Eggnog (also spelled “egg nog” and “egg-nog") contains beaten eggs with a liquor base, such as rum, brandy or whiskey. Milk, cream and sugar are often added. “Egg nog(g)” is cited in print in American sources from at least the 1770s. The drink is usually served in the wintertime and has been associated with Christmas almost from the first recorded citations.
The “egg” part of the name is obvious, but the “nog” has been the subject of some speculation. An etymology circulating in the 2000s has it that the drink was originally called “egg and grog,” but there are no historical citations to support this. Another theory is that “nog” is from the word “noggin,” a small drinking vessel, although no “egg noggin” citation has been found in the 1700s or early 1880s.
“Nog” is cited from at least 1693 and possibly comes from “nug” (as in “nugged ale” or “strong ale"). “Nog” or “nug,” meaning a strong drink, is a more likely etymology than “noggin,” meaning a small drink.
Eggnog (sometimes confused as “egg nog”) is a sweetened dairy-based beverage made with milk, cream, sugar, beaten eggs (which gives it a frothy texture), and flavoured with ground cinnamon and nutmeg; alcoholic versions also exist with the addition of various liquors, such as rum, brandy, whiskey, and sake.
Eggnog is a popular drink in North America, Central America and South America and is usually associated with winter celebrations such as Christmas and New Year. Eggnog has long been believed to be an excellent source of magnesium. Eggnog is also very popular in Central Europe, but only its cognac version, that can be bought almost everywhere, mostly in Christmas-markets, during November and December. Commercially, non-alcoholic eggnog is available around Christmas time and during the winter.
The origins, etymology, and even the ingredients used to make the original eggnog drink are debated. Eggnog, or a very similar drink, may have originated in East Anglia, England, though it may also have been developed from posset (a medieval European beverage made with hot milk). An article by Nanna Rognvaldardottir, an Icelandic food expert, states that the drink adopted the nog part of its name from the word noggin, a Middle English phrase used to describe a small, wooden, carved mug used to serve alcohol. Another name for this English drink was Egg Flip. Yet another story is that the term derived from the name egg-and-grog, a common Colonial term used to describe rum. Eventually the term was shortened to egg’n’grog, then eggnog.
The ingredients for the drink were too expensive and uncommon for the lower classes, but it was popular among the aristocracy. “You have to remember, the average Londoner rarely saw a glass of milk,” says author and historian James Humes ("To Humes It May Concern”, July 1997). “There was no refrigeration, and the farms belonged to the big estates. Those who could get milk and eggs to make eggnog mixed it with brandy or Madeira or even sherry.”
The drink crossed the Atlantic to the English colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was a cost-effective substitute. The inexpensive liquor coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products helped the drink become very popular in America.
Modern eggnog typically consists of milk and eggs. Frequently cream is substituted for some portion of the milk to make a much richer drink. In some eggnogs you can find Gelatin. Toppings may include vanilla, ice cream or whipped cream.
Eggnog can be produced from homemade recipes, however, ready-made eggnog containing alcohol and “just-add-alcohol” versions are available for purchase. Whiskey, rum, brandy, or cognac are often added. Since the 1960s, eggnog has often been served cold and without alcohol, both of which are significant departures from its historical origins. Lowfat eggnog is commercially available or it may be prepared in the home using skimmed or lowfat milk. In North America, a few soymilk manufacturers, including the popular brand Silk, offer seasonally-available, soy-based alternatives for vegans and those with dairy or milk allergies. Eggnog may be added as a flavouring to food or drinks such as coffee and tea. Eggnog-flavoured ice cream, for example, is a seasonal product in the US.
Eggnog is typically served as a Christmas drink or during New Year’s Eve in the United States and Canada. American Thanksgiving (late November) falls at the beginning of the season in which eggnog is typically consumed, but the product begins appearing in stores around Halloween, although it can be found in a small handful of stores year-round. Historically, it has been a winter beverage not specifically associated with any holiday.
courtesy Alton Brown, 2005
Show: Good Eats
Episode: School of Hard Nogs
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites (...)
(Oxford English Dictionary)
[f. EGG + NOG strong ale.]
A drink in which the white and yolk of eggs are stirred up with hot beer, cider, wine, or spirits.
1825 Bro. Jonathan I. 256 The egg-nog..had gone about rather freely.
1844 MRS. HOUSTON Yacht Voy. Texas II. 179 Followed by the production of a tumbler of egg-noggy.
1853 KANE Grinnell Exp. xlvi. (1856) 428 And made an egg-nogg of eider eggs.
1872 COHEN Dis. Throat 91, I would rely chiefly on egg-nog, beef essence, and quinine.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
[Origin uncertain. With sense 2 compare earlier EGG-NOG n. Perhaps compare earlier NOGGIN n., NUG n.1
Perhaps compare Orkney and Shetland Scots nugg (also nugged ale) ale warmed with a hot poker (perhaps related to Norwegian knagg, Danish knag peg (see KNAG n.1), or perhaps related to Norwegian nugge NUDGE v.).]
1. Eng. regional (E. Anglian). A strong variety of beer, brewed esp. in Norfolk.
1693 H. PRIDEAUX Lett. (1875) 161 A bottle of old strong beer, wch in this countrey [sc. Norfolk] they call ‘nog’.
1722 SWIFT On Horrid Plot in Wks. (1735) II. 410 W laid a Quart of Nog on’t, He’d either make a Hog or Dog on’t.
1743 W. ELLIS London & Country Brewer (ed. 2) III. 227 In Suffolk and Norfolk they run very much upon a light brown, or deep Amber colour’d Butt-Beer, which in the latter Place is called Nogg.
1774 Westm. Mag. 2 319 The Sailor toasts thy charms in flip and grog; The Norwich Weaver drinks Thee deep in nog.
1847 A. H. STEPHENS in R. M. Johnston & W. H. Browne Life (1878) 222 Our landlady sent round some nogg a while ago.
1893 F. B. ZINCKE Wherstead 261 Here ‘nog’ is a kind of strong ale.
2. Chiefly U.S. = EGG-NOG n.
1851 A. O. HALL Manhattaner10, I tremble to think of the juleps, and punches, and nogs, and soups.
1881 A. W. TOURGÉE Zouri’s Christmas in Royal Gentleman viii. 527 Then he tried to drain the glass, but a part of the foamy nogg remained in it despite his efforts.
1896 Harper’s Mag. 42 783/2 Mrs. Raker was holding a foaming glass to the sick man’s lips. ‘There; take another sup of the good nog,’ she said.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
Now chiefly Sc. and Irish English.
[Origin unknown; compare KNAG n.2 and perhaps -EN suffix1. Gaelic noigean, Irish noigín are from English.]
1. a. A small drinking vessel; a mug, cup, or ladle.
1588 in J. P. Earwaker Lancs. & Cheshire Wills & Inventories (1893) 150 Item iij cans iij pickens iij noggens iij bottells iij gallons and one skyle.
1630 Tincker of Turvey Ep. Ded. sig. A 3, Of her Ale, her custome was to set before me two little Noggins full.
a1665 K. DIGBY Closet Opened (1669) 56 You have the yest in a large Noggin with a handle.
1716 T. WARD England’s Reformation 50 Plate, Candlesticks, and Silver Flaggons were turn’d to Brass and Peuter Noggins. 1753 Stewart’s Trial 208 The noggin in which he had carried the drink to Allan Breck. 1774 Ann. Reg. 1773 234 The milky store..Crowns the clean noggin.
b. U.S. and Irish English. A small pail or bucket. Now rare.
1843 Amer. Pioneer 2 424 Noggins, these were small vessels shaped like a pail, made from small cedar staves, and held about a quart.
2. A small quantity or measure of alcoholic liquor, usually a quarter of a pint; a small drink of spirits.
1690 in N. & Q. (1861) 19 Oct. 310/2 Captain Thomas Pond gave the corporation a silver boat which holds three noggins, which is to be drank full at the several feasts of the mayors.
1691 J. DUNTON Voy. round World II. ix. 107 O Katemy old Bones are all turn’d to Jelley in my Body!for pityone Gill of Brandyone Noggin!
1699 B. E. New Dict. Canting Crew, Noggin, (of Brandy) a Quarter of a Pint.
1745 Gentleman’s Mag. 425 He drank about a quart a day, a naggin at each time.
1798 Sporting Mag. 11 284 A man..drank no less than four noggins of gin.
1810 J. VANDELEUR Lett. (1894) 14 Our army has very good rations: 1 pound of beef, 1 pound of bread, and about a naggin of rum each day.
1853 E. K. KANE U.S. Grinnell Exped. 94 While we were joking about his adventure over a quiet little noggin of whisky-punch
26 March 1788, New-Jersey Journal, pg. 2:
A young man with a cormerant appetite, voraciously devoured, last week, at Connecticut farms, thirty raw eggs, a glass of egg nog, and another of brandy sling.
16 October 1788, Independent Gazetteer (Philadelphia, PA), pg. 3, col. 1:
Rummaging now the brain, many conceits may be found, much truth of all kinds, whole store rooms of curses and unmentionable damns, with devils of all shapes and colours, thousands of encomiums on oysters, hot suppers, and devilish fine wines; and there are so many different qualities and dispositions that intestine wars are never over; when wine and beer, punch and eggnog meet, instantly ensues a quarrel, and it is raised so high, that the brains boil like mush in a pot with heat, and was it not for the holes I before mentioned, which let out the steam, the skull must be cracked.
American History Told by Contemporaries
By Albert Bushnell Hart and John Gould Curtis
New York, NY: The Macmillan Company
Item notes: v.3
March 17th, 1791. The Irishman in Honour of St. Patrick, purloined all our Brandy, Sugar and Eggs to make a Tub of Egg-Nog, of which he drank so copiously, that whilst at the Helm, he insensibly run the vessel into a strong Eddy, to get her out of which, employed all Hands in hard Labour the Balance of the Day.
(Down the Mississippi by John Pope, published in 1791—ed.)
26 January 1793, Virginia Chronicle (Norfolk, VA), pg. 3, col. 2:
Messrs. Baxter & Wilson,
On last Christmas Eve several gentlemen met at Northampton court-house, and spent the evening in mirth and festivity, when EGG-NOG was the principal Liquor used by the company. After they had indulged pretty freely in this beverage, a gentleman in company offered a bet that not one of the party could write four verses, extempore, which should be rhyme and sense; and when it was taken up by a gentleman present, who wrote the first five [sic; I count six] verses following; to which the subjoined answer was immediately given. As I think them applicable to the occasion, you will oblige me by inserting them in your next week’s paper.
January 14, 1793. S———————
The trembling Muse with anxious care to please,
May wish, perhaps, to appear with grace and ease;
But vain, alas! are all the powers of art,
When awful Dullness hangs upon the heart.
Each brisk emotion which the soul receives,
And quickens fancy with the wit it gives,
Must cease to flow, when leaden slumbers bind,
And quell the transports of the glowing mind.
For strength or splendor never yet arose,
From foggy brains which languish’d for a dose.
In pity then permit the strain to end,
In kind compassion to your drowsy friend.
Let Wine, alas! resign its boasted praise
To rouse the Muse, and prompt the Poet’s lays,
Since rival worth now boasts superior art,
To infuse the transports of the glowing heart.
‘Tis Egg-Nog now whose golden streams dispense
Far richer treasures to the ravish’d sense.
The Muse from Wine derives a transient glare,
But Egg-Nog’s draughts afford her solid fare.
The first escapes by exhalation’s power,
And leaves the Muse more languid than before.
The latter, firm, remains her steady friend,
Sustains her talk, nor quits her to the end.
On old prescription one relies for fame,
While solid merit props the others claim.
6 April 1793, Virginia Chronicle (Norfolk, VA), pg. 3, col. 2:
To the Northampton Poets, on their Poetry.
ILLUSTRIOUS bards! what pen can write your praise
Proclaim in lofty verse each sublime matter,
Who drinks egg-nog, who mixes wine with water,
Who died last, as also who was married,
Whose wench brought forth a son, and whose miscarried.
These are fit subjects for poetic brains.
And be assur’d, of this there is no telling:
Which is the best your diction, or your—spelling.”
April 1, 1793.
Poems written between the years 1768 & 1794 (Eighteenth Century Collections Online)
By Philip Morin Freneau
Monmouth, NJ: Printed at the press of the author
To the sign of the Anchor we then were directed,
Where captain O’Keef a fine turkey dissected;
And Bryan O’Bluster made love to egg-nog.
14 September 1795, Hampshire Chronicle, “Tomo Cheeki: The Creek Indian in Philadelphia,” pg. 4:
Egg nog is his favourite liquor in the morning, grog at eleven o’clock, and such wine as he can afford after dinner, which generally consists of salt pork and pease, with sea biscuit instead of bread.
Travels through the States of North America, and the Provinces of
Upper and Lower Canada, During the years 1795, 1796, and 1797
By Isaac Weld, Junior.
London: Printed for John Stockdale, Piccadilly.
The American travellers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together.
(This is at an inn near Baltimore, on the road to Philadelphia—ed.)
26 December 1800, Newburyport (MA) Herald (from the Pittsburg Gazette), pg. 1:
He ordered egg-nogg to be made, upon tasting it he swore and damned so horribly that the whole family were terrified at his profaneness; and all this merely because the egg-nogg had not whiskey enough in it.
1 March 1807, The Monthly Magazine, pg. 118:
Being myself unwell, one party staid the whole of the 21st of May at Deerfield, where our accommodations were had; but we made out with fried chickens and egg-nog (made with whiskey, a vast many eggs, maple sugar, and milk), the fried ham not being eatable.
An Encyclopæaedia of Domestic Economy:
Comprising Such Subjects as are Most Immediately Connected with Housekeeping As, the Construction of Domestic Edifices, with the Modes of Warming, Ventilating, and Lighting Them; a Description of the Various Articles of Furniture; a General Account of the ...
By Thomas Webster
New York, NY: Harper & Brothers
Item notes: v.2
Auld Man’s Milk of Scotland or Egg-nog of America.—Beat the yolks and whites of six eggs…
8 March 1815, Massachusetts Spy (Boston, MA), pg. 2:
Mr. Todd, one of the secretaries, and son-in-law of Mr. Madison, had invited some gentlemen of his country and some others, to partake with him of a liquor with which the Americans used to treat their friends on Christmas day, and which is called eggnogg.
The Portico (a humor periodical—ed.)
Published by Neale Wills & Cole, 1816
Item notes: v. 2 (July-Dec. 1816)
We are preparing to celebrate a most important anniversary in the annals of the club—you must know that on the 27th day of the month of Hecatombaeon A. D. 1400 S. Jannotus de Bragmotardo, invented the noble beverage, called Egg-nogg; for which he was honoured with a leather medal, and received a vote of thanks from the bench of Bishops.
21 January 1818, Connecticut Gazette (Hartford, CT), pg. 4:
From the American Beacon.
BEWARE OF EGG NOG.
A SONG FOR THE SEASON.
To be sung to any Tune that suits the measure.
While the little boys cry, “merry Christmas is coming,”
Shall I be as dull as a water drunk log!
No! I’ll sing you a song (for we bards must be humming)
And the burden shall still be Beware of Egg Nog.
When the bowl mantles over with elegant fears,
And the steam rises up in a silvery fog;
Put by the potation, keep Reason at home,
And think of my warning, Beware of Egg nog.
When Circe, the witch, caught Ulysses’ men,
She gave each a dram that soon made him a hog;
The identical mixture—‘tis now as ‘twas then;
So attend to the moral, Beware of Egg nog.
When the circle is form’d, the glass passes round,
Old Satan draws nigh, tho’, as usual incog,
And chuckles too see good Sobriety drown’d—
Would frustrate his malice—Beware of Egg nog.
But why do I rail at one liquor this way?
Is no other as fatal; rum, brandy or grog?
Yes, yes, they’re all one. I mean all when I say,
And I’ll say but once more now, Beware of Egg nog.
Selections from Letters Written During a Tour Through the United States in the Summer and Autumn of 1819:
Illustrative of the Character of the Native Indians, and of the Descent from the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel; as Well as Descriptive of the Present Situation and Sufferings of Emigrants, and ...
By Emanuel Howitt
Printed and sold by J. Dunn
...egg-nog, — a mixture of apple-spirit, eggs, and milk.
Recreations of George Taletell, F. Y. C.
Charleston, SC: Duke & Browne, Printers
Whether our holiday customs were brought over from Europe by the first settlers, or whether their existence be of a more recent date, I leave the antiquary to determine—but it has always been the custom so long as I remember, to commence the festivities of Christmas with a cheerful glass of egg-nog.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Antedated eggnog (Crosspost from LL)
Sara Kraft, an Arizona undergraduate taking a independent study course with me this fall, was reporting to me on a chapter in an anthology of Alan Walker Read’s articles on ok.1 Read had occasion to quote from a ‘pastoral’ poem written around 1774 by 18th-century clergyman and philologist Jonathan Boucher, which quote I happened to notice contained the words ‘egg-nogg’:
Fog-drams i’ th’ morn, or (better still) egg-nogg, At night hot-suppings, and at mid-day, grogg, My palate can regale:
I don’t know why it occurred to me to check in the OED to see what the earliest source they provided was, but I did, and since it was so much later, and from a British source to boot, I got interested. We requested an Inter-Library Loan of Boucher’s “A Glossary of Obsolete and Provincial Words; forming a supplement to the dictionaries of the English Language.” After a false start with an incomplete microfiche from Yale, Harvard obligingly sent us the actual volume. Amazing…
The pastoral poem, quite a long one, is a footnote in the 60-page Introduction to the glossary. The full title of the poem, in the verbose convention of the day is “Absence: A Pastoral: drawn from the life, from the manners, customs and phraseology of planters (or, to speak more pastorally, of the rural swains) inhabiting the Banks of the Potomac, in Maryland”.
In the introduction to his Glossary, (p. xlix), Boucher writes the following:
“A List of some of the most remarkable and common [words], collected during my residence in Virginia and Maryland nearly thirty years ago, is here set down at the foot of the page. To this list I will subjoin a copy of verse, which I have ventured to call a Pastoral, written during my residence in America; written solely with the view of introducing as many of such words and idioms of speech, then prevalent and common in Maryland, as I conceived to be dialectical and peculiar to those parts of America.”
New York City • Food/Drink • (1) Comments • Wednesday, November 19, 2008 • Permalink
I grew up very skinny and my parents tried lots of ways to fatten me up but failed. I guess I just had a fast metabolism. My father read somewhere about eggnog and how it might help me gain weight. So he used to make me eggnog and put a little bit of his favorite brandy in it. I never liked it and I was so thankful that the “eggnog” solution failed and so it was stopped.