Eggnog – the strange and often divisive drink that people either love or hate
Before we give you the secret to the best Christmas Eggnog recipe, let’s go back a few steps and explain what eggnog is.
Eggnog is a drink that is made up of eggs, sugar, milk, cream, ground nutmeg, cinnamon and often liquor. Perhaps surprising to most, the eggs are not technically cooked but are tempered (heated up slowly) by gradually adding hot milk to the mixture to prevent the eggs from scrambling. The finished eggnog is then refrigerated or served immediately over ice.
History of Eggnog
Originating in the UK during medieval times, eggnog began as a ‘posset’ – a hot drink made of milk, spices and curdled with ale, wine or liquor. Possets were used as remedies for the cold and flu before being developed into a creamy dessert by the wealthy.
Upper classes used Brandy or Sherry (a Spanish fortified wine, meaning distilled spirits are added to increase the alcohol content) in their possets instead of cheaper ales or beers to keep the drink from going off.
Once the drink spread to America in the 1700s, rum was used instead of ale – bringing sweetness to balance out the taste of the eggs. However, rum was eventually replaced with moonshine (historically, an illegally homemade, unaged spirit containing incredibly high levels of alcohol) during the American revolution when supplies of rum were running low from the Caribbean. The scarcity of the rum at that time could suggest why eggnog became a drink only for special occasions.
There are a handful of theories about the origins of the name “eggnog”. Rum was referred to as “grog” and the small wooden mugs that it was served in by bartenders were called “noggins”. Some suggest that putting the two names together, resulted in the name “egg n grog” and eventually “eggnog”.
Eggnog: A Christmas drink
This is only a portion of the story, but who would have thought such an event would be tied to eggnog – a Christmas drink?
So now that you have quite the eggnog history in your arsenal for trivia nights, let’s make our own version. Using one of our favourites of 2021, the Bushtucker Spiced Spirit or Distillers Cut from Western Australia’s Illegal Tender Rum Co, the smoothness and sweetness of either are sure to make the finest of eggnogs for your dinner party this Christmas.
Eggnog with Illegal Tender Rum Co.
Ingredients (you can probably list them off with your eyes closed by now!):
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground nutmeg
- Vanilla extract (optional, for extra zing)
- Fine sugar or simple syrup (dissolve sugar in hot water)
- Egg yolks (an egg yolk per serving)
- Bushtucker Spiced or Distillers Cut
- Separate your egg yolks from your egg whites in a bowl
- Beat together the yolks and sugar or simple syrup with a hand mixer until it becomes creamy looking
- Gently heat your milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla together on a pan, bringing it to a slight boil
- Slowly pour and gently whisk in your hot liquid mixture into the egg yolks bit by bit, gradually tempering or increasing the temperature of the eggs.
- Once combined, bring the mixture back to a gentle heat until it thickens and covers the back of a spoon nicely
- Take the mixture off the heat and gradually stir in your desired amount of Bushtucker Spiced or Distillers Cut
- Chill eggnog in the fridge or serve immediately over ice (or drink it warm)
- Garnish the drink with whipped cream and cinnamon to top things off
Don’t be afraid to experiment by making one serving first before making a bigger batch!
This will allow you to make your own tweaks to the recipe right from the start. There are countless eggnog recipes and variations at your fingertips to suit every taste and preference.
The Eggnog Riot
Here is some extra eggnog history for those who are interested. For what is often just a typical Christmas drink, the eggnog holds a rich history – including a riot. In 1826, drunken (eggnog) chaos broke out on Christmas between cadets and their superintendents at West Point’s Military Academy in America.
The 24-year-old Military Academy had been transformed into a prestigious place, thanks to the leadership of Colonel Sylvanus Thayer as West Point’s new superintendent. Thayer had brought in strict military discipline, with proper curriculum and admissions. He forbade cadets from leaving the campus, smoking tobacco, playing cards, reading or even cooking.
Though Thayer was strict, he did allow cadets to drink alcohol only on the Fourth of July and Christmas, which is where the eggnog was served. However, after celebrations became rowdy on the Fourth of July in 1825, Thayer completely banned alcohol. Any cadet caught with alcohol in their possession would be arrested and expelled.
Despite that, outraged cadets were still determined to have alcoholic celebrations and thus began planning ways to smuggle liquor onto their campus to make eggnog.
Conveniently, there were two taverns not far from the Academy – the North Tavern and Benny Haven’s. Down the Hudson River was Martin’s Tavern, which would be where cadets would later order three to four gallons of whiskey to sneak back into the Academy.
Jefferson Davis was the first cadet to voluntarily smuggle alcohol into the academy for the Christmas party. This was no surprise, as he was known for rebelling against Academy rules. Davis ended up being a cadet who would go on to be the first and only President of the Confederate States of America (an unrecognised state in North America).
After bribing a soldier 35 cents to let them pass without raising an alarm, the party began successfully at midnight on Christmas day.
Many eggnogs later, the noisiness of the drunk cadets woke Captain Hitchcock, with loud singing echoing through at 2 am. Hitchcock, along with other Lieutenant William Thorton and Commandant William North would enter the chaos of breaking up the drunken crowd of cadets.
Cadets hid under blankets, threw sticks and rocks against Hitchcock’s residence. They ran recklessly through hallways with swords, bayonets and even knocked down Thorton with a piece of wood. A pistol was fired but thankfully missed Hitchcock. Dishes, furniture and windows were smashed and the hallways were destroyed.
The cadets were rounded up at 6 am, most of which were still drunkenly barefoot and cursing. Superintendent Thayer decided to charge and expelled 19 of the most aggressive cadets, out of the 90 that had been involved in the riot. This was all done in an effort to save the Academy’s image and to retain the numbers of cadets they needed to train for the army.
Jefferson Davis happened to avoid being charged and expelled, as he likely passed out in his room and therefore followed Captain Hitchcock’s order for the cadets to stay in their rooms.