December is the month that people drink eggnog at holiday parties and dinners. There is a long tradition of drinking eggnog in America that starts back in the 1760s. The drink probably evolved from an English drink called a “posset” which was made with hot milk and with wine or ale and flavored with spices. A 17th-century recipe for “My Lord of Carlisle’s Sack Posset” calls for heated cream, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, and eggs with a pint of Sack wine. In America, rum was the spirit of choice during the colonial times, but after the American Revolution rum was scarce, so whiskey was used. By the late 19th century, brandy, rum and whiskey were all being used in eggnog, depending upon where it was being made. Some recipes called for using two or even all three of these spirits in their eggnog.

In 1887, Jerry Thomas published his book The Bar-Tender’s Guide or How to Mix All Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks. His recipe for Egg Nogg is as follows: 

 “A Large bar-glass. Take 1 large teaspoon of powdered white sugar, 1 fresh egg, ½ wine glass of brandy, ½ wine glass of Santa Cruz rum, a little shaved ice. Fill the glass with rich milk and shake up the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed. Pour the mixture into a goblet excluding the ice and grate a little nutmeg on top. This may be made by using a wine glass of either of the above liquors instead of both combined. Every well-ordered bar should have a tin egg-nogg “shaker” which is a great aid in mixing this beverage.”

He follows this recipe with five other recipes that are versions of this same recipe but with wine or sherry being added either in combination with rum or brandy, or as the only spirit in the eggnog. One of the recipes is called “Egg Nogg for a Party” which makes 3 ½ gallons of egg nog. Here is his recipe:

“Take 20 fresh eggs, 2 ½ quarts of fine old brandy, 1 pint of Santa Cruz rum, 2 ½ gallons of rich milk, 2 pounds of white sugar. Separate the whites of the eggs from the yolks, beat each separately with an egg beater until the yolks are well cut up, and the whites assume a light fleecy appearance. Mix all the ingredients (except the milk and the whites of the eggs) in a large punch bowl. Then pour in the milk gradually, continually stirring, in order to prevent the milk from curdling with the eggs. Grate sufficient nutmeg on the mixture, and lastly, let the whites float on top, and ornament with colored sugars. Cool in a tub of ice, and serve.”

In 1911, The Wine and Spirits Bulletin of Louisville, Ky. published a booklet called Beverages De Luxe. In this booklet, they give the recipe for eggnog from the Pendennis Club. It made a gallon of eggnog. Here is their recipe:

“Take the yellow of one dozen eggs, one pound granulated sugar, one teaspoon nutmeg, one-half pint cream and beat well together. Then take one quart Kentucky Bourbon Whisky, one quart Cognac, and one pint Jamaica Rum, beat all together. Take one quart rich cream and beat until stiff, then add the above mixture very slowly, whipping until well mixed. Serve in punch cups.”

After Prohibition, in 1935, the Old Mr. Boston De Luxe Official Bartender’s Guide was first published. It was soon found in bars and taverns across the nation. In the 1957 copy I have, there are a total of 10 recipes for eggnog. They are: Baltimore eggnog, Brandy eggnog, Breakfast eggnog, Christmas Yule eggnog, Cider eggnog, General Harrison’s eggnog, Port wine eggnog, Rum eggnog, Sherry eggnog, and Whiskey eggnog. The recipe for the Christmas Yule eggnog is as follows:

“Beat the yolks and whites of 1 dozen eggs separately and then pour together and add: 1 pinch of baking soda, 6 oz. Old Mr. Boston Imported rum, 2 lbs. granulated sugar and then beat until a stiff batter. Then add: 1 qt. milk, 1 qt. sweet cream, 2 qts. Old Mr. Boston Rye or Bourbon whiskey and stir. Set in refrigerator overnight. Before serving, stir again, and serve in 4 oz. punch glasses and grate nutmeg on top.”

The tradition of drinking eggnog during the holidays is a long one. The recipe for the cocktail is varied with different regions of the country using different spirits in the eggnog. I have offered four recipes here, but I am sure that there are many other recipes to be found. Every tavern or bar in the country will probably be serving eggnog for the holidays and I suggest you go and try one for yourself.

Photo Courtesy of Rosemary Miller