We are now full-on in the season of holiday gatherings! Hopefully, many families and friends will have plenty of opportunity to get together and celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. Every year, around Halloween, people talk about the love-hate relationship they have with candy corn. When the Christmas season arrives, however, the focus shifts to eggnog! Do you love it or hate it? Perhaps you count yourself among those who have never even tried it and don’t plan on it any time soon.
Come to find out, eggnog has quite the history. Also come to find out, there’s an entire category of interest that I never knew existed surrounding the history of alcoholic beverages and holiday cocktails. There’s even a book called, “Imbibed,” written by David Wondrich. He is apparently one of the world’s foremost authorities on “cocktail history.” Before the creamy nog drink with which most of us are familiar today, there was another beverage/custard called, “posset.” If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you might recall mention of “posset” in “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” as well as “Hamlet.” Read on, to learn more about the interesting history of posset and eggnog! Who knows? You might just feel inspired to try some new recipes by the time you come to the end of this post!
Posset came before eggnog and was made with curdled milk
Despite all the fearmongering that people like Anthony Fauci do on television, the holidays are still a time of celebration — a time to be festive with loved ones! It’s fun to serve special snacks and drinks to liven up a party. As for eggnog, its roots were planted long ago, in Elizabethan times!
What do you get when you combine curdled milk, sugar and alcohol? Apparently, you get a cocktail known to Shakespeare and his fellow countrymen as “posset.” Several years after Shakespeare’s death, there was reportedly documentation showing that a physician prescribed posset to King Charles I as a remedy for a cold. Royalty and wealthy people were able to make posset with the supplies mentioned here. Not so, the commoners, however.
Hence, the peasants started making their own concoctions. They lacked supplies to be able to thicken their posset with curds or cream. They were accustomed to “making do” with what they had on hand in life, however. So, a few innovative thinkers started making a similar drink by adding eggs as a thickening agent! If you don’t like the eggy-ness of eggnog, you might want to search for posset recipes, instead!
Wild West Point cadets drank eggnog and started a riot
Fast forward in time to 1826, when people such as Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were cadets at West Point. A group of cadets are said to have smuggled in some contraband to make spiked eggnog. There must have been more “spike” than “nog” in their drinks because a group of cadets became inebriated. Out the window went the honor code, in exchange for a full-on riot! Not only did the eggnog drinkers smash furniture and break windows, someone drew arms against a commanding officer! He actually fired his gun at the officer but missed, thank goodness.
At the end of the party, West Point administrators expelled 19 cadets. Who would have guessed that campus parties and riots all started with some of the nation’s greatest military leaders of all time after drinking eggnog?
20 Years later soldiers apparently hadn’t learned their lesson
Eggnog made an appearance among the ranks again, when General Santa Anna imprisoned a bunch of soldiers from the Army of the Texas Republic. The soldiers bribed a few guards, got the supplies they needed and whooped it up with the cocktails they made from sugar, eggs, alcohol and donkey’s milk. Some people still make this type of nog and add Mexican chocolate for more flavor!
Specialty ingredients to take your nog to the next level
We, of course, encourage anyone who plans on spiking eggnog with alcohol to drink responsibly during the holidays. That said, here’s a list of ingredients that have worked their way into nog recipes through the years:
- Ice cream
- Shaved chocolate
I’m thinking it would be fun to have an eggnog contest, similar to a chili cook-off, to liven up a holiday party! Invite guests to bring their nog and set up tasting stations with cards to vote. You could have a spiked section and non-alcoholic section for kids or people who prefer to abstain. If you have a favorite family eggnog recipe, we want to hear about it!