Eggnog – A Christmas Tradition

Posted by on Dec 9, 2014 in Colonial Articles, Historical Articles | 8 comments


Americans have always loved their eggnog. Although the egg and milk-based punch actually originated in Britain where it derived from a medieval beverage called “posset,” it was brought to the American colonies where it remained popular. Thanks to the numerous farms in the American colonies, eggs and milk were not only abundant, but readily available to most people, allowing citizens from all walks of life to enjoy eggnog punch.

Wealthier colonists added expensive wines and brandies to their eggnog, while the affordability of rum made it a common addition to the average person’s nog. No matter what type of alcohol was used, its addition to eggnog most certainly delivered a “punch”—hence the significance of that term.


It’s not known exactly how the name “eggnog” came into being. During the seventeenth century, drinks were served in wooden cups and mugs called “noggins.” It seems logical that the serving of the egg-based drink in a noggin was combined into one word, “eggnog.” Perhaps after one had consumed several noggins of the alcohol-laced punch, it was just easier to lift an empty mug and request a refill using an efficiency of words: “Egg—nog—if ye please.”


George Washington loved eggnog and hand-wrote his own recipe for it. Using rye whiskey from his distillery as well as sherry and rum from the Caribbean, Washington noted that the concoction should be “tasted frequently” as it cured in a cool place for several days. As he did not identify who the taster should be, we will leave that to our glorious imaginations.


Over two-hundred years later, Americans still enjoy their eggnog, especially during the Christmas holidays. While it can be purchased ready-to-drink, there’s nothing like the taste of homemade eggnog.




Our family and guests have enjoyed the following recipe for several generations. I do hope you’ll try my recipe, and as you lift a cup in a toast, remember to thank our forefathers for passing along this traditional beverage.


Cynthia Howerter’s Eggnog Punch

12 large eggs, separated (can use pasteurized eggs, available at most grocery stores)

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups whole milk

4 cups heavy cream

2 cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

Ground nutmeg for dusting


In a large mixing bowl, beat the 12 egg yolks with the sugar until thick. Gradually add the milk, cream, half-and-half, and the optional nutmeg, if desired. Chill. In another large bowl, beat the 12 egg whites until stiff peaks form; fold whites into the cream mixture. Refrigerate until well-chilled. Sprinkle with nutmeg before serving. Serve cold.


Photographs ©Cynthia Howerter 




  1. Oh my goodness! I need to make this!!! Now, I have 2 people in my house that are lactose intolerant. what can i change in the recipe? I know I can use lactaid for milk but I dont know about the rest. HELP!

    • Marla Ulloa, I do not know if lactose-free half-and-half and heavy cream are available. You will have to check at a grocery store with an organic section or at a Whole Foods if there is one near you. You could try only using lactose-free milk and not the other dairy ingredients and see how you like that. Also, you can cut the recipe in half – maybe even further. Good luck. I, too, have dairy issues so I understand. Merry Christmas!

      • Thanks! I hope I find lactose free products. Just one more question…your recipe serves how many people?

        • Hi, Maria, if you make the full amount, it will serve 12-24 – depending on the size of the glass. If you take into consideration that the recipe calls for a total of 2 quarts of dairy (8 cups), that will give you a good idea of how much the recipe makes.

  2. Sounds yummy! Unfortunately, I’m the only one in my family who likes eggnog 🙁

    • You can reduce the recipe to make a smaller amount, Sherry Carter. Thanks so much for leaving a comment. Merry Christmas, friend.

  3. Thanks for the eggnog lesson. I’d never considered where eggnog of its name came from!

    • You are welcome, Vonda! I hope you try the recipe – it’s so much better than commercially-made eggnog.

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