Eggnog, or egg nog, is a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, and whipped eggs (which gives it a frothy texture). Brandy, rum, whisky, bourbon, vodka, or a combination of liquors are often added. The finished serving is often garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin spice.
Eggnog is a popular drink throughout the United States and Canada, and is usually associated with Christmas. Eggnog may be added as a flavoring to food or drinks such as coffee and tea. Eggnog as a custard can also be used as an ice cream base.
The origins, etymology, and the ingredients used to make the original eggnog drink are debated. Eggnog may have originated in East Anglia, England; or it may have simply developed from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk. The "nog" part of its name may stem from the word noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol. However, the British drink was also called an Egg Flip, from the practice of "flipping" (rapidly pouring) the mixture between two pitchers to mix it.
One very early example: Isaac Weld, Junior, in his book Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797 (published in 1800) wrote: "The American travellers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together;..."
In Britain, the drink was popular mainly among the aristocracy. Those who could get milk and eggs mixed it with brandy, Madeira or sherry to make a drink similar to modern alcoholic egg nog. The drink is described in Cold Comfort Farm (chapter 21) as a Hell's Angel, made with an egg, two ounces of brandy, a teaspoonful of cream, and some chips of ice, where it is served as breakfast.
The drink crossed the Atlantic to the English colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was a cost-effective substitute. The inexpensive liquor, coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products, helped the drink become very popular in America. When the supply of rum to the newly founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, Americans turned to domestic whiskey, and eventually bourbon in particular, as a substitute.
The Eggnog Riot occurred at the United States Military Academy on 23–25 December 1826. Whiskey was smuggled into the barracks to make eggnog for a Christmas Day party. The incident resulted in the court-martialing of twenty cadets and one enlisted soldier.
Traditional eggnog typically consists of milk, sugar, raw eggs, and spices, usually nutmeg. Cream may be included to make a richer and thicker drink, though some modern eggnogs add gelatin. Vanilla is a common flavoring, with grated nutmeg sprinkled on top. Other toppings include whipped cream, meringue, cinnamon, ice cream, and chocolate curls.
Eggnog can be homemade from recipes. Ready-made eggnog versions are seasonally available and may contain whiskey, rum, brandy, bourbon, or cognac. Also available are "mixes" that contain all the ingredients except the liquor. With these the end-user can tailor the strength of the drink, from rather strong, to only a taste of liquor, to no liquor at all.
Under current U.S. law, commercial products sold as eggnog are permitted to contain milk, sugar, modified milk ingredients, glucose-fructose, water, carrageenan, guar gum, natural and artificial flavorings, spices (though not necessarily nutmeg), monoglycerides, and colorings. The ingredients in commercial eggnog vary significantly, but generally raw eggs are not included.
The history of non-dairy eggnogs goes back to at least 1899 when Almeda Lambert, in her Guide for Nut Cookery, gave a recipe for "Egg Nog" made using coconut cream, eggs, and sugar.
In 1973, Eunice Farmilant, in The Natural Foods Sweet-Tooth Cookbook, gave a more modern non-dairy eggnog recipe using 3 eggs separated, 2 tablespoons of barley malt extract or Amasake syrup, 4 cups of chilled soy milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and nutmeg, (p. 138-39)
In December 1981, Grain Country of Los Angeles, California, introduced Grain Nog, the earliest known non-dairy and vegan eggnog. Based on amazake (a traditional Japanese fermented rice beverage) and containing no eggs, it was available in plain, strawberry, and carob flavors.
Also in December 1981, Redwood Valley Soyfoods Unlimited (California) introduced Soynog, the earliest known soy-based non-dairy and vegan eggnog based on soy milk and tofu (added for thickness). It was renamed Lite Nog in 1982 and Tofu Nog in 1985.
The eggnog-custard connection
Some recipes for homemade eggnog call for egg yolks to be cooked with milk into a custard to avoid potential hazards from raw eggs; eggnog has much in common with classic custard-pudding recipes that do not call for corn starch, and many types of eggnog can also be cooked into egg-custard puddings.
For concerns about the safety of selling products made from raw eggs and milk, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed or altered the definition of eggnog a number of times towards artificial replacements for the large number of eggs traditionally required. Modern FDA regulations permit eggnog to contain less than 1% egg yolk solids and "milk or milk products."
- David Wondrich, "Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar", Penguin, 2007, ISBN 0399532870, p. 82, Milk Punch
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