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