Colt & Gray 1553 Platte Street 303-477-1447
At 10 o'clock on a Sunday morning, Colt & Gray is closed, but bar manager Kevin Burke comes to the door and lets me into the darkened restaurant. We sit down at the empty bar, which was crazy busy for New Year's Eve. It's quiet in the bar now. The holidays have come and gone, but a fresh layer of snow wraps around the corners of the building. We're in the dead of winter, and we've met today to make one of winter's quintessential cocktails: eggnog.
Burke pulls two bottles off the backbar and we retreat to Colt and Gray's kitchen to assemble all the ingredients. We'll be making a large batch of eggnog, which Burke will bottle and keep behind the bar to serve.
"I've had bottles that I tasted from like six months ago," Burke says of a previous batch. "It surprisingly doesn't go bad. The booze and the sugar are great preservatives."
The recipe we're making today is an old one; it's an adaptation of a recipe used by Burke's grandmother. "At Christmas," he says, "she would make this all the time, but she would always spike it with brandy."
Burke's recipe calls for rum, which is one of the bottles we've carried into the kitchen. The other is sherry. Burke delves into a stainless steel refrigerator and grabs the rest of the ingredients: eggs, sugar, heavy cream, and whole milk.
Burke's eggnog is lighter than the stuff to which most people have become accustomed."I feel like it scratches the itch for people who have a fear of eggnog," burke says, "because of their experiences pulling the carton out of the cage at 7-11 and taking a pull out of it, and it's like sticky and syrupy and kind of gross."
Burke cracks the eggs, puts them in a blender, and mixes them at low speed. Then he adds the sugar, then the cream and milk. He sets the blender to its lowest speed and measures out the rum and sherry. In a few seconds, he's done. We take the fresh eggnog back to the bar, where he pours a serving into a coffee mug, grating fresh nutmeg over the creamy, ivory-colored liquid.
It's surprisingly light and refreshing, with lots of rum warmth. Burke uses El Dorado eight-year-old rum, made and aged in used bourbon barrels by a small producer in Guyana. The rum is a dark bronze color and full of brown sugar and caramel flavors. Rums from Guyana, Burke explains, tend to have a little bit more "rum" flavor, as opposed to more Spanish-style rums from Puerto Rico or Trinidad.
To balance the rum, Burke uses palo cortado, a rare and interesting sherry. A fortified Spanish wine made primarily from the Palomino grape, palo cortado starts its life as one type of sherry, and as the producer adjusts its level of alcohol, it's transformed into quite another. "The wine itself starts to oxidize," Burke says, "so it kind of has the best of both worlds as far as young sherries are concerned. It has some of that sort of floral, minerally quality of a fino, and the hazelnut and coffee profile of an oloroso."
The colder it gets outside, the more eggnog Burke sells. "It challenges their perceptions of what egg nog tastes like or what their experience of the drink is," he explains. He acknowledges that while his is lighter than the gluey, store-bought brands, it can still be a sturdy drink. He calls it "the Guinness of cocktails."
"I think maybe for your first cocktail of the night, it's a little bit heavier, a little warming," he says. "Maybe it fills you up. But that's not the worst thing in the world, when you've had a long day and you kind of want your first drink to be a little bit more substantial."
However, that makes it a great dessert cocktail. If you're drinking one after a meal, Burke recommends enjoying it with Colt & Gray's sticky toffee pudding ($8), which comes with bourbon ice cream and toffee sauce.
Making the recipe at home is easy, and lets you choose your ingredients. "If you're not a fan of rum, then maybe switch it up, Burke says. "I've done this recipe with tequila. It's a fun recipe."
Eggnog 4 whole eggs .75 cup granulated sugar 10 ounces whole milk 6 ounces heavy whipping cream 6 ounces rum 4 ounces oloroso sherry
Crack the eggs into a blender and set on low speed. Slowly add the sugar and blend until it dissolves into the eggs. Drop the speed down to the lowest setting and add the milk and cream, then add the rum and sherry.
Pour the egg nog though a funnel into bottles. Label and date the bottles and keep refrigerated, up to six months. For a single serving: pour 6 to 8 ounces of eggnog into a coffee cup and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.