When it comes to Christmas traditions, the tree with ornaments, stockings full of gifts, Santa, and even caroling all make perfect sense. But eggnog… sounds weird, looks weird, and tastes… absolutely delicious! What is this strange Christmas season drink and how did it come about?
What’s up with the weird name?
There are several theories about the origin of eggnog, and especially its name. The egg part is fairly simple — egg whites and yolks are key ingredients (more on that below). But what is a nog? According to some, it refers to a strong beer brewed in the east of England. Others think it’s been shortened from noggin, which is not just the colloquial for one’s head but a small cup carved out of wood and used to serve alcohol in England in the Middle Ages. Despite these English origins, it was the American colonists who put the egg and the nog together around the time of the Revolution. Some even claim it was shortened from egg-n-grog (grog being a slang word for rum). Whichever myth you choose to believe, it’s obvious that eggs and some sort of strong alcohol are key ingredients.
What’s in eggnog?
First of all, eggnog doesn’t have to be alcoholic. There is plenty of it sold around Christmastime in its family-friendly version. An eggnog recipe traditionally starts with milk and cream, sugar, and raw eggs — which is why it’s so creamy, smooth, and sweet. Pro tip: if you separate and whip the egg whites until they are thick, your eggnog will have a nice frothy texture.
Adding various spices to eggnog makes it more fun to drink and boosts your holiday spirit. Vanilla and nutmeg are popular spices to add (but feel free to get creative). You can easily add vanilla ice cream to it, especially if you want to drink it chilled.
Even though it’s based on milk and eggs, you can make eggnog vegan. It will take a bit of work, but there are plenty of plant-based milks widely available and even a few decent egg substitutes to work with.
Lastly, alcohol is what makes eggnog so popular among adults. Rum is a classic, but cognac, whiskey, sherry, and many others can also work very well. Put on your best mixologist hat (do they have hats?) and have fun!
Hot or not?
Speaking of chilled, that is the traditional way of serving eggnog. Yet, it is often served hot as well, especially on a cold day (in those strange countries where Christmas takes place in the middle of winter; us Kiwis wouldn’t know anything about that). Hot or cold, the taste is equally satisfying. You can even dip your cookies in it in tune with the American tradition of leaving milk and cookies for Santa.
A world of eggnogs
In Latin American countries, especially Venezuela, there is a drink called Ponche crema, which is pretty much identical to eggnog. The Dutch version, Advocaat, is heavy on the egg yolks and is topped with whipped cream and cocoa (the result is so thick that people eat it with a spoon).
In the United Arab Emirates, they drink Chilled Camel’s Milk (non-alcoholic) blended with pitted dates. And in Taiwan, Milk Tea is the drink of choice. It could be flavored with either fruit or milk, it is just as frothy as eggnog and can also be served hot or cold. Ingredients usually include Taiwanese black tea, condensed milk, small tapioca pearls, and honey.
My Dad's Eggnog Recipe
Eggnog is very special for me personally. My Dad, Bob, was always so keen to make it as soon as it hinted at a holiday, and boy, he really put a good dose of rum in his version! I'm a bit more moderate.
BOB'S EGGNOG RECIPE
170gm Eggs (3 large eggs)
In a bowl add the eggs and sugar and beat until light in colour. The sugar should dissolve into the eggs.
Put the eggnog in the fridge and chill for at least one hour.
To serve, pour the eggnog into a glass. Fill the glass only half way, then add some whipped cream and some more sprinkles of nutmeg on top.
Happy Christmas and enjoy your eggnog!
Danielle Butler is an entrepreneur and the owner of The Pie Piper & Doornuts, in Auckland, New Zealand. She's an expert baker and creator. Her specialty is in American dessert pies, cakes and other desserts. Danielle has been featured in magazines like Denizen, New Zealand and Australian Women's Weekly, and has been a guest on radio spots, a judge on baking competitions and guest speaker sharing her knowledge of all things baking and entrepreneurship. She wants to empower people to create their own special moments with friends and family through food. Danielle is passionate about combating food insecurity in our communities.