A Holiday Recipe: Zabaglione (Italian Eggnog)

By Ann Minard

Good to the last drop!

As a child growing up in a first generation Italian American home the sound of a whisk beating rapidly against a metal bowl could mean only one thing─ zabaglione! I remember my Dad would never let us know ahead of time that he was making zabaglione, but rather he loved to surprise us with that melodious sound of……. clank clink clank ringing from the kitchen.  And then, we would come running from all corners of the house to watch the magic ─ that little blob of egg yolk, sugar, and liquid sitting at the bottom of the bowl would all of the sudden become a light fluffy mound of pure bliss!

We had this sweet Italian drink every Christmas and New Years Eve and for me nothing else tastes of the holidays more than zabaglione. Every New Year’s Eve, my Dad would start the magic as it neared midnight while most households were counting down the Times Square ball, we were counting down the clinks of the zabaglione.

You can make and serve this several ways: First, as a drink as I have described ,which is basically an Italian eggnog, or if you keep beating a few minutes longer, it will become even thicker, more like a custard,  and you can serve it drizzled over fruit (figs or strawberries) or over a spongy cake with fruit, which is called Zuppa Inglese.


(For 6-8 people)

24 fresh egg yolks (4 per person)

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup cooled espresso ~OR~ 1/2 cup liqueur of your choice: Rum, Sambuca, Amaretto, Kahlua… (Or you can replace the 1 1/2 cups of espresso with Moscato or Champagne)

A few pinches of cinnamon: one for the mixture and then some more to sprinkle on top for serving.


Place the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and with the whisk attachment of your mixer, or with a hand whisk, beat until very pale, almost white. If you do this by hand (just as my dad did) it will take about 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, dissolve the cinnamon in the espresso or liqueur and set aside.

Once the egg yolks turn pale, slowly add in the espresso or liqueur and continue whisking in until creamy and foamy.

Serve right away in espresso or punch glasses with small espresso spoons in order to get every last drop of sweet goodness!

Note: Now I will give directions using a bain-marie (water bath) which is the method to use if you prefer not to drink raw eggs.

Set up your bain-marie by putting a small sauce pan of water on continuous simmer, not a boil. Make sure the bowl you will be using will fit on top of the saucepan steadily without the bottom touching the water.

In the bowl, using a large whisk, mix the egg yolks with the sugar until almost white.

Dissolve the cinnamon in the liquid you are using and gradually pour it in the egg mixture as you are stirring continuously.

Place the bowl on top of the bain-marie (simmering water) and whisk continuously over the low heat until it is smooth, and frothy. It will start to attach itself to the bottom of the bowl when it’s ready.

Lift the mixture off the bain-marie, and beat a few seconds to cool it down a bit and thicken even more. Pour into small cups to serve.

Last 5 posts by Ann Minard