Many believe that eggnog is a tradition that was brought to America from Europe. This is partially true. Eggnog is related to various milk and wine punches that had been concocted long ago in the “Old World”. However, in America a new twist was put on the theme. Rum was used in the place of wine. In Colonial America, rum was commonly called “grog”, so the name eggnog is likely derived from the very descriptive term for this drink, “egg-and-grog”, which corrupted to egg’n’grog and soon to eggnog. At least this is one version…
Other experts would have it that the “nog” of eggnog comes from the word “noggin”. A noggin was a small, wooden, carved mug. It was used to serve drinks at table in taverns (while drinks beside the fire were served in tankards). It is thought that eggnog started out as a mixture of Spanish “Sherry” and milk. The English called this concoction “Dry sack posset”. It is very easy to see how an egg drink in a noggin could become eggnog.
The true story might be a mixture of the two and eggnog was originally called “egg and grog in a noggin”. This was a term that required shortening if ever there was one.
With it’s European roots and the availability of the ingredients, eggnog soon became a popular wintertime drink throughout Colonial America. It had much to recomend it; it was rich, spicy, and alcoholic.
In the 1820’s Pierce Egan, a period author, wrote a book called “Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom”. To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called “Tom and Jerry”. It added 1/2 oz of brandy to the basic recipe (fortifying it considerably and adding further to its popularity).
Eggnog, in the 1800s was nearly always made in large quantities and nearly always used as a social drink. It was commonly served at holiday parties and it was noted by an English visitor in 1866, “Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging…It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended.”
First President of the United States, George Washington, was quite a fan of eggnog and devised his own recipe that included rye whiskey, rum and sherry. It was reputed to be a stiff drink that only the most courageous were willing to try.
Eggnog is still a popular drink during the holidays, and its social character remains. It is hard to imagine a Christmas without a cup of the “nog” to spice up the atmosphere and lend merriment and joy to the procedings. When you try out some of the recipes on this site, remember that, like many other of our grand traditions, there is history and life behind that little frothy brew.
Period Eggnog Recipe
Beat up the Yolks of 12 eggs with powdered sugar, then beat up with them a pint of brandy, a quart of milk; lastly beat up the whites of your 12 eggs, and add them on as a head and crown…
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 quart milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Beat eggs, sugar and salt together in a saucepan. Stir in half the milk (2 cups). On low heat, cook until mixture is thick and thinly coats a spoon. Make sure to stir constantly. Remove from heat and mix in the last of the milk and the vanilla.
Cover and chill overnight. Serve eggnog with a dusting of nutmeg and cinnamon.
Historical information provided by In Depth Info.
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