I’ve long been a fan of spiced ‘nog. It’s one of the creamiest, best tastes in the world. For over 300 years, eggnog has been a Christmas staple, and I just had to get to the bottom of the mystery of ‘why’? What I discovered in my research of the origin of eggnog was quite startling. While ‘nog definitely came from Europe circa early 17th century, the term “eggnog” and the etymology of the word is perhaps the more interesting story.
The original eggnog was a mixture of milk, egg, spices, and wine (in parts of Europe like France), beer (in England), or sherry (in Spain). The alcoholic portion of the drink depends on how you interpret the “nog” in the name. That is because “nog” could mean the Old English term for a strong beer, or it could be interpreted from Middle English as “noggin,” the wooden mug that the drink was served in.
It seems quite unusual (and kind of unappetizing) to me that, before it arrived on America’s shores, eggnog was made with wine, beer, or sherry. Americans — the drunks that we are — decided to spike the drink with more concentrated spirits such as rum and brandy. Our first President, George Washington, would make the drink so strong that only the burliest of drinkers could handle it. The term for rum is actually “grog,” but “eggrog” doesn’t sound very good at all, now, does it? (It makes me think of a lumpy, spiked oatmeal — yuck!) Americans also boil their eggnog so as to avoid getting salmonella from the raw egg.
Even more variations of traditional eggnog are popping up around the globe. In Louisiana, they replace the rum with bourbon. In Puerto Rico, they add coconut milk. In Mexico, it’s a hard drink, as it’s mixed with grain alcohol. In Peru, it’s made with “pisco,” a local brandy.
Whatever the form or unique flavor, drinking eggnog is a Christmas tradition because of its warming effect and generally sweet, smooth, and spicy taste which make it a perfect holiday drink.