2011-12-22 / Features

Origins Of A Holiday Staple

The thick, spiced drink we know as eggnog has become synonymous with the holidays. It is so linked with the Christmas season that a person may be hard-pressed to find it sold in the supermarket any other time of the year. But eggnog wasn't always the holiday beverage it has become.

Eggnog is believed to have originated in 17th century Europe, primarily as a drink for the elite, since the ingredients in the beverage were hard to come by and thusly relegated to the very rich.

There are different theories on the origins of the word eggnog itself. Some believe it has gotten its name from the Old English word “nog,” which meant “strong beer.” The “egg” refers to one of the ingredients in the beverage, fresh eggs. Others surmise that it comes from the word “noggin,” which was a vessel for serving drinks in taverns. The drink was called “egg in a noggin,” which was shortened to “eggnog.” Still, there are others who say its name is derived from the term “grog,” which was another term for booze. “Egg n' grog” was eventually abbreviated to “eggnog.”

Although there is little certainty to the origins of the name, the recipe for eggnog has essentially remained unchanged throughout the centuries. It consists of beaten eggs, cream or milk and sugar mixed with some sort of alcoholic spirit. The Old English were believed to mix it with wine, though once the drink was brought to the New World, colonists substituted rum for the wine. Rum was readily available through tradesman running between the Americas and the Caribbean and therefore less expensive than another spirit. As America grew and eggnog was enjoyed in different parts of the country, the rum was replaced with regional spirits, including bourbon or grain alcohol. Other ingredients were also added to give it a customized flavor. However, the use of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves has become traditional flavors for the holiday brew.

Although eggnog is widely enjoyed throughout the holiday season, in the past it was served at special events and social occasions. As a warmed beverage it can easily chase away winter's chill. This is how it may have come to be enjoyed primarily during the holidays.

Love it or hate it, eggnog is a drink that can evoke strong feelings of the holidays within minutes. There are variations of eggnog sold commercially, but many people swear by homemade versions for their taste and authenticity. Try your own homemade eggnog with this recipe, courtesy of Cooks.com.

Holiday Eggnog (Spirited)

1 dozen eggs

1 pound powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup vanilla

8 cups evaporated milk

3 cups water

1 quart spiced rum

Nutmeg, to garnish

Beat eggs until light in color, gradually add sugar, salt and vanilla. Then add milk and water. Stir in rum (brandy, bourbon or rye may also be used). Cover the nog and ripen for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Stir again and serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

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