Eggnog at Christmas: Traditional Christmas Drink

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Eggnog is a rich, creamy beverage that is traditionally consumed during the holiday season, particularly around Christmas. It is typically made with milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, which are whisked together until frothy. Most traditional versions of the drink also include a spirit, such as rum, brandy, or bourbon.

The drink is often flavoured with nutmeg or other spices, and it can be served hot or cold. In the United States and Canada, store-bought versions of eggnog, often non-alcoholic, become widely available in the lead-up to the holiday season.

hand pouring a glass of eggnog
Photo by Misunderstood Whiskey on Unsplash

Origins of Eggnog

The tradition of eggnog at Christmas is deeply rooted in European culture, dating back to the early medieval period. Originally, a British drink called “posset,” made from hot milk and ale or wine, was popular among the wealthy classes. Over time, the recipe evolved, and by the 18th century, the alcohol of choice became sherry or brandy. When the drink crossed the Atlantic to the American colonies, these were substituted with rum due to its availability and affordability.

Symbolism of Eggnog

Eggnog is symbolic of celebration and togetherness, primarily due to its association with Christmas and the holiday season. The ingredients – milk, eggs, and sugar – were once considered luxuries, so the drink represented wealth and prosperity. Its warmth and richness make it the perfect beverage to share with family and friends during the chilly winter season, embodying the spirit of comfort and joy that is central to Christmas traditions.

Traditional Eggnog Recipe

Traditionally, eggnog is made with milk, cream, sugar, whipped egg whites, egg yolks, and a spirit such as rum, brandy, or bourbon. Some variations include spices like nutmeg or cinnamon for added flavour. The egg yolks and sugar are beaten together until they are light and creamy, and then the alcohol, milk, and cream are added. The egg whites are then whipped and folded into the mixture. The result is a rich, creamy, sweet, and slightly boozy drink that is often served with a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.

Modern Variations of Eggnog

In modern times, there are numerous variations of eggnog to cater to different dietary preferences and restrictions. There are dairy-free and vegan versions that use plant-based milks and egg substitutes. Alcohol-free versions are also popular, especially for children and those who prefer not to consume alcohol. Some adventurous cooks have also experimented with flavours, adding ingredients like chocolate, coffee, or even chilli for a twist on the traditional recipe.

Eggnog Around the World

While eggnog is most commonly associated with North America, similar beverages are enjoyed around the world during the festive season.

For example, in Puerto Rico, they have “coquito,” a coconut-based drink often served with rum.

In Mexico, there’s “rompope,” a drink that originated in the convents of Puebla.

Germans have “eierlikör,” a creamy liqueur made with eggs, sugar, brandy, and vanilla.

These variations underline the universal appeal of a rich, creamy drink to celebrate the holiday season.

Safe Preparation of Eggnog

When preparing homemade eggnog, it’s important to ensure the eggs are cooked sufficiently to avoid the risk of salmonella. This can be achieved by heating the egg and milk mixture to over 71C /160F. Alternatively, one can use pasteurised eggs. Many people also prefer to age their eggnog by letting it sit in the refrigerator for several days or even weeks before serving. This not only enhances the flavour but also further reduces any risk of food-borne illness, as the alcohol in the eggnog can help kill bacteria over time.

Eggnog and the Spirit of Christmas

Eggnog continues to be a beloved part of Christmas traditions around the world. Its rich, creamy flavour, the warmth it provides on a cold winter’s day, and the sense of community it fosters when shared with loved ones perfectly encapsulate the spirit of the holiday season. Whether you prefer a traditional recipe, a modern twist, or a regional variation, eggnog is a delightful way to celebrate Christmas and create lasting memories

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