The Origins of Eggnog: A Favorite Christmas Cocktail

Holiday Parties Have Been Fueled With Eggnog Since the 1600s

Eggnog is an old holiday tradition.
Eggnog is a holiday tradition that has brought cheer to the Christmas season since the 1600s. gordana jovanovic / E+ / Getty Images

Eggnog, it's the drink that stirs up memories for most people and you either love it or hate it. Either way, you must admit that it has become embedded in our holiday traditions. If you have tried it and found it to be distasteful, maybe you just haven’t had good eggnog and it is time to give it another try.

Eggnog: What's in a Name?

The word itself does not have much appeal, the guttural sound and the thought of drinking eggs doesn’t sound very appetizing to many people.

There are differing opinions as to the origin of the name for this famous drink.

One version says that eggnog derives from an Old English word for strong beer, which also led to the word “noggin”. Another version attributes the name to Colonial America where colonists referred to thick drinks as “grogs and eggnog as “egg-and-grog.” Either way, we know it today as eggnog.

Eggnog's European Origins

It is believed that the eggnog tradition began in Europe as an adaptation of the various milk and wine punches often served at social gatherings. In the 17th-century, eggnog was used as a toast to one’s health. It was primarily consumed by the well-to-do of society as milk and eggs were scarce commodities in Europe.

Eggnog in The New World

When the brew was brought to the “New World,” colonists added a new twist, rum. The rum that American colonists could get from the Caribbean was considerably less expensive than the other liquors shipped from England.

And so, along with the readily available supply of milk and eggs in the colonies, the rum version quickly became a popular drink for people of all classes.

Variations on Eggnog

As a rich, spicy, and (oh, yes) alcoholic drink, eggnog soon became a familiar fixture during the holiday season across the growing nation.

Each region would adapt the drink to their personal tastes.

Even George Washington devised his own version of the brew which (it is said) only the most courageous guests would partake. The first President's recipe mixed rye whiskey, rum, and sherry.

In the south, Southern tastes replaced the rum with bourbon. And when the brew reached Latin America, even more adaptations were made:

Noggin' Today

The basic recipe for eggnog has not changed over the years (eggs are beaten with sugar, milk, cream, and some kind of distilled spirit) and it remains a favorite for holiday parties. Whatever the variation of the popular holiday drink you choose to serve, it is sure to be a winner with most of your holiday guests.

However, for those who wish to go “nogless,” there are many other spirited holiday drinks that are sure to be a hit and lift everyone’s holiday spirits as well.

Explore a variety of eggnog recipes...