As we come into the full swing of the Christmas and Hanukkah season we are reminded of and partake in some of our most cherished traditions. From decorating the Christmas tree to decorating the house, the lighting of the menorah, spinning the dradle and holiday gatherings spent with friends and family, it truly is a season of traditions and holiday spirit. Of course with holiday gatherings come holiday drinks with none more popular than Eggnog.
So what is Eggnog and where did it come from?
Eggnog is thought to have originated somewhere in Europe during the 14th century and was originally called Posset, a hot cocktail made from a curdled mixture of hot milk and ale, spirit or wine. Researchers believe that eggs were not introduced into the recipe until after the 14th century and it was a drink usually only enjoyed by aristocrats due to the cost and scarcity of milk and eggs at the time. It wasn't until the "New World" was discovered and colonists began arriving that we see Eggnog morph into something resembling the drink we are so familiar with today.
The original "mixologists" of America, the colonists quickly began mixing their traditional Eggnog recipes with the extremely popular Grogg (a mixture of water or near beer and rum) and serving the drink in a noggin (a small wooden carved mug.) From this we get Eggnog's original name of "egg and grog in a noggin," which was thankfully shortened to Eggnog. With the increased availability of milk, eggs, and sources of alcohol as compared to Europe it quickly became a holiday mainstay of the fledgling country.
The drink was almost always made in large quantities, considered a social drink, and most commonly served at holiday gatherings not just limited to Christmas. As a matter of fact it is in Baltimore that we find one of the most popular uses of the drink during New Years day. Young men would visit all of their friends to wish them a Happy New Year and during their visit it was tradition for them to be served a cup of Eggnog. As can be imagined in short time the men became inebriated and it was quite the task to finish calling on all of one's friends.
Perhaps Eggnog can best summarized by the following quote from an unknown English man:
"Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew egg nogg for all comers; everybody calls on everybody else' and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging...It is made cold and is drunk cold and is to be commended."
To be called upon of course means to be toasted too and apparently there was plenty of that going on.
So this holiday season when you are getting together with friends and/or family and enjoying that tasty cup of Eggnog remember the history behind that rich, spicy, and alcoholic concotion. Better yet, make your own Eggnog from scratch using George Washington's recipe which can be found here. Call upon your friends and family and wish them a Happy Holiday whether it be Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, or whatever you may find yourself celebrating this holiday season.