Reno’s Francovich family served an egg nog at the Wine House on Commercial Row, which operated from 1874 to 1957. They continued thereafter making it by the family recipe and giving it away to friends for many years and then put it on the market. It sells in major stores in Reno.
There’s a terrible rumor going around that this would be the last year for the egg nog. Any truth to that?
No, that’s not true.
I heard it from your sister.
Oh, did you really? Debbie? Well, you know, Debbie’s retired, and she might think that it might be her last year, maybe. But it’s not the last year for egg nog. [Laughs] My sister. That’s funny. A reliable source.
I can’t get much closer than that.
What year did you start marketing it, rather than making it a gift?
We started it in 1999, was our first year that we went out commercially.
How did that year go?
It was very slow. We didn’t produce very much. We were doing it kind of out of the bathtub, so it wasn’t really much of a production. We were actually making it out of the Hilltop [Bar & Eatery]. I don’t know, we probably sold, you know, 50 cases or something. But it was a start—a big learning curve. … [Government agencies] allowed us to not only be the producer but also be the distributor. You can’t do that these days. But because it had to be kept cold, none of the liquor distributors could handle it. So they gave us a reprieve and let us do it ourselves. And none of the distributors argued because they weren’t capable of handling it. So that’s how we started. We did that for about the first five years. And then ultimately, Wirtz Beverage Co., which is now Breakthru Beverage, got all their trucks refrigerated and they ultimately became our distributor. … The difficult part is to get expanded distribution because the liquor companies in California, as an example, they’re not refrigerated, either.
How widely are you distributed?
We’re only in northern Nevada. … We were in Costco [stores] for a short period of time, and they self-distributed, but now they have their own brand, and they’ve moved on.
The ingredients are on the label. So it’s the proportion of the ingredients that are the family secret, right?
Pretty much, right. Right.
Is this like the Coca-Cola recipe, where only a handful of people know it?
Well, all my family members pretty much know it, and it’s really not much of a secret. It’s very difficult to make at home and have any kind of longevity to it, and the reason for that is it goes through no cooking process. And so you’re dealing with raw egg yolk, which are very, very dangerous. You’re dealing with milk and cream, which are, you know, volatile. You’re dealing with pure vanilla, and vanilla is itself like a toxin. Vanilla is very unpure. The only reason people get away with using real vanilla in cooking is they bake. So once you cook it, it sterilizes it. And believe it or not, cinnamon and nutmeg are very, very highly bacteria-oriented. So if you make it at home, if you get a week and a half or two weeks out of it, you’re going to be lucky, where our product, if you keep it cold, our product can last up to four months because it’s pasteurized. It goes through a kill process.