Washington bartenders put a delicious spin on the official drink of the holidays.
The moose glasses used to serve Bourbon Stea's Egg Grog 2.0 are inspired by National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Few drinks stir up more memories than eggnog. The boozy punch thickened by cream and eggs and boosted by baking spices is a holiday rite of passage. Area bartenders are adding twists on tradition by folding in both dashes of Americana and international flair.
“George Washington liked his eggnog with sherry,” says Rico Wisner, brand mixologist of Ambar (523 Eighth St. SE, 202-813- 3039). That’s why his Egg-N-Grog contains the Oloroso variety. While Wisner’s potion has a patriotic hat tip, it also pays homage to Ambar’s Balkan cuisine: Instead of cutting off the recipe December 25, Ambar serves it through Serbian Christmas on January 7.
Centrolina (974 Palmer Alley NW, 202-898-2426) reminds diners they’re at an osteria by spiking eggnog with Barolo Chinato, an Italian fortified wine. Beverage manager Kristin Welch uses it in place of brandy. She also subs rum for bourbon and whole milk for cream to keep it light. “I wouldn’t want to spoil your dinner,” she says.
Perhaps the most playful take is at Bourbon Steak (2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-944-2026), where the restaurant’s Egg Grog 2.0 is served in replicas of the moose glasses from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “It cools off the fine dining atmosphere and makes people feel at home,” says head bartender Torrence Swain. His unconventional recipe also stands out because of the inclusion of apple cider, blended Scotch, and butter.
Not everyone is into cocktails, so take the beer loyalist in your tribe to Mussel Bar & Grille (800 N. Glebe Road, Arlington, 703- 841-2327). Ramon Narvaez, beverage director for RW Restaurant Group, has dreamed up a “beernog,” where Breckenridge Vanilla Porter poured from a Nitro tap makes its way into otherwise traditional eggnog.
Adventurous concoctions aside, connoisseurs in search of a topnotch classic preparation should swing by 2 Birds 1 Stone (1800 14th St. NW) for bar director Adam Bernbach’s aged eggnog. He allows a mixture of egg yolks, spirits, milk, sugar, and heavy cream to mature for three weeks, so that the flavors integrate and mellow. Says Bernbach, “I know people who make it New Year’s Day for the following year.”