Eggnog, the creamy classic cocktail, is an essential part of the holidays. The recipe can vary slightly depending on who’s making it, but the basic formula consists of eggs, sugar, milk and cream, plus a spirit. For the latter, most people turn to bourbon, rum or brandy, and some even elect to combine a couple spirits for extra oomph and flavor. Whichever route you choose to go, the potency of this drink will put a little more cheer in your holidays.
Eggnog has a varied and rich history with a lot of competing claims as to the origin of the drink, many of which get lost in an etymological debate. It’s possible the word derives from an Old English term for strong beer. Or maybe it comes from noggin, an outdated word used to describe a small cup. Or perhaps the name aligns with grogs, the term given to a variety of alcoholic drinks.
That said, it’s believed that the first known use of the word “Eggnog” dates back to around 1775, but it’s likely that the drink itself—or a version of it—preceded the term by a couple hundred years. And there seems to be consensus that Eggnog as we know it today is a culinary descendant of Posset, a warm ale punch with eggs that was consumed by European monks as far back as the 13th century.
In Europe, ale was eventually replaced by sherry. But by the time the drink reached American shores, colonists replaced sherry with what they had on hand: rum, rye whiskey and brandy. Those early iterations of the cocktail enjoyed some staying power, and today, Eggnog is still widely consumed throughout the U.S. and even into Canada. It’s especially popular during the holiday season, and it can be consumed hot or cold, per the drinker’s preference—and perhaps depending on how cold it is outside.
Regardless of the cocktail’s origin or which spirit is best suited to the creamy mixture, everyone can at least agree on one thing: Eggnog is a universally delicious beverage with the capacity to improve any holiday gathering. And because it’s a good candidate for making in a large batch, you’ll have enough to keep everyone happy.
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1/4 cup sugar, divided
- 4 ounces rum, bourbon or brandy
- 10 ounces whole milk
- 4 ounces heavy cream
- Garnish: grated nutmeg
In a large bowl, beat together egg yolks and sugar until fluffy.
Stir in milk, heavy cream and spirit of choice.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
Fold egg whites into yolk mixture.
Serve in a rocks glass, punch or tea cup.
Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.
Raw Egg Warning
Consuming raw and lightly cooked eggs poses a risk of food-borne illness.