It’s the drunkle’s favourite Christmas tipple, but don’t let that fact cloud your opinion of eggnog. Long before your mom’s brother came to visit, bringing with him an insatiable thirst for rum-spiked egg-milk, eggnog was wowing the aristocracy in medieval England and, later, wooing colonists on this side of the pond.
Admittedly, eggnog is one weird libation. You’re drinking raw eggs beaten with sugar, folded into milk or cream, spiced with nutmeg and spiked with brandy, rum or bourbon. It’s like a protein shake-meets-bottle for a teething infant. But here’s the thing: homemade eggnog is seriously delish and definitely a contender for a new Christmas tradition. It’s sweet, strong and satisfying, with a hint of nutmeg on the nose. Most importantly, the rum or bourbon within puts even the Grinchiest family member into the holiday spirit.
While many libations have sexy names, like the cosmopolitan or the margarita, eggnog is stuck with an off-putting moniker that doesn’t help it win new fans. Its name is thought to be a shortened form of “egg and grog,” or even a play on the word “noggin,” which was a traditional wooden mug used for serving alcohol.
History of eggnog
Like fascinators and warm beer, the odd convention of mixing raw eggs with alcohol comes from jolly old England. There, eggnog evolved from “posset,” or spiced hot milk curdled with wine or ale. It’s not clear why someone decided to crack eggs into the mix, but back in the day both eggs and milk were signs of affluence (not everyone could afford them), so drinking them with a spirit such as brandy, Madeira (fortified Portuguese wine) or sherry became a way to toast prosperity and good health on special occasions.
Not much has changed, except the substitution of rum or bourbon (cheaper options in the New World) and the fact eggnog is now consumed by the masses. We still raise a mug at Christmas, though perhaps nowadays we’re toasting Santa, good credit and universal health care.
Two rules of eggnog
There are two rules when celebrating with eggnog. One: Do not be tempted by the grocery store versions to mix with your chosen spirit – they are too sweet and contain only one per cent egg yolk, making them cloying “milknogs.” Two: Never, ever calculate the calories you’re imbibing (up to 400 calories per cup!) – this is not a diet drink. Live a little! It’s Christmas!
So pass the shortbread and butter tarts. And another round of eggnog, please – the drunkle’s niece is thirsty.
How to make eggnog
4 beaten egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar (until dissolved)
2 cups whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (stir and chill)
3 oz bourbon (or rum or cognac or all three!)
Beat 4 eggs whites and 1 Tbsp. of sugar until stiff and whisk into chilled mixture.