When it comes to describing the most traditional and delicious holiday beverages, the Eggnog is definitely the most popular. At the same time, it is also one of the strangest drinks; traditionally, it is made using whipped egg, sugar, and milk or cream. This is how children usually serve it, but for adults a number of liqueurs can be added, such as brandy, whiskey, rum, vodka or bourbon. There are many aspects which make it similar to other punches – that are generally holiday drinks -, which is why it was sometimes called egg milk punch.
Because the tradition of drinking it goes back hundreds of years in the history of Europe, there isn’t much known about its origins; some say it was developed somewhere in England, but it could just as well have been a medieval European drink. As for its etymology, some prefer to believe the nog in the name comes from the British term “noggin”, which is what they called small wooden mugs. Another story claims the name comes from “egg and grog”, a term used in Colonial Britain to call this beverage when it was made with rum. Thus, in speech the term was abbreviated to “egg ‘n’ grog” and eventually developed into eggnog. Today, this drink is still popular in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, and it is associated with Christmas.
One of the first written accounts of Americans consuming eggnog appeared in Isaac Weld’s traveling book, where he mentions how Americans would drink a full draft of the beverage before going on a journey. In the book, he mentions the use of rum. In Great Britain however, the Eggnog was mainly a drink of the aristocracy. Yet interestingly enough, the drink is mentioned in British author Stella Gibbons’ book Cold Comfort Farm as a breakfast dish called Hell’s Angel and made from one egg, one teaspoon of cream, two ounces of brandy, and chipped ice. Thus, here is is mentioned as a cold beverage!
Initially the eggnog was indeed prepared using rum; however, as it reached the English colonies and therefore America, the rum was sometimes replaced with other alcoholic drinks, like after the American Revolutionary War when it became scarce. It was at that moment that people began replacing the rum with home-made whiskey (moonshine) or bourbon.
There are hundreds of recipes for the Eggnog; there are a few basic ingredients like those mentioned above, but some may add or remove depending on their tastes, or according to family recipes. The basic ingredients are sugar, eggs, milk and spices – here the most common are freshly ground nutmeg or cinnamon. One can add cream to make it thicker, but some people nowadays also add gelatin, or vanilla for a special flavor. Among other toppings, you can add whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate curls, meringue and even berries. However, in some parts of the world you can also find it ready-made in stores, although not as delicious as eggnog made at home.