I don’t remember the first Christmas season that I tried eggnog. I was a bit of a picky eater as a child, so I’m imagining it wasn’t too early on. Once I tried it, I was hooked. It’s like Christmas in a cup. And it’s celebrated on Dec. 24 with National Eggnog Day!
Most of the store-bought eggnogs are a little too rich or too sweet for me – but I can’t let a Christmas go by without picking up a half gallon at the local store.
What exactly is eggnog? According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it is “a drink thought to have originated in the British Isles, composed of beaten eggs, sugar and cream or milk and typically served during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. A sort of liquid custard, eggnog often contains a small quantity of liquor as well, with rum, brandy, cognac and whisky being among the typical alcoholic amendments.” One of its early predecessors was a British drink called posset, a “hot, milky, ale-like drink.” The ingredients were scarce in the Middle Ages, so it was used to toast to good health.
Eggnog made its way to the American colonies in the 1700s, where the requisite alcohol was replaced by readily available rum. This transition into North America was when it started to be associated with the Christmas holiday. “The … name’s etymology, however, remains a mystery. Some say ‘nog’ comes from ‘noggin,’ meaning a wooden cup, or ‘grog,’ a strong beer. By the late 18th century, the combined term ‘eggnog’ stuck” (per Time Magazine – “The History of Eggnog”).
Some of those early recipes survived, amazingly. One high-profile enjoyer of eggnog was none other than our first president, George Washington. His recipe:
“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” (Time, again).
How cool is that? A little taste of history. He didn’t include how many eggs to use – it’s estimated a dozen would be accurate.
Unless you’re feeling brave and want to strike out on your own with a 200-year-old recipe, where’s a good place to start with making your own eggnog? Farmersalmanac.com shares a good recipe – “Classic Eggnog:”
12 large eggs, separated
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla
7 cups whole milk
2 cups rum
Freshly grated nutmeg
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until they start to thicken. Add 1 cup sugar, beat until thick.
In a second bowl, beat egg yolks and salt until thick.
In a third large bowl beat cream until it starts to thicken. Add 2 tbsps sugar and vanilla. Then add milk, rum, and brandy, beating continually.
Combine beaten egg whites with yolks and beat until mixed and thick.
Mix all ingredients and chill.
Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg on top of each glass and a cinnamon stick garnish.
Yum! At the bottom of the page, they share a note: “If you are nervous about using raw eggs, there are many recipes that also use a cooking process.”
Not able to make the time commitment? You can find a container at most of your grocery retailers.
Regardless, make sure to kick back with a glass at some point this holiday season. Here’s to good health, good fortune and all of the wonderful possibilities of a new year.
Have a wonderful holiday.
by Andrew Haman