Recipe: Hazelnut Eggnog with Homemade Hazelnut Liqueur

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(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

Every Christmas I come up with one fantastic homemade gift idea to really blow my friends’ minds. One holiday included hand-cut pappardelle with a divine Bolognese recipe attached. Another year I made Nutella from scratch, which unfortunately I loved so much I wasn’t willing to share. This year I think the gift’s in the bag — an infused hazelnut liqueur along with my hazelnut take on a decadent eggnog. Now just don’t forget to put yourself on the “nice” list.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

I first discovered the spectacular combination of hazelnut and chocolate as a college student living abroad in Italy. Upon my arrival my hosts greeted me with jar of Nutella and a basket of homemade shortbread cookies — it was absolutely love at first taste! I spent the rest of that steamy summer indulging in a new affair with hazelnuts, both in afternoon gelato and the after-dinner cocktail glass.

Ever since that semester overseas, hazelnut liqueur has been my number one late night libation. I love to dribble a little into my coffee, or serve it in my favorite “chocolate cake” shots. But as I’ve learned over the years, homemade is almost always better than bottled, so I figured it was time I give my own version a spin.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

Upon a little research, I discovered that many recipes use brandy, although a few used vodka. I decided I wanted to bring the heat (literally and figuratively), and so I snuck in my tried-and-true neutral alcohol base. Everclear® is the perfect choice for cocktail infusions because it takes on additional flavors so well.

It’s it worth mentioning that this gift does take a little bit of advance planning, but it’s almost entirely hands off. The hazelnuts need to steep in the Everclear® for at least a couple of weeks. After my test batch reached nutty perfection, I tinkered with my add-ins and settled on a brown sugar, vanilla, and hazelnut blend for the ultimate sweet, caramel-y (and strong!) refreshment.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

But what is a liqueur without a recipe to use it in? To go along with my edible gifts, I decided to adapt my family’s secret (but not-so-secret-anymore) eggnog recipe using the homemade hazelnut liqueur instead of our usual peach brandy. And boy, does this ‘nog pack a rich, nutty punch or what! I think this recipe may even convert the classic holiday cocktail’s skeptics in my group. Cheers, and happy infusing!

Homemade Hazelnut Liqueur

Yields approximately 1 quart (about 4 cups)

16 ounces raw hazelnuts (about 4 cups)
1 (750 milliliter) bottle Everclear® (about 3 cups)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon hazelnut or almond extract
Splash of coffee extract such as Trablit, for color (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange the hazelnuts on a sheet pan and toast, shaking occasionally, until just slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Allow hazelnuts to cool, then transfer to a large plastic zipper bag and seal, making sure to press out excess air. Smash the nuts with a rolling pin or meat mallet until coarsely chopped.

Combine hazelnuts and Everclear® in a large airtight container with a lid. Store at room temperature for a minimum of two weeks, stirring every couple of days.

Once the hazelnuts have steeped to your liking, combine the brown sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the brown sugar is completely dissolved, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Slowly whisk the brown sugar syrup into the hazelnut mixture, followed by the vanilla and hazelnut extract. Add a splash of coffee extract for deeper color, if desired. Cover and let the final mixture steep at room temperature for 3 to 5 more days. Taste and adjust ingredient quantities as desired.

Divide the liqueur into individual bottles. When gifting, don’t forget to include the recipe for hazelnut eggnog.

Hazelnut Eggnog

Yields approximately 8 cups (1/2 gallon)

6 large eggs, separated
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more to taste
2 cups homemade hazelnut liqueur
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
Hazelnut or nutmeg, for serving (optional)

Combine the egg yolks and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture forms a thick paste. Slowly whisk in the hazelnut liqueur. Set aside for 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, cream, and vanilla. Cover and chill for a minimum of two hours. Taste and adjust ingredient quantities, if desired.

Just before serving, beat egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into eggnog base. Garnish with a grated hazelnut or nutmeg, if desired.

Recipe Notes

  • Use the fresh, organic eggs for this recipe. If you avoid raw eggs for health reasons, look for pasteurized egg yolks and whites at the grocery store.