Eggnog is that traditional holiday drink that we love, but aren't quite sure why or what exactly we're drinking. We recently had Anthony Caporale, Director of Beverage Studies at ICE, come to Spoon HQ and show us how to make eggnog from scratch. He used two dozen raw eggs and I remember wondering if that's safe to drink. The eggnog recipe he showed us didn't include heating it over the stove — so am I going to get Salmonella? We did some digging to find out all the details on consuming eggnog.


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Kevin Del Orbe

Classic eggnog recipes include: raw eggs, cream, sugar, and booze. The skepticism around eggnog obviously revolves around the consumption of raw eggs — not trying to get Salmonella over here. The CDC says that common symptoms of consuming raw or uncooked eggs are diarrhea, fever, and cramps. People who are most likely to get Salmonella are those who are prone to food-borne illness. 

Most store bought eggnogs use cooked eggs through the pasteurization process. So you're in the clear. But the recipe that Anthony showed us includes a one liter of bourbon. He told us that although there is risk to cooking with raw eggs, the amount of alcohol in the recipe will kill any harmful bacteria from the raw eggs. Yet a recent study shows us that ethanol in alcohol isn't enough to kill all of the bacteria on its own. Oh no...

How to Avoid It

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Photo by Kristine Auble

While using a whole bottle of whisky in eggnog might reduce the risk of Salmonella, it's not 100% effective. A food safety expert at NC State says that the heavy cream in eggnog is likely to protect Salmonella cells. 

“The cream also complicates things in eggnog as it has fat in it – and high fat environments like peanut butter and chocolate serve to protect Salmonella cells,” Ben Chapman tells NC State News.

If you're going to make eggnog at home, the FDA recommends starting with a cooked egg base. WTF is a cooked egg base? It's when you combine eggs, plus half of the milk that the recipe calls for. Heat this over the stove while stirring constantly. Cooking will destroy any traces of Salmonella.

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Kristine Mahan

The FDA also recommends using egg substitutes or pasteurized eggs, which are available at most grocery stores. And you totally don't have to make eggnog with eggs either (although then its name should just be nog). So yes, eggnog is safe to drink for a healthy individual. Obviously, there's some risk with consuming raw egg, so don't go overboard on it. It's like cookie dough — there's always a risk.