Saturday, November 16, 2019

The True Story of Eggnog

Why eggnog? What exactly is eggnog? What possessed humans to decide they wanted to drink a concoction of egg yolks and milk? 
I'm not sure why they did, but according to history it has been a favorite for many for centuries. It is thought to be originally based on 'posset' - a hot milky ale drink. The well-to-do started adding eggs, sherry, and spices. Since spices were very expensive it became a drink of the rich.

Often the drink is aged, for as much as 6 months. The mixture of the alcohol, spices, milk, and eggs can make for an interesting combination. Keeping it chilled with the alcohol (at least 20%) prevents any spoilage.

December is national Eggnog month, no surprise there. It has its fans as well as its detractors. The beverage did not become linked to the holidays until the 1700's when it first appeared in the colonies. With spices still being expensive it was saved for special occasions like Christmas.

Purists argue that the commercial variety one finds in grocery stores is no where close to the real thing. According to them anyone turned off by the super sweet taste has never experienced 'real' eggnog.


Most families have a 'family recipe'. Even George Washington had his own famous recipe:
One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.
(Unfortunately he failed to list the number of eggs needed, so following the recipe years later cooks guessed it was a dozen)

The first recipes called for rum, to keep it from spoiling. Over the years is has been made with many liquors including bourbon, brandy, spiced rum, moonshine, scotch, and peppermint schnapps. Spices include nutmeg, vanilla, and sometimes cinnamon. Together with heavy cream and egg yolks this makes for a rich drink. It is actually a type of custard. And a fattening one, given one cup can have as many as 400 calories. 

No one is quite sure about the provenience of the name. Some say it came from the term 'grog', another name for rum. This was served in wooden mugs called 'noggins'. Adding eggs and milk to the grog in the noggin could have become eggnoggins. Personally I think this is a stretch.

Of these days it is so much more than just a drink. One can find eggnog gelato, milkshakes, cookies, caramels, and cakes. Even cosmetics:
Image result for old images of eggnog flavored
Please God, say it's not so!

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