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Exploring Eggnog: History and Six Delicious Recipes

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.

How and why did eggnog become entwined with the Christmas holiday?

How and why did eggnog become entwined with the Christmas holiday?

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.

— James Humes, author, historian, and former speechwriter and adviser to four 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.

exploring-eggnog

Posset “jumped the pond” in the 1700s 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.

Taste frequently, 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.

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Read More From Delishably

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!)

6 Eggnog Recipes

  • Best Homemade Eggnog
  • Alton Brown's Eggnog
  • Five-Minute Homemade Blender Eggnog
  • The Best Vegan Eggnog
  • Peppermint Eggnog Hot Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel Eggnog
Best Homemade Eggnog

Best Homemade Eggnog

1. Best Homemade Eggnog

Lauren, a believer in easy homemade meals with real ingredients, created this Best Homemade Eggnog—and it's just 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's Eggnog

2. 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.

Five-Minute Homemade Blender Eggnog

Five-Minute Homemade Blender Eggnog

3. Five-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 five minutes using your blender.

Vegan (No Eggs) Eggnog

Vegan (No Eggs) Eggnog

4. 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.

Peppermint Eggnog Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Eggnog Hot Chocolate

5. Peppermint Eggnog Hot Chocolate

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

Salted Caramel Eggnog

6. 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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