Sunday Wine Down Holiday Special: Eggnog

Sunday Wine Down, Eggnog

I am sure that you are sitting down right now with a glass of wine thinking you are about to continue on with the history of wine. We left off with the Phoenicians and were about to talk about the Greeks and the Romans. Well set that glass of wine down because we are going to take a detour. We are at the end of the Christmas season so let’s dive into the history of my favorite holiday drink, Eggnog.

Many of you might not know what eggnog is and many of you know exactly what it is. Eggnog is a sweet dairy beverage that is typically enjoyed in the winter months of North America. The ingredients are very simple: milk, raw eggs, sugar, spices (nutmeg is the standard) and if you want a kick you can add bourbon, rum, or brandy. Using this concoction you can create a creamy and frothy alcoholic beverage that’s perfect to cozy up to a winter fire.

Where did this wonderful drink come from? Well we know that it traveled from Europe to the Americas. Most likely from England during the 18th century. The drink could have derived from a thick boozy medieval drink called posset. Posset was hot milk filled with liquor (possibly sherry) and any available spices that royalty had at the time. This is the best guess we have on the origins of eggnog. So how did we get from the name posset to eggnog?  Again, the origins of the name are unclear but there are a few popular Ideas. Egg, of course, came from the use of eggs in the beverage. Nog on the other hand can come from a couple of different stories. Noggin was an small wooden cup that the east anglia would drink a strong beer from. It is very possible that they used to drink posset in a noggin and over time the drink became eggnog. The other belief is that it came from what the colonies called rum, grog. Now rum was what the colonist would put in the drink so it was egg and gogg. Eventually becoming egg n’ grog and finally eggnog. I am sure it is a mixture of the two stories but most of this is just speculation.

This winter drink became popular in the Colonies with the abundance of chickens, cows, and rum from the Caribbean. During the revolution rum was in short supply but the revolutionaries made their own whiskey, which is now known as bourbon, and started to use that as the popular hooch in eggnog. Still to this day Americans and Canadians drink this traditional winter drink during the periods of Thanksgiving and New Years. The drink has had many modifications over time but it has truly become a staple during the holiday season. So much so that one can go to their local grocery story during the winter and buy this wonderful drink. If you are buying Eggnog from the store know the drink is going to be thicker due to the use of cream and some other flavors will be added, the  most common being vanilla. My favorite is made by Alta Dena from Southern California.

Photo courtesy of Alta Dena
Photo courtesy of Alta Dena

A  fun fact before we finish up these last sips. In the states we had an Eggnog Riot in 1826 at an United States American military academy on the 23 and 24 of December when a group of cadets smuggled in whiskey to make eggnog. The incident led to twenty cadets being courtmartialed from the military. So who knows what they did? But drink enough eggnog and you can definitely have some fun.

This is the end of the drink, come back next Sunday for the continuation of the history of wine. These features are meant to be educational for you and I, so feel free to comment and add facts. I hope you enjoy the rest of 2014, see you in 2015.

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