Love It or Hate It: A Brief History of Eggnog

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The Story Behind the Infamous Holiday Drink

Regardless of how you feel about drinking eggnog, you can appreciate the fact that the drink has a long history of spreading holiday cheer. Birthed among the rolling hills of rural England, eggnog has become a Christmas ritual in the United States. Traditionally made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, and usually bourbon or rum, eggnog lives on as a symbol of the holidays. Learn the story behind this classic beverage and spread some holiday cheer.

A Debate of Words

For historians, the term “eggnog” can be a bit baffling. Obviously, the word “egg” stems from one of the drink’s main ingredients. But the “nog” part is a puzzler. “Nog” once referred to a type of strong beer from East Angila, a large rural area in East England. Some speculate that the term “nog” actually stems from the root word “noggin,” which wasn’t known as slang for your brain as it is now but, rather, was a Middle English term for a small hard-carved wooden mug that was used to serve alcohol. Further analysis tells us that maybe “nog” is a coalition of two terms: “noggin” and “grog,” an early term for rum.

A Toast to Good Health

Eggnog has always been a popular drink in England. Back in the day, the ingredients used to make eggnog were quite expensive. Milk, cream, eggs, and alcohol were seen as elitist goods in society. Thus, it was usually the wealthy gulping down vats of eggnog. Served hot, the drink was also used as a remedy for illness, especially the cold and the flu. With its high-class status and perceived healing properties, drinking eggnog became a symbol of good health. After all, the wealthy were usually much healthier than the poor. Raising a glass of eggnog to health and prosperity was common back in 17th century England.

Drinking to American Independence

Like many things from England, eggnog eventually made the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. New variations on the drink began popping up. Local communities started using new spices and different types of alcohol to make the drink. As the American Revolution got underway, England began cutting off America’s supply of sherry and rum. To substitute, Americans began using homemade spirits to add some kick to their favorite drink. Domestic bourbon and whiskey quickly became the new staple ingredients.

Spreading the Holiday Cheer

It’s no surprise that eggnog became intertwined with the holidays. As previously mentioned, eggnog was seen as a symbol of good health and prosperity. Americans were the first ones to make eggnog a holiday tradition, trying to capitalize on the drink’s optimism. Of course the fact that the drink is warm also helps. There’s nothing like chugging a hot cup of alcohol on a chilly winter night.

Today, you can find eggnog in almost every grocery store around the holidays. Although these knockoffs contain very little egg, they’re still a reminder of that classic holiday cheer.

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