Eggnog from David Myers
4 Egg Yolks
4 Egg Whites
2.5 Tbsp Sugar
1 cup Milk
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1 oz Applejack
Pinch of Grated Nutmeg
Mix egg yolks with half the sugar (1.5 Tbsp) and continue beat until dissolved
Add milk, cream, bourbon, brandy and nutmeg; stir to combine
Whisk remaining sugar and egg whites together until stiff peaks form; add to mixture
Chill, pour in cup. Grate nutmeg on top and serve.
Yield: About 4 servings
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Boy, is it nice to being enjoying a David Myers creation once again. During the first half of the 2000s, his Los Angeles restaurant Sona was one of our favorite haunts, and I can safely say that the vast majority of friends that we have in the restaurant business we met at Sona or through David and his team. Times, for better or worse, change. In 2007, the company for which I was working went out of business, and our personal finances could no longer include lavish meals. Shortly thereafter, junior came along, and I can honestly say that we’ve only had two nights out together since then – and one was to bartend a friend’s event. I’ll extend my apologies to David for having been scarce these past few years, but it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been thinking about him.
There’s a question that we ask in our 12 Rounds feature: “What was your first formative cocktail experience?” For both Lesley and I, that experience would have been sitting at the Sona bar while David, having stepped out of the kitchen, personally mixed us up a Penicillin, which remains one of my favorite drinks. Always looking for new tastes and inspirations – Sona’s menu was extremely of the moment – Myers had returned from visiting the emerging speakeasy scene in New York and came back with an entirely new vision for the Sona cocktail program. Although delicious, gone would be the Sonapolitan and in its place would be the Bramble.
When Myers opened his second restaurant, Comme Ça, the New York bar influence was undeniable. Star bartender Sam Ross (inventor of the Penicillin) was brought in to get the Comme Ça staff up and running on the classics, and it was not long after that everyone else was following along. Bartenders at Comme Ça certainly didn’t last long – after what seemed like a few weeks on the job, they would get snatched up by competitors, and I still run into many of them manning the sticks around town.
Whether David Myers directly ignited the classic Los Angeles bar scene or not, I cannot say, but he was our entrée into that world. I will say that had we never met David and had he not been the person he is, 12 Bottle bar certainly would not exist. As much a surfer as he is a chef, Myers possesses an easy confidence that betrays his years of experience. Starting in the kitchens of legends Charlie Trotter and Daniel Boulud and having built his own successful restaurant group, David is consistently recognized as one of the country’s leading chefs. Sona earned a Michelin star, Food & Wine named him one of the country’s “Best New Chefs” (2003), Angeleno declared him 2004’s “Chef of the Year”, and he’s been twice nominated for a James Beard award, as “Rising Star of the Year” (2004) and “Best Chef Pacific” (2008). Most important of all – at least from my perspective – was Jonathan Gold’s anointment of Comme Ça as having the “Best Burger in Los Angeles”. I haven’t had one in a while, but the mouth-watering memory does still linger.
As mentioned, should you meet David, you wouldn’t suspect his many achievements – not because they are undeserved, mind you, but because he doesn’t wear them like badges. Over the years, we’ve met chefs of all stripes – from local wunderkinds who have their staffs remind you how lucky you are to have shaken their hands to people like Daniel Boulud, who effortlessly charm you into believing that you are the most important person in the world. And although we haven’t seen Myers in a very long time, we still consider him a friend – one of the few chefs to come out of the kitchen at the end of the shift and share a drink with you at the bar.
In assembling our wish list of contributors for this year’s holiday drinks, we made a concerted effort to mix things up a bit. Along with professional bartenders, you’ll find those who write about drinks as well as friends from the food side of things. After all, food and drink are inseparable, and many chefs are as skilled behind the bar as they are in the kitchen. David Myers’ classic contribution of eggnog to our holiday offerings indeed falls somewhere between kitchen and bar. You’ll notice that there’s very little alcohol in it, but it’s just enough to shine through beautifully. Rather than reaching for the vanilla bottle (or the bourbon vanilla bottle, if you’re feeling fancy), Myers’ recipe coaxes those warm, round qualities out of the spirits. Moreover, it’s a thousand times more honest and economical than an HFCS-laden store-bought brand. Plus, it’s stupidly simple to make – make it once, and you’ll think twice about ever buying a carton again.
Eggnog symbolizes the holidays for me. When I see it available, usually right after Thanksgiving, I always get excited as it means there is just a few more week to go before Christmas. It reminds me of weekend parties with family hanging around the Christmas tree. I love the rich, creamy spiciness of it and now mixed with the bourbon and applejack, it is even better.
Out of respect for our audience, I’ll provide a couple of tweaks you can make to the booze. Any nice brandy, bourbon, or gold rum will work, as will a sweeter rye, like Old Overholt. Having tried it with the bourbon and applejack (well, Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy), I will not question David’s choices, as they are very tasty indeed. Also, if you’re feeling the need to “get your nog on”, you can certainly booze things up, but I’ll recommend that you do it once it’s in your glass and no more than half an ounce at a time. It’s easy to upset the balance.
Even though this is our second annual holiday drinks campaign, we haven’t before featured traditional eggnog. Today, we fix that, but I know that many of you – me included – won’t be satisfied with just a scrumptious drink alone, so here’s a bit of back story on Christmas’s favorite tipple ( which I’m also going to use to plug one of favorite sites, having undergone a wonderful retooling.) This year friend Conner at Historical Food re-launched his site as RecipeWISE, with the “WISE” standing for “Wales Ireland Scotland England,” a great summation of what you’ll find there. While all of the same great historic recipes are still available on the site, RecipeWISE now expands the focus to include modern classic British and Irish recipes.
Per RecipeWISE, the origins of modern eggnog can most likely be traced back to an earlier drink called “posset” or the Tudor-era Egg Flip, which was comprised of beer, rum, and sugar and heated with a red-hot iron (I’m adding iron pokers to next year’s gift guide). As for the name “nog”, the suspected origins are that it comes from the word “noggin”, a small English wooden cup, or from the term “egg-and-grog”, which plays to eggnog’s association with rum.
The earliest reference to modern eggnog I found was from 1790 but it offers no description. 1799’s Travels Through the States of North America, and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada During the Years 1795, 1796, and 1797 does however. Within its pages, we are given this description: “The American travellers, [sic] before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together.”
By 1815, we see the association with the holiday in Niles Weekly Register, an American newsweekly which ran from 1811 to 1849. The Saturday, March 4, 1815 edition, re-reporting “Scraps” from the London papers, tells us: “Mr. (John Payne) Todd, one of the secretaries, and son-in-law of Mr. (and then President James) Madison, had invited some gentlemen of his country and some others, to partake with him of a liquor with which the Americans used to treat their friends on Christmas Day, and which is called egg-nog.” Apparently, if you’re interested, John Payne Todd had been appointed secretary to a U.S. delegation to Europe by his step-father, the President. More than being nepotistic, Madison was trying to find something useful for the young man to do, but all that Todd accomplished was drinking, gambling, and racking up debt – Madison had to pay off $40,000 in Payne’s bills, which still wasn’t enough to keep his son-in-law out of debtor’s prison.
But back to the drink. As our colonial forefathers found eggnog to be just the thing to ward off the affects of a cold, cold winter, it’s no wonder that chef David Myers, having spent his formative years in Ohio, Chicago, and New York, is more than familiar with its powers. We thank David for today’s contribution, which has now become our standard recipe. Should you be in the area, please be sure to visit any one of David’s restaurants in Los Angeles, Orange County (CA), Las Vegas, or Tokyo. If you do, be sure to tell them that we sent you – just so they know that we’re still thinking about them – and that we’ll be in again soon.
Esoterica: In 2008, Myers was named one of GQ’s “Men of Style”. I didn’t mention it here because no one needs another article saying how handsome David is. The dude knows.