The History of Eggnog: From Medieval Origins to Modern Times

The History of Eggnog: From Medieval Origins to Modern Times

Eggnog, with its creamy texture and festive flavor, has become a beloved holiday tradition in many parts of the world. This iconic beverage has a long and fascinating history that spans centuries and cultures. Join us on a journey through time as we unravel the origins and transformations of eggnog, and conclude with a delightful homemade eggnog recipe that captures the essence of this classic drink.

The History of Eggnog: Medieval Roots & European Beginnings

Eggnog's history can be traced back to ancient times when similar warm, spiced milk beverages were enjoyed for their nourishing and medicinal properties. In medieval Europe, a precursor to eggnog known as "posset" gained popularity. Posset was a simple yet comforting concoction made by curdling hot milk with ale or wine, flavored with spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. It was often consumed to ease ailments or provide warmth during cold winter months.

As culinary techniques evolved, the ingredients and preparation methods began to shift, paving the way for the creation of eggnog as we know it today. The key ingredients – eggs, milk, and alcohol – gradually came together to form the foundation of this festive beverage.

The term "eggnog" itself is believed to have originated from two sources. "Nog" referred to a wooden mug or cup, often used to serve alcoholic beverages. "Egg" obviously signifies the crucial ingredient that lends its name to the drink. Over time, this delightful libation became associated with celebrations, particularly during Christmas and New Year's gatherings.

In medieval Europe, eggnog was a drink of the elite due to the scarcity and expense of eggs and milk. It was often reserved for special occasions and feasts, symbolizing abundance and prosperity. As the beverage spread across the continent, various cultures began adding their own twists, incorporating local spirits, spices, and traditions.

The drink's popularity skyrocketed in England during the 17th century, where it was enjoyed by the aristocracy and commoners alike. Eggnog recipes began appearing in cookbooks of the time, detailing the blending of eggs, cream, sugar, and even sherry or brandy. These recipes marked the transition from the medicinal and utilitarian posset to the more indulgent and celebratory eggnog.

Colonial America & The New World

Eggnog's journey across the Atlantic Ocean brought it to the shores of Colonial America during the 18th century. The drink found a welcoming home in the colonies, where eggs and dairy were more abundant than in Europe. This accessibility led to variations in recipes and an increased consumption of eggnog during festive occasions.

The early American version of eggnog often featured a combination of eggs, milk, and local spirits like rum, which was readily available due to trade connections with the Caribbean. This addition of rum not only enhanced the flavor but also contributed to the preservation of the drink, allowing it to be stored for longer periods.

Eggnog quickly became a symbol of hospitality and camaraderie in the colonies. It was shared among friends and neighbors during holiday parties and social gatherings, fostering a sense of community and togetherness during a time of burgeoning cultural exchange.

Modern-Day Eggnog

As time went on, eggnog continued to evolve and adapt to changing tastes and trends. The drink gradually shed its association with medicinal purposes and transformed into a beloved holiday indulgence. Variations of eggnog emerged, with different regions and cultures adding their own twists. Brandy, bourbon, and whiskey were often used as alternatives to rum, and spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla became common flavorings.

In recent times, store-bought eggnog has become widely available, but homemade eggnog still holds a special place in the hearts of many. Crafting eggnog from scratch allows for a personalized touch and the opportunity to experiment with ingredients and ratios, resulting in a truly unique and delicious experience.

Casa Horatio's favorite eggnog recipe is below for you to enjoy this holiday season. For a perfect pairing, we suggest our Spiked Eggnog Coconut Wax Candle. Like all of our hand-poured coconut wax candles, our Spiked Eggnog Candle is made with coconut wax and hand-poured in California in partnership with Light4Life and the Exceptional Children's Foundation.

Three glasses of eggnog with a stack of cinnamon sticks

Homemade Eggnog

Prep time

2.5 hr

Cook time

20 min

Servings

6 pers

Category

Cocktails

Ingredients

  • 4 Large Eggs, Separated
  • ½ Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Cups Whole Milk
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ Tsp. Ground Nutmeg 
  • Pinch of Salt
  • ½ Cup Rum, Brandy, or Bourbon 
  • Additional Ground Nutmeg for Garnish 

Directions

Step 1

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and granulated sugar until creamy and slightly thickened.

Step 2

In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Step 3

In a saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, vanilla extract, ground nutmeg, and salt. Heat over medium heat until it's steaming but not boiling. Remove from heat.

Step 4

Slowly temper the egg yolk mixture by adding a small amount of the hot milk mixture while whisking constantly. This prevents the eggs from curdling.

Step 5

Gradually pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture, stirring continuously.

Step 6

Place the saucepan back on medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil.

Step 7

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes.

Step 8

Stir in the rum, brandy, or bourbon.

Step 9

Gently fold in the whipped egg whites until well combined.

Step 10

Refrigerate the eggnog for at least 2 hours, or until chilled. Before serving, give the eggnog a good stir and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.