The holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years are usually times when we share celebrations with big meals, and lots of friends and family, paired with great bottles of wine from our cellar. But in our household, it's time to collect the eggs, buy the gallons of cream and get the 3-4 bottles of assorted booze to make our friend Mike's Famous Eggnog. Mike is a local grape grower of great acclaim, with his vineyard name proudly displayed on several wine labels throughout the Napa Valley. But locally, he is best known as the creator of one of the best Eggnog recipes ever found. Others have tried to substitute ½ and ½ for the 2 quarts of cream (never!), or reduce the alcohol to only 4 cups per batch (an abomination!), but if you follow his recipe you will be a crowd pleaser every time. (We have another friend who is on his third batch already this season, as his hens just don’t lay enough eggs at once to triple the recipe!)
In his own words, here is the amusing story of the origin of Mike’s Eggnog:
“I never cook anything. Most of my friends and family are wonderful cooks so I try to be what every chef needs--an enthusiastic eater and kitchen helper. One thing I do prepare each Holiday Season is the eggnog. I first made this eggnog when I was in college and worked occasionally as a bartender for private parties. When a call came in to the student employment office for a bartender to mix large batches of eggnog for a Christmas party in Woodside I was the only one who claimed to have eggnog experience. I had, of course, lied about my experience and had never drunk a cup of eggnog. This extreme confidence in the face of total ignorance got me the job.
The first research I did was to buy a carton of dairy eggnog, pour it into a cup, and add a good dose of whiskey. It was terrible. It ruined the whiskey. I then indulged in some real research in the card catalog of the main library. After noting the Dewey Decimal numbers for the cookbook section (641.5) I plunged into the stacks and fumbled through all the dusty books until I recognized one from my mother's kitchen--the Joy of Cooking. It had a drink recipe for "Eggnog in Quantity" and I was saved. I couldn't check the book out because I had some unpaid delinquent fines so I wrote it all down (I still have that piece of tablet paper).
Two days before the party I called my employer and with all the authority I could muster gave her a specific list of all the required ingredients, stated that there could be no exceptions, and said that I would need to be at work in her kitchen three hours before the party to prepare properly. The eggnog was so well received that I was given a big tip and hired to do it again the following year. I have been making it for friends and family ever since.”