It’s a holiday beverage having a moment this year. Whether you love it or hate it, eggnog has a long history and dates back to traditional English beverages called possets. The biddies have some theories about how it should be made if you actually want to enjoy it. Tune in to learn more about how eggs and whiskey (or rum) just might mix.

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Sources:

Sauder’s Eggs, What is the History of Eggnog?

The Spruce Eats, The Origins of Eggnog: A Favorite Christmas Cocktail

Wine Enthusiast, From Weddings to Riots, Everything to Know About Eggnog’s History

Atlas Obscura, The Wild & Weird History of Eggnog

British Food History, Possets

The Guardian, Historic Recipes: Sack Posset

Florida Milk Blog, Egg Nog and Coquito

Eataly, Bombardino

Taste Atlas, Zabov

Study Notes On Eggnog:

*Please note these are the literal notes we created to record the podcast and sections may be copied and pasted from our sources above.

WHAT IS EGGNOG?

  • Eggnog is a drink traditionally consumed during the winter holiday season
  • A chilled dairy beverage that gets its name from one of the main ingredients – eggs
  • Has been a traditional Christmas beverage for hundreds of years in America
  • National Eggnog Day is December 24

THE HISTORY

  • Etymology of the word comes from English origins with “nog” meaning either a strong beer or a wooden cup
  • Most historians generally agree eggnog originated in medieval Britain
  • Upper classes were the only ones to have access to the milk, sherry, and eggs required to make the first versions of eggnog
  • Monks in the middle ages added figs and eggs to a beverage they called “posset” or essentially an aromatic eggnog & the wealthy generally used it for toasts to health and wealth
    • Imbibed in early modern Britain
    • Had medicinal uses and was also “the culinary pinnacle of 17th century wedding celebrations”
  • Most likely became associated with the holiday season due to the lack of refrigeration
  • In early american colonies eggnog became a more common drink
    • Due to more farming opportunities, farmers and everyday people had more access to cows and chickens
    • When eggs and dairy were reaching their shelf life, sugar and alcohol helped preserve them since refrigeration wasn’t a thing
  • Sherry became less prominent in the newer American iterations and was replaced with rum due to the proximity of the Caribbean islands
  • The first written appearance of eggnog is in 1774 in a poem written by Maryland minister Jonathan Boucher
    • It describes a young man with a big appetite who enjoyed “thirty raw eggs, a glass of eggnog, and another of brandy sling”
  • In the early day eggnog was served warm
    • When Jerry Thomas printed the first bartending guides in the late 1800s eggnog was enjoyed cold as well
    • In the 1887 printing of the bartender’s guide it was noted that hot eggnog was “very popular in California”

POSSET

Possets | British Food: A History (britishfoodhistory.com)

  • When I think of a posset, I think of a simple affair of sweetened cream thickened with an acidic fruit. However, this is very much a modern posset (by modern I mean twentieth century).
  • Originally the posset was a dessert or drink made from curdled milk enriched with sugar, alcohol (the most popular being sack, a sweet ale similar to sherry). 
  • It was often used as a curative for colds or fevers; it is mentioned in the Journals of the House of Lords in the year 1620 that King Charles I was given a posset drink from his physician.
  • Shakespeare mentions possets several times in his writings, in Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5, he mentions the posset’s medicinal properties and that it is made from curds:
    • And with sudden vigour it doth posset, And curd, like aigre [sour] droppings into milk, The thin and wholesome blood.
  • Possets were eaten for pleasure too though:
    • Yet be cheerful knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house; Where I will desire thee to laugh at my wife. (The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 5, Scene 5)
  • Kings and lords had their cream and curd possets, whereas we normal folk had to use bread to thicken ours.
  • By the time we reach the mid-18th century, possets have changed; they are made from milk, but now are thickened with biscuits, bread, egg yolks or almonds, or a combination. Sack possets were drunk at weddings when it came to toasting the bride and groom around this time, though I don’t know where this originated from.
  • The Guardian posset recipe from 1669:
    • The Recipe
      • Makes 8–10 posset pots or teacups
        850ml (29 fl oz) thin (pouring) cream
        1 cinnamon stick
        1 mace blade
        6 egg yolks
        3 egg whites
        230ml (7¾ fl oz) sherry or Madeira (for an alcohol-free posset, use orange or lemon juice)
        100g (3½ oz) raw sugar
    • In a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer with the spices, then remove from the heat.
    • Whisk the egg yolks and whites in a clean saucepan, then pour in the sherry (or juice, if preferred) and sugar. Put the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly; do not let it boil. Turn down the heat and pour the cream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat.
    • Pour the mixture into pots or teacups and rest for a couple of minutes. Serve with a spoon while still warm or chill in the fridge if you prefer.

MAKING EGGNOG SAFELY

  • Use pasteurized eggs or use egg substitute
  • Cook to 160 degrees (especially if you don’t use pasteurized eggs)
  • WHY EGGS?
    • Yolks are used for their fat content
    • Whites create airy, light textures 
    • Both are used in eggnog to serve those purposes:
  • To make traditional eggnog you’ll need:
    • 4 eggs
    • ¼ cup white granulated sugar
    • And additional tablespoon of white granulated sugar
    • 2 cups whole milk
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • ¼ cup brandy or bourbon
    • ¼ cup dark rum
    • ½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Separate the whites from the yolks and place the whites in a stand mixer or bowl – set to whisk until soft peaks form
  2. While the mixer is still going, add one tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form; set aside in another bowl
  3. Add yolks to the mixing bowl plus the ¼ cup of sugar and beat until sugar dissolves
  4. Add milk, cream, whiskey, rum, nutmeg, and salt and mix on low for 1 minute
  5. Carefully fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture but do not over mix of the egg whites will lose their air
  6. Place eggnog in an airtight glass container and store in the fridge and tastes best after 1-3 weeks
  • If you make a nonalcoholic eggnog, you need to cook the mixture to 160-165F

THE EGGNOG RIOT AT WEST POINT (1826)

  • West Point, the US Military Academy, hosted a Christmas celebration every year with eggnog but due to a new strict superintendent Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, all alcohol on West Point’s campus was forbidden
  • Students began trying to smuggle in alcohol from taverns around town to add to their eggnog
  • After two monitors discovered a few drunk students, things escalated into a full riot that caused significant damage to the institution and 20 cadets were expelled including Robert E. Lee
  • One of the cadets was Jefferson Davis who went on to lead the Confederate States as their president during the American Civil War

PRISON NOG WITH MEZCAL

  • April 1843 – members of the Army of the Texas Republic found themselves imprisoned by Mexican General Santa Anna who captured them during a border raid
  • The anniversary of their victory at the Battle of San Jacinto was coming up 
  • The men bribed the guards to smuggle in mezcal, sugar, egg, and donkey’s milk
  • They stole some kitchen tools and mixed up their prison eggnog

GEORGE WASHINGTON’S EGGNOG RECIPE

  • 1 quart of cream
  • 1 quart of milk
  • 12 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 pint of brandy
  • ½ pint of rye whiskey
  • ½ pint of Jamaican rum
  • ¼ pint of sherry
  • (assumed it was 1 dozen eggs)

EGGNOG IN OTHER COUNTRIES

  • AEggekop (Denmark)
  • Moose Milk (Canada)
    • Created by Canadian soldiers during World War II
    • Styles vary by military branch: the navy, army, and air force all have different, competing recipes but the basic recipe is liquor (whiskey, rum, or vodka), cream, egg yolks, and sugar
    • When on the battle lines, soldiers used whatever basic ingredients were on hand but at home they would incorporate kahlua, ice cream, and coffee
    • “Set the moose loose”
  • Chilled camel’s milk (UAE)
  • Coquito (Puerto Rico)
    • Differences between the two traditional drinks begins with their ingredient list. Eggnog, as its name implies, is made using eggs along with other staple ingredients. Meanwhile, coquito (which means “little coconut” in Spanish) requires coconut instead.
    • While traditional Puerto Rican coquito does not include eggs, it is still a common ingredient in some versions, especially in Mexico.
    • Both recipes often include festive spices like nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and clove. Non-traditional flavors like star anise, almond and lemon zest, are also used to enhance and customize flavor. Many coquito and eggnog recipes are mixed with various liquors like rum or bourbon.
    • The origin of coquito is less clear, and it is believed to have been invented sometime in the 1900s. Coquito first appeared in writing inside two Puerto Rican cookbooks, Cocine a Gusto and The Puerto Rican Cookbook, published between 1950 and 1970. 
    • Coquito’s origins may go back much further than that because some theorize that Spaniards introduced it to the Caribbean during Puerto Rico’s colonial era. At that time it was made with Caribbean rum before Puerto Rico made the recipe its own by adding coconut.
  • Bombardino (Italy)
    • Literally “the bomb” in Italian, il Bombardino is the skier’s reward after an exhilarating day on the slopes
    • created in northern Lombardia. Today, it is beloved across the Italian Alps.
    • According to legend, the Bombardino was created by a young man from the port city of Genova, who decided to leave the sea for a life in the Italian Alps. 
    • After spending years as an officer in the Alpini (the oldest active mountain infantry in the world), he opened a ski lodge in Lombardia. One day, four skiers staggered in from a blizzard, seeking something warm and rich to counteract the cold. The Genovese quickly stirred together milk, whiskey, and zabaglione (an egg-based custard) and brought the ingredients almost to a boiling point. One of the skiers tried the drink and cried, “Accidenti! È una bomba!” “Damn! It’s a bomb!” Forever after, skiers traveled far and wide to taste the Genovese’s signature drink: the Bombardino.
    • Over time, the recipe was perfected to a creamy egg liqueur stirred into choice brandy and all topped with whipped cream and cinnamon.
    • Recipe
      • 1.5 ounces brandy, such as Vecchia Romagna Brandy
      • 3 ounces egg liqueur, such as Zabov Zabaglione
        • Zabov is an Italian egg liqueur that hails from Ferrara. It is made with a base of fresh milk and egg yolks. The combination is sweetened, fortified, and flavored, and before it is bottled, Zabov is rested for seven days. The resulting liqueur is bright yellow, creamy, and smooth.
        • The liqueur was released in 1946. The main idea was to create a low-proof egg liqueur—Zabov is bottled at 15% ABV—based on brandy. The name Zabov is a portmanteau of Zabaglione (Italian egg custard) and ovo (meaning egg). Apart from its use in cocktails, Zabov can be served as a well-chilled aperitif, and it can be used as a dessert ingredient. 
  • Creme de Vie (Cuba)
  • Eggnog (Jamaica)
    • Calls specifically for a particular brand of rum made with Jamaican molasses and aged in white oak barrels for up to four years
  • MIlk tea (Thailand)
  • Rompope (Mexico)
  • Sabajon (Columbia)
  • Tamagozake (Japan)
    • Made by whisking raw eggs and sugar into warm sake
    • Better known for its medicinal properties including soothing sore throats and alleviating the common cold