TASTE OF HOME Nollaig Nog founder Daniel McKittrick in the Balla production facility, with his girlfriend Anna Quinn, who lends a helping hand. Pic:Michael McLaughlin
People can’t get enough of this traditional festive drink made in Balla
IT’S a staple beverage in American popular culture, but eggnog has been in Daniel McKittrick’s family for generations. For decades, the festive drink has been brewed by Daniel’s mother and grandmother using a unique family recipe.
Made from whole milk, fresh cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla flavouring and ground cinnamon and nutmeg, this particular brew is similar traditional American variant, but creamier and without the alcohol.
Today, Daniel is continuing a proud family tradition by making his brilliantly named ‘Nollaig Nog’ and supplying it from Balla to stores throughout the west of Ireland this Christmas.
After graduating with a degree in biomedical engineering from NUI Galway last autumn, the 24-year-old needed something to keep him occupied amid the autumn lockdown and a grim job market.
“I was looking for a project to take on that would keep me busy, but also something that would add positivity to what was a very negative time,” Daniel explains to The Mayo News.
“It’s a family tradition that everyone would come along to the house for the Christmas visit and [egg nog] is one of the things that we would have.
“Last year in Christmas, when that couldn’t happen, my cousins asked was there any way we could send it in the post.
“After figuring out a way to produce it and send it to the family, I said ‘Why would I stop here?’ Let’s see if I can offer this to the general public – for fear of sounding a bit corny – to spread a bit of Christmas cheer around and extend our family’s tradition in a way that could unite people.
“It meant that we were able to do something positive out of a really dark and gloomy time,” he adds.
After contacting retailers and the relevant regulatory authorities, demand from shops quickly exceeded what he could supply.
However, interest remained high, and after losing a small amount of money first time around, Daniel pledged to buyers that he would revisit the idea.
This Christmas, Nollaig Nog will be available in ten Dunnes Stores, three Supervalus as well as a number of shops in Galway and Dublin. Once a treat enjoyed by Daniel and his relatives, this traditional brew will soon be used to wash down the turkey and ham in homes throughout Connacht and further afield.
What about Daniel turning the family recipe into a commercial product? How did that go down with his family?
“I had said it to my family before doing it, and their attitude toward it was that extending it to other families and introducing it to other families would make them more happy,” he says.
“It would make them a bit proud to see other families observing the same traditions. From my mother’s perspective, if it can add a bit more Christmas cheer to other families, then great.
“It was very much seen that if it can add a bit of positivity and make someone else’s Christmas a little bit more magic then it’s worth every bit of love and effort that’s put into the product.”
With Christmas just around the corner, Daniel says that demand for the festive season ahead has been ‘tremendous’.
“So far I’ve only heard great things. Everyone seems to love the flavour and a lot of people are surprised,” he says.
“We’ve had a lot of people try it and say ‘I’m going to buy it in for Christmas dinner. It’s delicious’. I think once people try it, they’ll love it … it’s like a really thick creamy milkshake.”
For the moment, Nollaig Nog is a one-man operation, with production taking place in Balla. However, student-turned-entrepreneur Daniel McKitterick says that he has plans for year-round production of the seasonal product.
He is also adamant that Mayo will be prioritised for all future production, employment and distribution.
“I’m very much a home bird and that was one of my key points was that I wanted to see it on the shelves [in the west]. For myself and for everyone locally to see it gave us a great level of pride,” he says.
With Nollaig Nog set to fly off the shelves in a matter of weeks, how does Daniel McKettrick reflect on his unlikely transition from science graduate to budding entrepreneur?
“It’s an odd transition… It wasn’t by design I suppose, but rather by situation,” he says. “I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s turned out.”
Nollaig Nog is on sale in Mayo in Dunnes Stores, Castlebar, and SuperValu, Claremorris. For more information – including recipes for using it in different types of drinks and in baking, as well as online orders, all stockists and sustainability – visit www.nollaignog.ie.