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Exploring Eggnog: Learn Its History and How to Make Your Own

Updated on November 18, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

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.

Yes indeed.

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.

And Today...

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

Lauren, a believer in EASY homemade meals with real ingredients, and her "Best Homemade Eggnog" is about as easy and real as it gets. This is thick and creamy, and the eggs are cooked, so if you have had concerns about raw egg, this recipe is for you.

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.

The bloggers at AbrasKitchen have done just that with this vegan eggnog.

Chocolate Eggnog

Kelly does the vegetarian food blog TrialAndEater, where you will "find mostly healthy (and sometimes decadent) vegetarian recipes.) Her recipe for Peppermint Eggnog Hot Chocolate is all the best of winter comfort drinks in one amazing little mug.

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

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    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Rachel - I haven't tried the salted caramel one (yet), but it looks amazing. Let me know what you think.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Kari - Once you try homemade you'll never go back. It's nothing like the premade stuff they sell in the stores. I hope you'll give one of these a try.

    • profile image

      Rachel Alba 3 weeks ago

      Hi Linda, One of my favorites is Egg Nog. I couldn't have Thanksgiving without it. I love it with the run but not my family, so I leave it out. But, I never thought of the caramel or chocolate versions; how yummy. I could drink that every day. Thanks for this lovely article.

      Happy Thanksgiving Day to you.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 3 weeks ago from Ohio

      I now find it amazing I do not like eggnog. The recipes look so delicious! Maybe I should try making my own, I'm not sure I've ever had homemade. Thanks for the info and I loved that poem, lol.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Linda, that you so much. I think it's too bad that something as wonderful as eggnog is only thought of during the holidays. But then, if it were available year-round perhaps we would not appreciate it quite so much.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love eggnog. The grocery store version without alcohol is part of every Christmas in my family. I also buy advocaat (or a mixture of egg yolks, brandy, and sugar) when I can find it. I love the sound of the homemade versions that you describe, though. I'll try some of the recipes this Christmas.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Good day Eric! I've never thought of putting cinnamon on eggnog but, why not. I think tradition tells us to use nutmeg, but why not throw caution to the wind and live a little, right? Let me know which recipes you use and I'd love to hear some feedback.

      In the words of H. Ross Perot "I'm all ears."

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, a friend who makes eggnog and is willing to trade? You must be providing something amazing in return. Have a warm weekend my friend.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful stuff. Now I am confused with my "nog", "grog" and "noggins". Stupid, Beer and head/brain, in that order. And then I always associated the "egg" part as "you are a good egg".

      Midnight Christmas Eve Service. And the walk back to mom's to see who could keep their candle lit the whole way. Winners get first eggnog. 90% of the time fully snowy.

      Enough meandering I love these recipes - I will make two, like next week so they set, one with booze and the other without.

      Did I miss the cinnamon?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      The history was very cool, I actually love eggnog, and I have a friend who makes it and trades with me for it, so all is good in my world.

    • Carb Diva profile image
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      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, your comment really brightened my day. You are a dear loyal friend. Thank you for your continued encouragement and support.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

      Vegan eggnog! I’m trying it! And the salted caramel for my husband! You absolutely rock. I love the history lessons here too. I am going to go back and make sure all your cooking articles are pinned and flipped. You’re so grand.

    • Carb Diva profile image
      Author

      Linda Lum 3 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, you are so very welcome. I love the flavor of (non-alcohol) eggnog, but sheesh, it's like "a minute on the lips, and year on the hips for me."

      This article was so much fun researching. If you do happen to make that eggnog, please let me know. I'd love your feedback.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 3 weeks ago from Brazil

      I can see why people would riot over eggnog.

      After looking at all the recipes, the first one will do me just fine, as I don't drink, so will opt for the one with cooked eggs.

      It must be 15 years since I have had some from a grocery store. It's one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I have made it once or twice before, but this year, I am going to give it another go.

      Thanks for the recipes.