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Origins of Eggnog
by Colleen Graham
Intro: Eggnog. The drink that stirs up memories for most people, either you love it or hate it. Either way you feel, you must admit it has become embedded in our holiday traditions. If you have tried it and found it to be distasteful maybe you just haven’t had GOOD eggnog.
The Name: The word itself does not have much appeal, the guttural sound and the thought of drinking egg doesn’t sound very appetizing to most. There are differing opinions as to the origin of the name for this famous drink. One version says that nog derives from an Old English word for strong beer, hence “noggin”. Another version attributes the name to Colonial America where colonists referred to thick drinks as “grog” and eggnog as “egg-and-grog”. Either way, we know it today as Eggnog.
Europe: It is believed that the eggnog tradition began in Europe as an adaptation of the various milk and wine punches often served at social gatherings. In the 17th century, eggnog was used as a toast to one’s health and was consumed by the well-to-do of society as milk and eggs were scarce commodities in Europe.
The New World: When the brew was brought to the “New World,” colonists added a new twist, rum. The rum Americans could get from the Caribbean was considerably less expensive than the other liquors shipped from England. And so, along with the readily available supply of milk and eggs in the colonies, the rum version quickly became a popular drink for people of all classes.
Variations: As a rich, spicy and (oh yes) alcoholic drink, eggnog soon became a familiar item during the holiday season across the growing nation. Each region would adapt the drink to their personal tastes. Even George Washington devised his own version of the brew which only the most courageous would partake using rye whiskey, rum and sherry.
In the south, Southern taste replaced rum with bourbon. And when the brew reached Latin America even more adaptations were made; in Puerto Rico coconut juice or milk was added, in Mexico eggnog became a harder liqueur to be sipped with the addition of Mexican cinnamon and rum or grain alcohol, and in Peru it was made with the Peruvian pomace brandy called pisco.
Noggin' Now: The basic recipe for eggnog has not changed over the years (eggs beaten with sugar, milk, cream and some kind of spirit) and remains a favorite for holiday parties. Whatever the variation of the popular holiday drink, it is sure to be a winner with most of your holiday guests. However, for those who wish to go “nogless,” there are other warm spirited drinks that are sure to be a hit as well and lift everyone’s holiday spirits.
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