There are certain foods that just scream Christmas, and eggnog drinks are at the top of that list. In fact, there are very few times of year aside from the holiday season when you might whip up a batch of this rich, creamy cocktail. If you cannot imagine the holidays without indulging in a glass of eggnog than you aren’t alone. In fact, recent reports show that “more than 135 million pounds of eggnog are consumed each year.” We’ll let you process that number for a moment.
So what exactly is eggnog, anyway? We know it looks creamy, but what is in this dish, and what makes it so perfect for the holiday season? To begin, let’s start way back at the beginning.
The origins of this sweet, dairy-based beverage can be traced back to the 14th century, when a drink known as posset was popular in England. This drink, which didn’t contain eggs and was served hot (as opposed to eggnog, which is served chilled), was similarly spiked and spiced, but it became scarce over time as eggs and milk became expensive. That all changed when the drink made its way stateside. According to an article published by CNN, “what we [Americans] lacked in parliamentary representation we made up for in easy access to dairy products and liquor.” With so many Americans having easy access to the eggnog ingredients, the drink took off in American, and its popularity thrives here to this day.
As PBS reports, Americans love eggnog drinks so much that it even caused a riot back in 1826 when the newly appointed superintendent of West Point tried to do away with the annual tradition of cadets indulging in spiked eggnog. The new rules, and the failure to comply with his guidelines (and instead smuggle in alcohol to spike the holiday drink) let to a rowdy riot that is appropriately known as the Eggnog Riot.
As for the name, there are some different opinions on where the term eggnog came from. Most people agree on how eggnog came to be popular, but according to Time, “the English 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.”
Most people definitely have a love it or hate it attitude towards this drink. After all, the idea of raw egg yolks mixed with milk, spices and alcohol doesn’t seem all that appetizing upon first consideration. And if it’s done wrong, the drink can smell and taste like a poorly made omelet. ICK. Beyond that, most store bought brands of eggnog are frowned upon by eggnog enthusiasts, since they taste so different from the homemade variety. This is because “the US Food and Drug Administration permits that the drink can be made from as little as 1% egg yolk.” The result is a drink “that often borders on “milknog” or egg flavoring” as opposed to the truly rich and indulgent creamy beverage so many people crave all year long.
And if you are a true eggnog enthusiast then you are in good company—George Washington was a huge fan; in fact, CNN tells us that “kitchen records from Mount Vernon indicate that Washington served an eggnog-like drink to visitors, and since the general wasn’t strapped for cash, he didn’t skimp on the sauce. Washington’s potent recipe included three different types of booze: rye whiskey, rum, and sherry. Nobody could tell a lie after having a few cups of that.”
As we gear up for prime eggnog season remember a few important rules of thumb when it comes to this sweet liquid treat: 1) give the ‘nog a chance and 2) drink responsibly. Any drink that goes down easy and tastes sweet it usually means trouble.