Tuesday, December 31, 2019

History of Eggnog

From The Regency Redingote:
Most food scholars agree that eggnog has its roots in medieval Britain, in a drink known then as a posset, which is also believed to be the ancestor of that classic sweet and frothy dessert, the syllabub. A posset was a hot beverage made with milk, usually curdled with ale or wine to thicken it, then spiced and sweetened. It is believed that sometime later, monks, and then others living in rural areas, added whipped eggs to their version of the drink. Some were also said to have tossed in a few figs as well. By the seventeenth century, possets became most popular among the upper classes, since they were better able to afford the costs of eggs, milk and fortified wines like sherry or brandy, which had become the preferred alcoholic ingredients. In some areas, cream was also added to the mixture. These drinks were considered healthful and were often made up as a kind of punch which was served at social gatherings. These milk, egg and alcohol drinks eventually became popular as beverages with which to toast the good health and prosperity of one’s family and friends, especially during holiday celebrations in the colder months. These beverages were also known by many who went to America. In the colonies, where many had farms where eggs and milk were plentiful, these egg, milk and spirit drinks were also enjoyed during the colder months, though the colonists tended to use less costly spirits to spike their eggnog. 
There is, of course, the question of the origin of the name for this beverage and there are various theories. One is that the nog portion of the word came from a noggin, that is, a wooden cup in which spiritous beverages had been served for centuries. Another is that the name originated in the American colonies, where the egg and milk mixture was blended with rum, known commonly as grog. The concatenation of the words egg and grog were thus believed to have resulted in the name eggnog. That term was certainly in use in the American colonies since at least 1775, and referred to a beverage made of eggs, milk and rum. However, the Oxford English Dictionary states that the beverage got the second half of its name from a very strong ale brewed for generations in the region of East Anglia, particularly in Norfolk. Known as nog, this drink was often served warm, usually heated by placing a hot poker in the mug which held it. Though the term eggnog was in use in the American colonies from at least 1775, the OED does not show that it was used, in print, in Britain until the mid-1820s. Which does not preclude its use there in common speech for decades before that date. (Read more.)

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