Friday, January 21, 2022

A (Frozen) Winter Warmer: Big Spring Spirits adds a cool twist to traditional holiday eggnog

I don’t know how it happened, but the holidays are upon us once again. The trees and lights are up, the
stores are bustling, and Christmas music is playing everywhere you go. Whew, it sure is a lot of work: baking
the cookies, figuring out gifts, and writing holiday cards. But in the end, it is all worth it when we get to spend time
with our friends and loved ones.

I try not to get too caught up in the hustle and bustle. This works well until I realize I still have gifts to buy the last
weekend before Christmas. Still, I feel there is no better way to enjoy the season than to sit down over a drink with friends and family. It really helps me get into that holiday spirit.

Being a beer man, when winter sets in and the days get dark, I tend to start reaching for darker beers, like stouts and
porters. Our local breweries in Centre County offer plenty of options in that department, from Otto’s Black Mo Stout,
to Happy Valley Oak Stout, to Poe Paddy Porter at Elk Creek Café & Aleworks, and Axemann Brewery’s Titan Stout.
Prost! I would be happy to drink any of these beers on a cold December evening.

Sometimes though, gathering for the holidays calls for something a little more, shall we say, festive. Well, what
could be more festive than eggnog? Over at Big Spring Spirits, they will be serving up just such a drink this
December, and it comes either in its traditional preparation – or frozen.

With house-made spirits in a cozy and classic atmosphere in the old Match Factory in Bellefonte, Big Spring is a lovely
place to gather with friends and catch up over the holidays. Bellefonte itself goes all out for the season, with its old-time charm on full display during Victorian Christmas.

Eggnog is a decadent treat that has become a holiday tradition in the United States and Canada. Big Spring’s
version of the drink is a family tradition for tasting room manger Lucy Rogers.

“It is an old recipe that a colleague of my dad’s who was from Tennessee used to make. We made it every Christmas
for years,” says Lucy.

Ever since Big Spring opened, she wanted to make the drink for customers, but the distillery didn’t have
the exact ingredients. No bother; they played around a little bit and, “I think I got it the point where I think it is pretty close. But it is so delicious. It is amazing to me how much eggnog we sell.”

Lucy says eggnog seems to have originated in Europe as an egg and milk punch, probably originally non-alcoholic. Eventually, sherry or brandy was added to the recipes.

“American colonists had better access to rum, and so the recipe changed. In the South, they often use whiskey, or something like Southern Comfort. At Big Spring, we use a mix of white rum, spiced rum, and our American whiskey. It’s perfect,” says Lucy.

To make the drink, take egg yolks and sugars and mix them using an electric mixer. Alcohol is added next, stirred in. Then, let the concoction sit in the refrigerator for a least two hours; Lucy says she prefers to keep it chilled overnight if possible. After the nog is well chilled, give it a stir, and add half-and-half.

“If you were serving your eggnog in a punch bowl at a party, you would pour the eggnog into the bowl, and then whip all the egg whites into a froth and fold them into the eggnog in the punch bowl, sprinkling with nutmeg,” says Lucy.

Customers love the eggnog because “there’s something about it that is just the right amount of alcohol, easy to drink a glass,” she says.

But last year, Lucy added a new element to the drink that pushed it over the edge, turning it into a slushy concoction that had customers craving it. That’s right, even in the cold of winter, the frozen eggnog was a hit.

“Since we started putting it into the slushy machine last year – well, wow. We sold probably double what we usually sell during the holidays. So we make sure we have it as a slush, and the original regular non-frozen version, too,” Lucy says.

Seeing customers enjoy her family drink is a “hoot,” she says, because, “everyone raves about it, and I’m really pleased that I was able to adapt our recipe to the ingredients available at the distillery.”

So this December, if you are feeling a little overwhelmed by the holidays and need a little boost of cheer to get back in the spirit, head on down to Big Spring Spirits and try a glass of eggnog. Even the frozen version is sure to warm your heart. Or make a punch bowl full of the festive drink and invite your friends and family over. After all, that is what the holidays are all about.