In the bar world, nothing says "deck the halls" and "happy holidays" better than a glass of creamy, boozy eggnog. But despite the popularity of this seasonal drink, the real deal (not that artifical grocery-store swill) is not that easy to find come December. Worry not: This winter you can warm your belly with a cool cup, and sometimes steaming mug, of luscious eggnog at these ten Denver and Boulder venues. And why wouldn't you? After all, this drink has been around since at least the 1700s, and anything that's proven popular for so long is sure to only get better with top-caliber bartenders.
Colt & Gray
1553 Platte Street
Bartender Kevin Burke built his aged eggnog from a family recipe, and it takes weeks to prepare. To be fair, the reason prep lasts so long is because Burke lets each batch rest for two to three weeks to help give it a smoother, melted-ice-cream flavor and texture. Any eggnog fan will appreciate this incomparable technique, as well as the sheer amount of booze one finds in each $10.50 glass. To start with, Burke uses raw egg, whole milk, heavy cream and sugar as the base, then spikes the nog with Brugal Extra Viejo rum and oloroso sherry. He relies on the flavors of the spirits to carry the spice, and the only addition to this palate is an aromatic garnish of freshly grated nutmeg. Each cocktail gets served cold and pays homage to a classic nog that's been around for centuries.
Bramble & Hare
1970 13th Street, Boulder
It took barman Brady Marcotte hours of experimentation to nail his super-special recipe for Black Cat Nog, but once he did, the angels of holiday drinks sang and all was set right for the season. To make this delectable creamy cocktail, Marcotte started by researching what went into a traditional eggnog. That led him to brandy and rum. For the latter, he uses Gosling's Black Seal and for the former, Marcotte has whipped up his own homemade mulled brandy, an infused spirit filled with mace, allspice and clove. Then, to round out the flavors, he adds amaretto, maple syrup, a whole egg per drink, and cold, luscious cream. A couple of dashes of cinnamon and orange bitters help complete the creation, and when you order it at Bramble & Hare in Boulder, you can expect it to come with a nutmeg garnish and an orange twist. Just keep in mind that while this might taste like an innocent Christmas sipper, more than a couple of these $16 cocktails may leave you with the worst kind of holiday hangover, so imbibe with caution and enjoy.
The Way Back
4132 West 38th Avenue
Way Back barman Conor McDermott was ecstatic when his dad sent him the handwritten recipe for eggnog that his mom, Irene, created eons ago — hence the name: Conor's Mom's Family Eggnog. Though he isn't clear on where she sourced her ideas, he has gladly taken the drink and made it his own. Now, those visiting the West Highland hot spot can get a glass until January, or longer if in demand. Served cold, each $9 glass contains Old Forrester bourbon, Montanya white rum, eggs, milk and cinnamon. The result is a lightweight drink that looks heavy and tastes like Christmas, yet remains light on those holiday spices. And while McDermott doesn't have to store jars of the stuff on the fire escape to keep it cold and out of the way like his mom did, he does make it all in a big batch so it's ready to go the moment you want a taste.
Beast + Bottle
719 East 17th Avenue
Until January 1, 2017, you can indulge in bar manager Jon Feuersanger's classic eggnog, a cocktail that's as delightful to look at as it is to drink. Feuersanger built this simple recipe years ago, but has been experimenting with different liquors in it ever since. This year's $12 version comes with Mount Gay rum, A.E. Dor cognac, locally made amaro from Peach Street Distillers, two types of sugar, heavy cream, milk, vanilla, eggs and a little ground nutmeg as a garnish. It's a sweet, Christmas-cookie drink with a splash of boozy heat to help cut the richness. One way this barman gives his version a creamy kick is to use fresh Cottonwood Creek eggs from the restaurant's own flock of birds. Now, how many eggnogs can make that claim? As far as we've found, none — and that's what makes this cocktail all the merrier.
Frasca Food and Wine
1738 Pearl Street, Boulder
"Eggnog in its own right is a classic flavor, carries heartwarming nostalgia, and it doesn't really need improving," says Allison Anderson, the director of distillates at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. "Maybe just a little spike of something naughty; Santa won't mind." To give her $13 eggnog an airy lightness, Anderson shakes the egg white until it's stiff and fluffy. From there she adds the yolk, heavy cream, Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, an Italian walnut liquor, orange peel and some demerara sugar syrup. "Drink, enjoy and repeat if you're feeling particularly festive," she suggests. We couldn't agree more. And for those who enjoy Christmas in July (or any other time of year), this off-the-menu item can be made throughout the year if you just ask nicely.
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Milk & Honey
1414 Larimer Street
With Ron Zacapa rum, fresh eggs, cream and a special white rum the bar infuses with green apples, ginger, orange and cinnamon, the folks at Milk & Honey downtown have created an eggnog sure to please any lover of the drink. The result of this mixture is a super-smooth cold and creamy cocktail with a fruity depth and nice cinnamon undertone. Through New Year's Day, you can get this tipple at the inviting bar or settle down with a drink during dinner. Each glass runs only $6.50, and that means you can order several of them — if you dare. The only trick? Finding the restaurant, which off the main drag on Larimer Square, nestled downstairs in a nook next to Bistro Vendôme.
1043 Pearl Street, Boulder
For the rest of December, you can head to Boulder and sample the Nogg-Standard, created by Wild Standard's beverage director, Simon Vazquez. "The Inspiration for this drink came from the marriage of tradition and exploration," he says. This $13 spirit-forward drink combines Organic Crusoe spiced rum and Jaques Bonet brandy to help give it a sweet, seasonal punch that blends wonderfully with cool crème Française and bits of fresh nutmeg. Mulling spices also add a unique depth and, with the addition of the restaurant's signature Snowman liqueur (a concoction that blends equal parts Nardini and Ramazzotti amari, Velvet Falernum, amaretto and allspice dram), it's an exceptional blend steeped in holiday fun that can only be found in this cozy seafood eatery.
Wazee Supper Club
1600 15th Street
The reason manager Mike Dunston calls his version of eggnog "select" is because he mixes it up with the restaurant's very own signature Jack Daniel's Single Barrel. That means no one else carries this exact bourbon — a spirit that helps this eggnog stand out from others. The other thing that makes the drink a winner: Dunston's dulce de leche caramel with cocoa-cinnamon powder, a decoration that drapes around the rim of the glass like a tasty wreath of sweetness. Aside from those two star ingredients, the $12 cocktail also includes Captain Morgan spiced rum and half-and-half. That's right, aside from the garnish, there are no other spices in the glass — but between the oakiness of the bourbon and the spiciness of the rum, it needs nothing else. You can also get this version (minus the caramel) at sister restaurant Tstreet Roadhouse in Lakewood, as well (Wazee was kind enough to share its Jack Daniel's).
1612 17th Street
For a laid-back eggnog downtown, the Amante Coffee on 17th Street is whipping up a hot version called So Snoggy Nog, which is sure to warm your frosty hands. Created by assistant manager Alan Polacek, this $9 drink involves a latte glass filled with Royal Crest Dairy's eggnog base, Gosling's Black Seal rum and Creme de Noyaux, an apricot-kernel liqueur made in France that smells like cherries and almonds. Because Amante is a coffee shop first, Polacek gives the drink a heady dose of cappuccino-style foam made from the nog and then garnishes the boozy drink with fresh nutmeg. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can order a Snoggy Nog during all-day happy hour for only $7.
Public School 303
1959 16th Street
Enjoy your next recess with this downtown newcomer's boozy eggnog, appropriately called the Winter Break. The chilled cocktail gets made with spiced rum, heavy cream, cinnamon-maple syrup, egg whites and Licor 43, which is a spiced Spanish liqueur made with citrus that tastes similar to aged rum. Each hefty glass costs $10 and, while you'll feel the heat from the spirits in the drink, you'll also be warmed by its pure taste of the season. Consider pairing the cocktail with an order of bacon-cheddar tots or chorizo-and-kale macaroni and cheese; after all, ’tis the season to indulge in warming, comforting things.