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Love It or Hate It: A Brief History of Eggnog

At this time of year many of us enjoying curling up in front of a roaring fire with a frothy cup of eggnog.  What is the history of this unusual beverage?

Our favorite eggnog is Alton Brown's version.

Eggs, cream, and rum are common eggnog ingredients.

Most food historians agree that eggnog originated from medieval Britain.  In the 1200’s Brits were known to be fond of a hot, milky, alcoholic drink called a “posset”.  These drinks were usually made with ale.  Eventually, monks developed a posset with eggs, sherry, and figs.  Because milk, eggs, and sherry were consumed by the wealthy, this beverage was often used to toast prosperity and good health.

When the drink came to America in the 1700s, it began to become associated with the winter holidays.  The colonists began substituting less expensive rum for the sherry and mixed it with their eggs and milk.  George Washington had his own favorite recipe which included brandy, rye whiskey, rum and sherry along with eggs, cream, sugar and milk.  Most say that the drink is called a “nog” from the word “noggin” for a wooden cup.  Whatever the reason, by the late 18th century the term eggnog was in common use. 

We are partial to the recipe from Alton Brown http://www.foodnetwork.com.

Alton Brown’s Eggnog

Makes 6 to 7 cups

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon

1 pint whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 ounces bourbon

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 egg whites

Beat egg yolks until they lighten in color.  Gradually add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until completely dissolved.  Add the milk, cream, bourbon, and nutmeg and stir to combine.  Beat egg whites to soft peaks.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Whisk whites into the milk mixture.  Chill and serve.

If you prefer to cook your eggnog, beat yolks until light and beat in sugar until it is dissolved.  Over high heat combine milk, cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture.  Cook until it reaches 160 f.  Remove from heat, and stir in the bourbon.  Chill.  Then beat and add the egg whites and sugar as described previously.