A Nog to Tradition…

How many of us have endured bad eggnog at parties? Too sweet, too heavy, too much alcohol (or flavoring)… Yet a good eggnog, or other nog, can be refreshing and tasty.

What went wrong? Besides Uncle Martin being left un-chaperoned with the punch bowl.

Nog is an English word for a strong beer. It is also a contraction of “noggin” a small cup for drinking beer or other alcoholic mixed beverages such as possets with alcohol added. Drinks with milk and raw egg, or cream and raw egg, go very far back into history, and possets were seen as healthy and often medicinal. People who had been fasting, or who were recovering from fevers and needed a boost to their cooling humours were served creamy, eggy drinks (when milk and eggs were in season.)

Eggnog first appears in writing in the late 1700s. The British, and colonists in North America, drank a lot of mixed cream-egg-alcohol-cider-spice blends, far more than today. Punches are one descendant of that tradition, as are eggnogs.  A milk and wine punch* was common, often with spices added to show wealth and for flavor. The English blended eggs, milk and sherry. The Colonists favored rum, because it was far cheaper than sherry. After the American Revolution, rum was patriotic. Sherry was an expensive import.

Eggnog is a love-it-or-hate-it drink. Some people stay away because of the raw egg. Others dodge the rum (which should be a hint for flavor, not used to sterilize two drops of milk and a dab of egg.)

The basic formula is six eggs, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, nutmeg, and liquor. Separate the eggs, then blend the yokes and mix with half the sugar, and vanilla. Add nutmeg or other spices now, but go lightly. You want a rich yellow blend. Slowly add one cup milk (or half-and-half), then two cups of liquor. Chill so the flavors blend. Just before serving, beat the egg whites and other half of the sugar into soft peaks and fold into the eggnog. Garnish with a tiny bit more spice and serve.

I double the milk and skip the alcohol. I also don’t make the meringue, so I can cut the sugar in half.

If you are wary of raw eggs or prefer not to use the meringue, the following may be more to your taste. It is closer to mine, and comes from Simply Recipes:

  • 6 egg yolks (decrease to 4 egg yolks if you would like it less rich)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (decrease to 1/2 cup if you would like it less sweet)
  • 2 cups milk (we use 2% milk)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (lightly packed)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp each of bourbon and rum, or to taste (can omit for kid-friendly eggnog)
  • 4 egg whites (optional)

Beat the egg yolks and sugar.** Heat the milk and spices gently on the stove until it steams but is not boiling. Add a little of the hot milk to the eggs to warm them so you don’t get egg-drop-punch. Then pour the yolks into the hot milk and stir. Cook until it reaches 160F.  (It gets thicker and will coat the back of a spoon without running off.) Remove from heat, add cream, then vanilla, nutmeg and liquor. Chill.

When ready to serve beat the egg whites, then fold into the eggnog. If you need to reheat it to 160F then chill it again for safety, you can do that. I’d use the egg whites for something else.

Source: Eggnog at Simply Recipes

There are dairy and/or egg-free drinks like this, often using coconut milk instead of eggs or cow milk. Here’s one from All Recipes that could probably be made as kosher-dairy if you can find kosher pudding mix. This one is vegan.


*Punch as a word came into English long after “liquor and [stuff]” drinks did. The term comes from Sanskrit “panca” meaning five, and that was the number of ingredients.

**The original recipe says use a hand-mixer. I tend to do things like this by hand with a whisk. No, I do not make meringues with a whisk. I did that once. My arm still aches at the memory.

5 thoughts on “A Nog to Tradition…

  1. Nog? You want nog? Then the lugubrious tale of the Somerset Nog should be just what you need. You’ll find it at 25:39 in “Kenneth Williams ‘The Best Of Rambling Syd Rumpo’ Complete Album” (search for that term on YouTube). Language alert: the entire recording is very funny, but filled with double entendre puns that will horrify the ultrafastidious. Perhaps it’s no wonder that it’s one of my favorite comedy recordings (that, and I’m a fan of English folk music).


  2. If you heat the milk to cow temperature and then add alcohol (like white wine), you get a bubbling syllabub. (I forget what it is called, but heat and acidity creates a kind of tasty variation on curdling.)

  3. Definitely an eggnog lover here. For me personally, I like a somewhat thick mixture (not gloopy, but thick enough to have some body). A local dairy makes what I consider to be be the perfect non-homemade ‘nog. I usually drink it without alcohol, but occasionally I add a little Amaretto, yum.

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