This Christmas Discover International Eggnog Recipes with a Historic Punch

It just isn’t Christmas without a glass of eggnog. Rich and full of cheer, it seems the perfect holiday drink to share with family and friends.

And though this esteemed beverage started in rural medieval England as a hot milk drink served in a small wooden beer mug called a “nog”, it has spread through time and space.

As medieval farm populations shifted into towns, fresh milk became a rarity and something enjoyed only by the rich and wealthy.  It became the fashion to drink the more refined egg flip, which mixed French brandy and Spanish sherry with milk in cut crystal glasses.

When the New World was discovered, the English, like all the other conquering nations, brought their customs and cuisine with them to their new colonies.  Yet there were always changes, adjustments.  

England tightly controlled commerce in her colonies.  From London’s point of view, the American provinces should purchase rum only from British Jamaica, not brandy or sherry from her enemies France or Spain.   

Since any imported brandy or sherry was very heavily taxed, the US colonists were almost forced to substitute the much cheaper Jamaican rum in their favorite holiday brew.  The common street slang for rum at that time was “grog”. 

At first the adjusted beverage was called “egg’n’grog in a nog” which quickly got shortened into “egg nog” and then just “eggnog”. 

Nearly everyone in the colonies loved eggnog.  It was a great favorite of our first president, George Washington, who surprisingly was quite able to afford (and willing to enjoy) the heavily taxed brandy and sherry in his eggnog that other Americans chose to avoid.

When America’s rum supply was greatly reduced by the British in retaliation for losing the American Revolution, US citizens were forced to make another adjusted. They replaced the now imported foreign rum with homemade whiskey and bourbon.  The name remained the same however.

But don’t think the new citizens of the United States were the only ones having fun with this delightful winter beverage.  In Spanish Puerto Rico, their regional version of eggnog was called "Coquito". It was still being made with local rum but coconut milk replaced the traditional northern European base of dairy milk.  Really a nice change!

In Mexico eggnog was called “Rompope” and created, like many classic dishes, at the Convent of Santa Clara.  The good sisters added freshly grated cinnamon and aged Mexican rum to their eggnog and sipped it all slowly through a straw.  The combination was and is truly heanvenly!

Further south in Peru, the favored holiday eggnog was “Biblia con Pisco” made with a local pomace apple-tasting brandy called “Pisco”.  It’s as smooth as velvet and as elegant.

Even Iceland serves a form of eggnog, but as a dessert and without any alcohol!  It’s quite nice, but to quote the legendary Captain Jack Sparrow, “Where’s the rum?!?”

So don’t be limited to just one version of eggnog this holiday season.  Be international and raise a glass that’s truly historic.  Cheers!

Your Culinary World copyright Ana Kinkaid/Peter Schlagel 2010

Posted on December 9, 2010 and filed under Alcohol, Christmas, Recipes.