You can't think about eggnog without thinking about the holidays, and for lovers of this creamy booze-bomb, the opposite is also true. But how did this rich, heavy cocktail (typically made with milk or cream, eggs, sugar and alcohol) become a Christmas staple … and who came up with the idea of putting booze in milk anyway? Here, all the scoop you need to drop some heady eggnog trivia at your next holiday soiree.
1. Today's eggnog is nothing like possets
Huh? Never heard of possets? Though some say eggnog originated in medieval England as a then-popular drink called possets, modern-day eggnog looks nothing like the combination of milk and alcohol that was brought over by American colonists. "The term itself, eggnog, is an Americanism," according to culinary historian Andrew F. Smith. "And the typical recipe, where you separate the yolks and the whites of the eggs and mix both them up and then add sugar and a spirit of one kind and spices at the end, that's an American recipe."
2. Eggnog is Southern at its core
Prior to 1870, Christmas was not a federal holiday and was not celebrated in the North, as the early settlers from England were against it in part because of its decadence. (The holiday was actually outlawed in Boston and any Christmas revelers could be fined). The American South, however, was a different story and it was Southerners who began making eggnog to enjoy at both Christmas and New Year's. "Yes, some people in the North consumed it," says Smith. "But, historically it's a Southern drink."
3. There's a reason why eggnog is a holiday drink
"In the South if you wanted milk and you didn't have refrigeration, the only time you could consume it wisely was during cold climates. And eggnog was obviously something they could make during colder weather that could be reserved for a longer period of time," says Smith. "So if you were going to have to celebrate Christmas or New Year's, you could milk your cow and virtually every farm in the South would have had one or more cows.
4. Rich people spruced up their eggnog to display wealth
"If you were wealthy, you wanted to demonstrate your wealth and one of the ways you did it was by putting nutmeg and vanilla and other spices in eggnog. Today they're limited cost but in the 18th and 19th centuries those were very expensive," according to Smith. "And I've got some 19th century recipes that say use your best china."
5. In some places, eggnog is made with wine and tea
Puerto Rico adds coconut milk to its version, dubbed Coquito, while in Cuba it's made with condensed milk and rum and known as Crema de Vie. In Germany, Eirpunsch (which translates to egg punch) is made with white wine and tea in addition to eggs and sugar.
6. People spiked it with any booze they had on hand.
When lots of rum was being imported, that became the most popular spirit to spike eggnog with. After the Whiskey Rebellion in the late 1700s, Southerners shifted to whiskey. "And if you were well to do it would be imported brandy," Smith says. "There's no clear definition of what it is. It's whatever you liked and whatever you had available."
7. There's a long list of eggnog-flavored products...
People who love eggnog apparently want lots of other stuff that tastes just like it. There's eggnog-flavored coffee, cake, oil, and even eggnog ice cream lip balm (which must mean that there's eggnog ice cream out there somewhere too.)
8. … and eggnog-inspired T-shirts
There's this one that says "I just wanna have abs-olutely all the eggnog," another that reads "Heavy eggnog drinker," a very millennial #eggnog and our favorite a simple declaration that "This girl loves eggnog," with two thumbs up. So if you happen to be looking for a gift for a die-hard eggnog drinker (apparently they exist), you're all set.
9. Chugging eggnog can be ... dangerous?
After winning an eggnog-chugging contest (and a $50 steakhouse gift certificate) for downing a carton of eggnog in 12 seconds at an office holiday party, a Utah man ended up hospitalized with pneumonia when some of the liquid (which was non-alcoholic) got into his windpipe. A warning to both eggnog drinkers and office party goers.
10. It's a serious caloric splurge. (But you knew that.)
Recipes vary, but one cup of eggnog has anywhere from 200 to more than 350 calories and 10-plus grams of fat. So you might want to skip dessert … or not. Hey, it's the holidays.
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