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The History of Eggnog: A Nostalgic Holiday Tradition

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s safe to say that we are entering the holiday season. Now is the time to plan all of the holiday drinks you want to add to your beverage menu. If you want to come out with your own signature holiday cocktails - it’s time for action.  

There is also a range of holiday mocktails to consider because you don’t want anyone to feel left out. Non-alcoholic drinks are an important part of any seasonal menu. Making them holiday-appropriate and pairing them with different foods from your offers will boost the customer experience in your restaurant. 

Now let’s talk about a very popular holiday drink. Eggnog is a beverage loved by many in the USA, but its history is not that well-known. However, knowing facts about different beverages may help your staff make people more interested in what they are offering them. Which, of course, will result in more sales and increased profit. 

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What Is Eggnog?

Let’s start by making it clear what eggnog is. It’s a drink that is traditionally had during the winter time. Eggnog is a chilled beverage with dairy that gets its name from the main ingredients, which are eggs

While most people don’t like drinking eggs as they are, when you add a bit of milk, cream, sugar, and cinnamon, you get something a lot more delicious. Eggnog is now been a traditional Christmas drink in the United States for hundreds of years. 

Key Takeaway: Eggnog is one of the most famous holiday drinks that deserves attention. It has a long and fascinating history, and serving it in your restaurant will make many people happy.

Eggnog, however, is not only a drink you would find in America. Many other places all over the world have their own version of the drink: 

  • Æggekop - Denmark
  • Chilled camel’s milk - United Arab Emirates
  • Coquito - Puerto Rico
  • Bombardino - Italy
  • Crème de Vie - Cuba
  • Jamaican eggnog
  • Thai milk tea
  • Rompope - Mexico
  • Sabajón - Columbia

Because it’s associated with the Christmas holidays or the cold weather, restaurants and bars typically offer it during the winter months. Many people like making it at home, too. 

A Brief History of Eggnog

Eggnog is a drink that splits people into two groups - those who love it and those who wonder why anyone would put raw eggs in milk and mix them with alcohol. The history of eggnog is long and surprisingly for many, it has existed from way before we got modern refrigerators. 

The etymology of “eggnog” has old English origins. “Nog” means either a wooden cup or a strong beer. The word “eggnog” seems to come from both of the meanings.

Origins of Eggnog

Although nobody really knows who invented the eggnog, the histories generally agree that it originated in medieval Britain. People from the upper class were the ones who had access to milk, sherry, and eggs which were the required ingredients back then. 

In the Middle Ages, monks added figs and eggs to the beverage and called it “posset,” which is an aromatic version of eggnog. The wealthy members of society used to it toast to health and wealth. 

But why is eggnog associated with the holidays? Most people believe this is because of the lack of refrigeration back in the day. Eggnog became a more popular drink in the early American colonies when everyday people started getting easier access to cows and chickens. 

One person who had their own specific recipe for eggnog was no other than George Washington himself. His recipe is:

  • 1 qt of cream
  • 1 qt of milk
  • 12 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 pt of brandy
  • 1/2 pt of rye whiskey
  • 1/2 pt of Jamaican rum
  • 1/4 pt of sherry
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He did not specify the number of eggs needed but a dozen should work well with the amounts in the recipe. The final instructions were to leave the drink in a cool place for a few days and to taste it frequently. Because there were no fridges, the cold weather around Christmas was the perfect time to make eggnog and store it without worrying it would spoil. 

In the new, American versions of eggnog, sherry was less prominent. Rum became a lot more popular because of the American’s proximity to the Caribbean islands. 

The Eggnog Variations

The rich history of eggnog is not limited to America. Other countries in the world also have their versions of eggnog. For example, Jamaican eggnog is made with a specific type of rum. The rum is made with Jamaican molasses and it’s aged in white oak barrels for about 4 years. 

In Japan, there is another version of eggnog called tamagozake. To make it, you need to whisk the raw eggs with sugar and add them to warm sake. This drink is well known for its medicinal properties. It’s used to soothe sore throats and alleviate common colds. 

How to Make Eggnog Safely

Most of the recipes don’t include cooked eggs. That’s why to make eggnog safely, you should: 

  • Use pasteurized eggs: Pasteurized means that the product has been sterilized with heat or irradiation and it’s now safer for consumption. When using such eggs, there is no need for extra cooking when making the eggnog. 
  • Use egg substitutes: The majority of egg substitutes are pasteurized. This makes them safer to use. 
  • Cook to 160 degrees: If you are not using pasteurized eggs, heat the mixture to 160 degrees. This way you will kill off any harmful bacteria in the eggs. 

The Recipe for Traditional Eggnog

Above, we have shared the recipe of George Washington. But this is not the traditional recipe to use. Below, you can see the traditional version, which the majority of people use. 

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of white granulated sugar (additionally)
  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup of brandy or bourbon
  • 1/4 cup of dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and extra for garnishing
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Begin by separating the egg whites from the yolks. Place the whites in the stand mixer. Mix until soft peaks form. Then add one tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Set this mixture aside by pouring it into another bowl.

In the same bowl, add the yolks and sugar. Beat until the sugar dissolves. Then add the cream and milk, and then the whiskey, rum, and nutmeg. Don’t forget the salt. Mix everything on a low setting for a minute. 

Take the egg whites and gently pour them into the mix. Stir well. Place the eggnog into a glass container and store it in a refrigerator. 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Eggnog

Have more questions? Let us answer them for you!

Is Eggnog Always Alcoholic?

Eggnog can be made without alcohol. Although the traditional recipe is with brandy, rum, or whiskey, they can be skipped. This way people who can’t or don’t want to have alcohol can enjoy this holiday drink.

Can I Make Dairy-Free Eggnog?

To make dairy-free eggnog, use alternative milk. You can choose from almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk. Make sure the milk substitute doesn’t change the flavor too much.

When Should I Serve Eggnog - Before or After Dinner?

Eggnog is best enjoyed after a meal with the dessert. The flavors of eggnog may ruin the experience if it's served with the main, savory meal. 

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