Eggnog, egg nog or egg-nog is a rich, chilled, sweetened, dairy-based beverage.
It is also known (when alcoholic beverages are added) as milk punch or egg milk punch.
While eggnog is often served chilled, in some cases it is warmed, particularly on cold days (similar to the way mulled wine is served warm).
While culinary historians debate its exact lineage, most agree eggnog originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink.
Eggnog became tied to the holidays when the drink crossed the Atlantic to the British colonies during the 18th century. They started adding rum, which wasn’t heavily taxed in the way that brandy and wine was.
As a rich, spicy, and alcoholic drink, eggnog became a familiar fixture during the holiday season across the growing colonies and, eventually, the new country of the United States in the 18th century.
It’s believed that the first known use of the word “Eggnog” dates back to around 1775, but it’s likely that the drink itself — or a version of it — preceded the term by a couple hundred years.
Eggnog also became a favorite drink not just for the Christmas holidays, but, not surprisingly, given the alcohol component, New Year’s Eve.
George Washington’s birthday, February 22, and the Fourth of July also became popular times to drink eggnog.
Due to the alcohol that was virtually always involved, there are a number of articles in 19th century newspapers detailing fights and even some stabbings of people who got into trouble after drinking a bit too much eggnog.
Eggnog naturally took a hit during Prohibition, the period (1920-1933) when drinking was outlawed in the United States. As the magazine “Good Housekeeping” noted in 1921, “Most persons would be very glad to have one meal of egg-nog a year, along about Christmas time, if one could invite his friends and escape the eagle eye of the prohibition commissioner. Like all forbidden fruits, egg-nog now seems particularly attractive. Forbidden fruit is the most popular tree in the national nursery.”
It was probably around the 1940’s when nonalcoholic eggnog began showing up sparingly in stores, because by 1951, a New York Times writer helpfully noted, “…there are bottled eggnogs, some containing spirits, others, prepared by milk companies that are non-alcoholic.” Bordens’ and
Sheffield Farms were two brands mentioned selling non-alcoholic eggnog, for 60 cents a quart, or a little more if you wanted your eggnog delivered with your milk. But it wasn’t until the 1960’s that cold, nonalcoholic eggnog began to become mainstream.
The origins, etymology, and the ingredients used to make original eggnog drinks are debated. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, nog was “a kind of strong beer brewed in East Anglia”. The first known use of the word “nog” was in 1693.
Alternatively, nog may stem from noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol. However, the British drink was also called an Egg Flip, from the practice of “flipping” (rapidly pouring) the mixture between two pitchers to mix it.
The Online Etymology Dictionary states that the term “egg nog” is an American term introduced in 1775.
Babson College professor Frederick Douglass Opie “wrote that the term is a combination of two colonial slang words — rum was referred to as grog and bartenders served it in small wooden mugs called noggins. The drink first became known as egg-n-grog and later as eggnog.” Ben Zimmer, executive editor for Vocabulary.com, disputes the “egg-n-grog” theory as lacking proof – Zimmer states that the term “nog” may be related to the “Scottish term nugg or nugged ale, meaning “ale warmed with a hot poker.”
A Tom and Jerry is a traditional Christmas time cocktail in the United States, devised by British journalist Pierce Egan in the 1820s. It is a variant of eggnog with brandy and rum added and served hot, usually in a mug or a bowl.
The Eggnog Riot of 1826 was a riot that took place at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, on 24–25 December 1826. It was caused by a drunken Christmas Day party in the North Barracks of the academy. Two days prior to the incident, a large quantity of whiskey was smuggled into the academy to make eggnog for the party, giving the riot its name.
In the 1892, ‘The Medical Brief’ journal suggested that eggnog could be used as a treatment for the flu – so going back to how medieval possets were used!
In the American South, eggnog is made with bourbon.
Eggnog is called “coquito” in Puerto Rico, where rum and fresh coconut juice or coconut milk are used in its preparation. Mexican eggnog, also known as “rompope”, was developed in Santa Clara. It differs from regular eggnog in its use of Mexican cinnamon and rum or grain alcohol.
In Peru, eggnog is called “biblia con pisco”, and it is made with a Peruvian pomace brandy called pisco.”
German eggnog, called “biersuppe”, is made with beer. “Eierpunsch is a German version of eggnog made with white wine”, eggs, sugar, cloves, tea, lemon or lime juice and cinnamon. Another recipe dating from 1904 calls for eggs, lemon juice, sugar, white wine, water and rum.
In Iceland, eggnog “is served hot as a dessert.