Contrary to popular belief, eggnog is not a grocery store invention. Centuries before cartons of eggs, milk and sugar mixes began appearing in the dairy aisle, some members of the nobility were already combining raw eggs with cream, sugar and alcohol.
“Eggnog comes from England and was consumed by the wealthy,” says Justin Taylor, general manager of The Cascade Room in Vancouver.
The drink’s unusual name is a portmanteau of “egg and grog,” or possibly a play on the word “noggin,” which was a small mug used for serving alcohol. It’s thought the Brits added sherry or brandy and sugar to the luxury items of eggs and milk to lengthen their shelf life in the days before refrigeration. The resulting rich, creamy mixture became a libation on special occasions.
“[When] eggnog came to North America, it was rum that was readily available,” says Taylor, who serves his famous bourbon eggnog at The Cascade Room in December.
“You can literally make eggnog with anything—tequila, cognac, bourbon.” —Justin Taylor, general manager of The Cascade Room, Vancouver
Indeed, other countries have their own version of this drink, using local spirits and ingredients. In Scotland, Auld Man’s Milk combines scotch and sweetened cream with separated eggs. Puerto Ricans mix rum with cream of coconut, condensed milk and spices to create Coquito. France calls its version Hen’s Milk, and Mexico mixes a version called Rompope, which is enhanced with tree nuts (typically almonds), vanilla and cinnamon.
Eggnog has come to be associated with the holiday season partly thanks to the Eggnog Riot of 1826. Cadets at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., went on a drunken, whisky-spiked eggnog-fuelled rampage that started late on Dec. 24 and continued until the early hours of Christmas morning.
“Eggnog evokes memories,” says Taylor. “When you take the time to make it from scratch, it adds that little bit extra. And that’s what the holidays are all about.”
JT’s Bourbon Eggnog Recipe
Makes one litre
- 4 large eggs
- 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 cup bourbon (Jim Beam White Label)
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
In a blender or stand mixer on low speed beat the eggs until smooth. Slowly add sugar, nutmeg and allspice until thoroughly incorporated. Slowly add bourbon then milk and cream. Continue blending on low speed for 1 minute. Bottle and refrigerate overnight. Shake well before pouring into small, chilled cocktail coupes. Dust with fresh nutmeg before serving. —Justin Taylor, The Cascade Room
[This story appears in the December 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]