“I haven’t given a thought to Christmas,” Eudora Welty wrote to her agent Diarmuid Russell in 1947, “except where to get a little whiskey for the eggnog. Better stir the brain.” Nevermind a casserole: Welty’s signature offering was a strong pitcher of nog. “We could always depend on that,” says her niece, Mary Alice White. “Eudora always brought it.”
Welty inherited the recipe from her mother, Chestina, who in turn gave credit to Charles Dickens. (Chestina was a devoted Dickens fan. As in One Writer’s Beginnings, Welty writes that she once rushed into a house fire to rescue a set of the author’s books.) At Welty’s childhood home, Christmas mornings began with a clatter of beaters and the stiffening of whiskey-soaked peaks, then served to the family in silver cups. It was the only day each year, Welty writes, that she recalls hard liquor in the family’s Jackson, Mississippi home. Welty’s hand-scrawled eggnog recipe (below) doesn’t name any particular whiskey. But there’s a good chance that, at least later in the writer’s life, Maker’s Mark was key.
“I take credit for that,” says Suzanne Marrs, who first visited Jackson in the early 1980s to review Welty’s papers in the archives at Millsaps College, and is now the Welty scholar-in-residence there. Prior to their friendship, Welty’s go-to tipples included Old Crow and Black Jack whiskeys.
Every evening, the two met to watch the news as brown liquor faded into watery remains at the bottom of a glass. “Shall I get you another bourbon?” Marrs routinely asked her friend. “A bird can’t fly on just one wing,” Welty responded. The same is probably true for reindeer, so make Welty’s eggnog strong. And have two.