Eggnog. Love it? Hate it? Yep, same – the Know How Studios office is quite divided. While researching this rich, ice-cream-like drink, we learned that people have been arguing about it (and occasionally rioting over it) for centuries.
The roots of eggnog can be traced to Britain during the Middle Ages and a beverage then known as “posset,” basically a mixture of hot milk and ale. Sounds tasty, right? Posset was improved a bit by 13th century monks, who added whipped eggs and figs to the recipe.
Later, wealthy folk in England replaced the ale with sherry. And since ingredients like eggs and fresh milk and sherry were hard to come by, the concoction became linked with the upper class and associated with toasts to prosperity and good health.
Fast-forward to America in the 1700s. The colonies were largely agricultural, which meant lots of chickens and cows – problem partially solved. Sherry remained scarce, but whiskey and rum were cheaper and more readily available, so eggnog evolved again. George Washington was a contemporary fan of the stuff and liked a particularly boozy recipe (see below). Yay America!
According to a 2014 story from Tori Avey’s “The History Kitchen” series on PBS Food, by the early 19th century, eggnog had become a seasonal staple. So much so that in 1826, cadets at West Point did not react well when their superintendent tried to ban the drink from their annual Christmas festivities.
Fights ensued. Property was damaged. Some 19 cadets were expelled. In the aftermath of the Eggnog Riot, holiday celebrations were never quite the same at West Point.
Fisticuffs and expulsions aside, as far as the name itself goes, the record is a little harder to pin down. “Eggnog” didn’t really stick until the late 18th century, but it could be tied in reference to “noggins,” which were wooden mugs once used to serve drinks like grog and posset.
If you’re a fan, or if by chance you’re still on the fence about eggnog, try Washington’s recipe instead of the pre-made stuff this year. If not, no riots, please. Know How Studios reminds you to drink responsibly and peaceably this holiday season. Cheers!
George Washington’s Eggnog
This version was hand-recorded by the man himself, although apparently he forgot to note a specific number of eggs, so this recipe uses an estimate based on historical comparisons (originally published on Time.com).
- One quart cream
- One quart milk
- One dozen tablespoons sugar
- One pint brandy
- 1/2 pint rye whiskey
- 1/2 pint Jamaica rum
- 1/4 pint sherry
- One dozen eggs
Mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.