Eggnog is one of those things, like fruitcake, that just seems to show up every year around Christmas time. And, like fruitcake, eggnog has gotten a bad rap, mainly from people who have only tried the overly sweet store-bought kind that comes in a carton.
But eggnog has a rich history that stretches back much farther than the modern grocery store version.
The drink we recognize as eggnog probably dates back to at least the 17th Century, during which time it would have been enjoyed by members of the upper classes, who could afford luxury items such as eggs, cream, and sugar. This iteration of the beverage was probably just one of many variants of posset, a medieval drink that combined hot milk and wine or ale. The contemporary practice of using rum likely originated during the colonial era in the United States, when the Caribbean derived spirit was more readily available than alternatives from Europe.
There is some controversy over the etymology of the name. Some say the word eggnog comes from noggin, a type of wooden mug used in the middle ages. Noggin was also a word for a type of beer, possibly derived from the other meaning, as the beer may have been consumed from a noggin and become linguistically paired with the vessel. Given that, eggnog would literally mean “egg beer.”
Another possibility is that eggnog is simply an abbreviated version of the phrase “egg and grog” or “egg’n grog.” “Grog” was a word used in colonial North America to describe any thick beverage, of which eggnog is definitely one.
Wherever the name came from, true, homemade eggnog is a sweet, creamy decadent treat perfectly suited to the holiday season. In addition to it being a holiday tradition, indulging at this time of year is in our genetic makeup. Humans who live in regions with dramatic seasonal variation have always relied on rich, high calorie foods to carry them through the cold, dark, food scarce months of winter.
If your only exposure to eggnog is from a carton, do yourself a favor and try the real thing this year. You’ll never go back!
12 large egg whites
1 cup, plus 2 tbsps sugar
12 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp vanilla
7 cups whole milk
2 cups rum
1 cup brandy
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. Combine beaten egg whites with yolks and beat until mixed and thick. In a third large bowl beat cream until it starts to thicken. Add sugar and vanilla. Add milk, rum and brandy, beating continually. Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg on top of each glass and a cinnamon stick garnish.
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
2 1-oz. shots rum
2 1-oz. shots brandy
Place the almond milk and macadamia nuts in the blender and blend on high until very creamy. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla and sweetener and blend well. Pulse in the rum and brandy and divide among four glasses. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg and garnish with cinnamon sticks.
Use these basic recipes to experiment with different flavors of eggnog. It’s easy to use a little flavored extract, or a flavored brandy or other alcohol, such as schnapps, to add favorite holiday flavors such as gingerbread or peppermint to your eggnog recipe. Or add some chocolate syrup or canned pumpkin. Let your imagination be your guide!
For a nonalcoholic version, simply replace the alcohol with additional vanilla extract to taste, one additional tablespoon at a time, or use a nonalcoholic rum flavoring.
If you are nervous about using raw eggs, you can simply purchase frozen pasteurized eggs.