One of the holiday drinks I remember hearing about as a child was the elusive and slightly risque “eggnog.” Growing up in the country with a teetotaling family it was something I had never seen and certainly never knew anyone who had imbibed.
Fast forward fifty years and I can now say I know a little more about this Christmas drink. I’ve even bought eggnog but not to drink. Instead I use it as a key ingredient in Eggnog Pound Cake. So where did this mixture of milk, raw egg, spirits, and spices come from?
Where Eggnog Comes FromHistorians say it began in the thirteenth century as a drink made from ale (everybody’s standard brew in those days) combined with milk, eggs, and a bit of spice. The added ingredients were relatively expensive so this became a “special occasion” drink for holidays.
By the time the drink hopped the Atlantic and landed in the New World, things had changed a bit. The colonists had plenty of milk and eggs. They also had cheap access to nutmeg, now growing on the Caribbean islands. From that period we have an eggnog recipe from Martha Washington’s “Booke of Cookery” – heavy on the spirits with brandy, whiskey, rum, and sherry as ingredients. As for the raw eggs – well, the Washington’s didn’t even bother to count them.
Today’s DrinkAs time went on the amount of spirits dropped to a more respectable amount and settled primarily on rum (like nutmeg, also easily available from the Caribbean). The raw eggs however became a real concern when we discovered that they are an easy source for salmonella poisoning. That’s when Pasteurization kicked in and stores began selling eggnog pre-mixed. Very few people have bothered to try making their own eggnog. It’s a rather fussy process and in the end you have the issue of those raw eggs. But if you’re feeling venturesome, here’s a recipe to try.
- 6 large eggs separated
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup rum
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream whipped
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- Separate the egg whites and egg yolks. Beat the egg yolks until they are a lemon color. Gradually beat in the sugar. Add in the rum or rum flavoring. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
- When ready to serve, beat the egg whites until they have soft peaks. Stir in the milk, cream, and beaten egg whites. Pour into punch cups and garnish with ground nutmeg on the top.