As a teen growing up in Northwest Indiana, I worked part-time after school as a bagger in a neighborhood grocery store. It featured a small deli and butcher shop and a single cash register. “Sis” Boardman was the ringer for her brother/owner Bill Boardman. The store was especially busy during the holidays and by Christmas Eve we were all pretty tired.
The store closed a few hours earlier that evening so we could all get home to our families. Before we left into the snow, Mr. Boardman gathered us together in the storeroom for a Christmas toast. He had grabbed a few cartons of eggnog from the dairy aisle and gathered the coffee mugs from the break room. Each mug was unceremoniously filled with a few glugs of nog and topped off with a hearty shot of Old Overholt Rye. “Merry Christmas, everybody. Here’s to your hard work and your health. Cheers!”
We all lifted our mugs and partook of this humble yet unforgettable beverage. Like a velvet glove cast in iron, the sweetness of the drink was bolstered by the spice and warmth of the rye whiskey. Even though I was underage, I understood the sincerity of the moment and savored every last drop. This was Christmas in a mug.
Back then, there was only one rye whiskey and that was Old Overholt. My dad kept a bottle on hand to mix with ginger ale. The label’s emblazoned image of Abraham Overholt was as familiar to me as George Washington on the dollar bill. Created in 1810, it is certainly one of America’s oldest whiskey brands. Today, there are dozens of rye offerings from distilleries all over the world but none seem to honor the nostalgia and my Proustian memory of Old Overholt in that first humble mug of nog.
The Rye Eggnog Cocktail
– 2 oz. rye whiskey
– 5 oz. eggnog
– ground nutmeg
– cinnamon stick
– Add whiskey and eggnog to an ice filled shaker and shake hard for 20-30 seconds.
– Strain into a glass mug and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg and a cinnamon stick.