belvedere) it will taste like eggnog. If you’re dealing with something a little cheaper, it will taste like eggnog come Easter.

Applejack: Underrated and seasonally appropriate, this mix works well enough that you may see it in some better-stocked cocktail bars this year. We strongly recommend finding a bottle of Laird’s – good stuff.

Bailey’s: I heard you liked cream so I got you some cream for your cream…. Eggnog and Bailey’s actually get along too well, like your girlfriend and that coworker you hate. Your mouth won’t like the texture and your head won’t like the hurt.

Tequila: Not terrible. Not great. A little bit of tequila in eggnog is surprisingly pleasant, but more is not merrier. More is disgusting. 

Mezcal: Because it’s smokier than tequila, Mezcal can hold it’s own in an eggnog environment. That said, it’s not a good enough mix to justify wasting your best Sombra or Fidencio

Cognac: The OG eggnog cocktail still has the punch it did back in medieval times when contracting Salmonella was considered part of a Yuletide drinking experience. Though rare stateside, Cognac and eggnog drinks remain popular in England. To be fair, the popularity of something in England (examples: spotted dick, Simon Cowell) does not make it great. But this is great – probably the best choice on this list.

Beer: In the spirit of inquiry, we gave it a shot. Light beers were a total disaster, but if you can get your hands on a chocolate or coffee porter (Evil Twin’s Imperial Biscotti is perfect), you’re in business.

Wine: Disgusting.

Photos by Lauri Patterson / Getty Images