Exploring Eggnog: Learn Its History and How to Make Your Own
If you see a fat man …
Who’s jolly and cute,
wearing a beard
and a red flannel suit,
and if he is chuckling
and laughing away,
while flying around
in a miniature sleigh
with eight tiny reindeer
to pull him along,
then let’s face it…
Your eggnog’s too strong!!!
Questions, So Many Questions
How and why did eggnog become entwined with the Christmas holiday? Who invented eggnog (and who was first brave enough to down a concoction of milk, booze, and raw eggs)?
While there are various theories of the etymology of “eggnog,” most historians agree that the drink originated in medieval Britain. There, the drink known as “posset” was used when toasting to one’s health and prosperity, two qualities of life that were in short supply among the masses.
You have to remember, the average Londoner rarely even saw a glass of milk— author/historian James Humes , former speech writer and adviser to 4 Presidents
So, in the beginning, posset was a drink of nobility, the wealthy, the privileged. However, by the 13th century monks, with their farms, wine presses, distilleries, and self-sustaining lifestyle, were imbibing posset, and adding eggs and figs for a bit of flare.
Posset “jumped the pond” in the 1700’s with the arrival of immigrants to the New World. There, colonists were not beholden to landowners; they had their own chickens, cows, and the ability to distill their own liquor. Even George Washington got into the act, creating his own version of the holiday cheer. His original recipe is as follows:
One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.
The name change, from posset to eggnog still remains a mystery. Some believe “nog” refers to the cup from which the beverage is sipped; in days of old “noggins” were wooden mugs. Nog also appears in an old English dialect, a word used for a type of strong beer.
By the early 19th century, eggnog was the given name, and the heady beverage had gained popularity on both sides of the Atlantic. So much so that…
There Was a Riot
Cadets at West Point loved their annual tradition of drinking heavily-laced eggnog during the Christmas holiday. This all came to a rapid halt when Colonel Sylvanus Thayer was newly appointed as the superintendent of the academy. Thayer is remembered as the “Father of West Point.” It is he who was responsible for elevating the curriculum of this institution such that it became the first acknowledged school of engineering in America.
But he also forbade the consumption of alcohol on campus. Of course, cadets then began smuggling in alcohol from nearby taverns. Thayer, knowing that boys will be boys, sent out two officers to scout for “suspicious activity”. Let’s just say that things went badly. There were fights, broken windows and general mayhem. In the end 19 cadets were expelled, West Point ceased holding annual Christmas celebrations, and the evening of December 24, 1826, will forever be known as the Eggnog Riot.
I've not heard of any rioting over eggnog. It's been available in the grocery stores where I live for well over a month already. I prefer mine warm, and without alcohol. What about you? Are you a lover or a hater? If the thought of cream, sugar, and eggs sounds repulsive to you, may I ask when was the last time you ate vanilla ice cream? Allow it to melt and you essentially have eggnog in a bowl.
Well, enough of the history lesson, and eggnog philosophy. Let's explore some recipes.
(Of course, we can make almost anything eggnog "flavored". There are countless recipes for ice cream, gelato, fudge, cookies, cakes, and who knows what else? That's not what we're doing today. If you are interested in those, say so in the comments and I'll create another article just for you!)
Recipes In This Article
- Best Homemade Eggnog
- Alton Brown's Eggnog
- 5-Minute Homemade Blender Eggnog
- The Best Vegan Eggnog
- Chocolate Eggnog
- Salted Caramel Eggnog
Best Homemade Eggnog
Alton Brown's Eggnog
Alton Brown, a man with an amazing resume—an American television personality, food show presenter, author, actor, cinematographer, and musician. He is the creator and host of the Food Network television show Good Eats (14 seasons), host of the mini-series Feasting on Asphalt and Feasting on Waves, and host and main commentator on Iron Chef America, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Camp Cutthroat. Brown is a best-selling author of several books on food and cooking.
He knows a lot about food, so it seems prudent to include his eggnog recipe in this article.
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2012
12 large chicken eggs (see note)
1 pound sugar
1 pint half n half (see the other note)
1 pint whole milk
1 pint heavy cream
1 cup Jamaican rum
1 cup cognac
1 cup bourbon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (plus more for serving)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
• Separate the eggs and store the whites for another purpose
• Beat the yolks with the sugar and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl until the mixture lightens in color and falls off the whisk in a solid “ribbon.”
• Combine dairy, booze, and salt in a second bowl or pitcher and then slowly beat into the egg mixture.
• Move to a large glass jar (or a couple of smaller ones) and store in the fridge for a minimum of 2 weeks. A month would be better, and two better still. In fact, there’s nothing that says you couldn’t age it a year but I’ve just never been able to wait that long.
• Serve in mugs or cups topped with a little extra nutmeg grated right on top.
Note on eggs: Although my research tells me it’s very likely the alcohol will kill off any microbial baddies present from the eggs, if you have any doubts at all or if you’re going to be serving the elderly or someone with an immune disorder, buy yourself some peace of mind and simply use pasteurized shell eggs. They’re available these days at most mega-marts.
Note on dairy: I’m super picky about the texture of my eggnog and find that the combination listed gets me what I’m looking for. That said, if you don’t want to bother (or if you’re not as picky) just go with a quart of half and half and call it a day.
And one more note: Yeah, it’s a lot of booze but the longer the nog ages, the more mellow it will get.
This story originally appeared in mental_floss magazine.
5-Minute Homemade Blender Eggnog
Amanda is a wife, mother of two rambunctious kiddos, photography nerd, and bacon lover! And she calls herself TheChunkyChef. She has developed an eggnog recipe that can be whipped up in just 5 minutes using your blender.
Vegan (No Eggs) Eggnog
How can eggnog be VEGAN? Well, trust me, the science of food has come a long way, baby! When my daughter decided that she wanted to be a vegetarian (almost 20 years ago) our options and resources were very limited. Thankfully, there are numerous products available that help us achieve and thrive in a non-meat diet. And so much has been done in the science of finding natural, plant-based foods that can mimic the fatty, creamy luxury of animal-based products.
Salted Caramel Eggnog
Becky is the CookieRookie and the author/creator/photographer behind the Salted Caramel Eggnog. Salted caramel and eggnog is such a natural combination. (I wonder why I didn't think of that?). I'm glad that Becky did.
© 2017 Linda Lum