Can Eggnog Go Bad? This Holiday Favorite's Shelf Life Isn't Unlimited

It's December, and many people are enjoying their favorite holiday treats — meaning eggnog has made its yearly return. If this is a seasonal beverage you regularly indulge in, you may have one question on your mind: Can eggnog go bad? If you're familiar with how it's made, then you probably already know the answer to this — but just so we're all on the same page: In short, yes, it can go bad! For the long answer, though... well, let's explore a little!

Traditional eggnog is made with eggs, milk, cream, sugar, alcohol, and sometimes spices. With the concern over consuming raw eggs these days, many commercial eggnogs eliminate it entirely; furthermore, you'll also find plenty of recipes online that make eggnog without raw egg. Here's the issue: Eggs, milk, and cream are all perishable food items, meaning they have an expiration date. According to Eat By Date, milk can last for a week after its "best by" date if you store it properly. Depending on the type and how it's used, cared for, processed, and packaged, cream can last anywhere from one to three weeks after its "best by" date. Finally, Foodsafety.gov says that eggs out of the shell are safe for two to four days. Not surprisingly, that's the same shelf life they give to homemade eggnog. When you buy it commercially, they estimate a three- to five-day shelf life.

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It makes sense, then, that your favorite holiday eggnog isn't something you want to drink after it's been sitting in the fridge longer than a few days. Despite pasteurization, bacteria can still grow in milk; and drinking expired milk can give you food poisoning. Consuming expired eggs carries similar risks of food poisoning, including salmonella.

Don't let all this kill your eggnog buzz. Supposedly, aged eggnog can be safe to drink when you make it with lots o' booze, with some studies showing that even when salmonella was intentionally introduced to eggnog, the alcohol eventually killed the bacteria.

Does this mean that you should intentionally drink eggnog you suspect might be spoiled? No. Should you drink insane amounts? Again, no. Can you enjoy it responsibly when it's fresh and probably not lose any sleep over it? Yes! Buy fresh ingredients, store it properly, and drink it within a reasonable amount of time, and have yourself an eggnoggy holiday.

Image: Fotolia; Giphy