5 Things You Didn’t Know About Eggnog (With Recipes!)

It’s holiday time, which means it’s eggnog time. Eggnog is a decidedly ambiguous beast – some make it with rum. Some swear by whiskey. Others faint if you don’t use brandy. There are store-bought versions. There are homemade recipes going back centuries. There are egg-free varieties, and ones that go dairy-free with coconut milk. Yet for all the drama around this holiday drink, I’ll bet you don’t know the first thing about its origins. So let’s start there, with…

Five things you didn’t know about eggnog:

  1. Most historians agree that eggnog originated from “posset,” a hot, milk-based alcoholic drink consumed in medieval Britain by monks (AKA the most prolific drinkers of all time). Posset was made by mixing hot milk with ale, wine, or another liquor, then flavored with spices, and it was believed to be a remedy for colds. [PS - All you Shakespeare scholars may remember that Lady Macbeth poisoned the guards' possets outside of Duncan's quarters.]
  2. Come the 1600s, eggnog was pretty popular amongst the wealthier British citizens. By then, its core ingredients – eggs, milk, and sherry – were quite expensive, so it became a symbol of prosperity and was primarily consumed by the rich folks.
  3. Eggnog didn’t become linked with the holiday season until it made its way across the pond to America in the 1700s. Colonists had easy access to the key ingredients – chickens (eggs), cows (milk), and grains and sugar cane (whiskey, rum) – which made its consumption much more prevalent, and no longer linked only to the moneyed classes.
  4. So, what’s with the name? The “egg” part is obvious, of course – but the “nog” part, not so much. Like many things in history, we don’t really know for sure. It might refer to “noggin,” an English term for glasses used to serve alcohol. It might be straight from the Norfolk slang word of “nog,” which referred to certain alcoholic beverages. Take your pick!
  5. Our beloved boozehound and first President George Washington was a big fan of eggnog. He had his own recipe, which has been salvaged from Mount Vernon’s kitchen records, and includes a fairly insane quantity of rye whiskey, Jamaican rum, and sherry. See the recipe here.

Now that you’re all edumacated (that’s a technical term), let’s progress to a few ways to make and enjoy eggnog:

Traditional bourbon eggnog, from Makers Mark

Rum eggnog for a party of 18-20 people, from Imbibe Magazine

Chocolate bourbon eggnog, from Serious Eats

Brandy and bourbon eggnog – with ICE CREAM – from Food52

Store-bought eggnog (just add the booze!), with recommendations from Imbibe Magazine

I’d love to hear from readers if you have any favorite variations of eggnog. Show and tell time, please! And happy nogging all around.


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About Shannon McIntyre Hooper

Shannon McIntyre Hooper is Southern-born, sweetbread-loving, and cocktail-obsessed. Follow her on Twitter for spastic outbursts about books and booze: @UnicornBitters