Eggnog – An American Tradition
Eggnog is a chilled milky punch mixed with eggs and laced with distilled liquors, such as whisky, bourbon, brandy or rum. In America, it’s traditionally served over the Christmas season. Eggnog is served in short glasses or cup-like silver or glass containers – similar to the original ‘noggins’ from which the name eggnog is said to derive. Eggnog is usually drunk among gathered crowds in a wassailing manner, which means it’s more likely to feature at house parties or local community events than cocktail bars (though many similar cocktails and liqueurs will be found in bar menus).
Making eggnog in an American home is an important ritual; each household has their own secret recipe. Whilst families may argue over the proportions of individual ingredients and whether bourbon is more authentic than whisky, most will agree on serving eggnog in a large punchbowl. Recipes usually, start with a dozen eggs, a couple cups of sugar, about 5 pints of heavy cream and milk and a bottle or more of liquor. Our family always finished the punch bowl with floating mounds of whipped egg whites dusted with nutmeg.
A large punchbowl is an important and ceremonious part of eggnog paraphernalia and traditionally accompanied by matching ladle and cups. Back in the day, our family owned a silver-plated set. Our mother brought it out from storage each year and we methodically polished it in readiness for her special end-of-year soirées. As young children, an eggnog party was something of an event. We decorated the house for Christmas and everybody dressed-up. Guests and neighbours arrived, their strong perfumes wafting and mingling with the scent of pine tree and eggnog.
The taste of eggnog is rich and warm, with flavours of seasonal spice, caramel and crème anglaise. Even without alcohol, eggnog is such an appealing and popular taste, it now features as a flavouring in many everyday American foods, such as tea, coffee, custard desserts and ice cream.
Proper eggnog however, packs a powerful punch. The constituent elements (milk, sugar and alcohol), combine the heady elixirs of infancy, adolescence and age all in one glass, making it a deceptively potent and moreish drink. And that’s the allure of eggnog – it’s unctiously seductive, sweet and spicy, and it picks you up.
But, perhaps, the best thing about eggnog is happy memories of seasonal holidays, of family and friends, and the good things about America.