I have fond memories of a wonderful, elderly American aunt. She was great fun and made the best brownies I have ever tasted. However, she was also blunt and to the point. If she thought anyone was acting a little spoilt or if she wanted you to be more grateful, she would simply say “so, do you want egg in your beer?” I didn’t have a clue what she meant and I have a feeling that I am not alone. Apparently, it is a North American expression, the English equivalent of which would be the equally sarcastic “do you want jam on it?”
Now, back to egg and beer; what I didn’t realize at the time was that people did actually put egg in their beer! This is a tradition that dates all the way back to Medieval times. During the year, people would drink ale and beer on a regular basis, but at Christmas, they would often fortify it with egg and sometimes cream. This made it a more nutritious and luxurious version of an everyday drink and so eggnog was born. This egg concoction could be enjoyed when energy levels were in need of a little pick-me-up. This makes a lot more sense when you realize that the month of December was spent fasting. Advent was a time to prepare for the onslaught of 12 days of Christmas feasting.
It is rumoured that eggnog developed from posset, a medieval hot, milky drink that was curdled with wine or ale and flavoured with spices. In Britain, the drink was popular among the aristocracy as it used expensive ingredients such as milk, eggs, sugar and alcohol including brandy and sherry.
Nowadays, eggnog is served cold; it is a creamy beverage that includes sugar, cream and whipped eggs. Whipping the eggs gives a delightful frothy texture. It can be served without alcohol but brandy, rum, or even bourbon make it a festive treat. Eggnog is a drink we often associate with Thanksgiving and American Christmases. The drink became popular in the colonies during the 18th century where they used rum from the Caribbean as it was more cost effective than buying the heavily taxed brandies and wine from Europe. I have to say that eggnog works very well with rum but if you like it boozy, you can follow George Washington’s recipe which calls for rye whiskey, rum and sherry!
At a time when we can hardly fit in a mince pie between the enormous Christmas meals, it is understandable that eggnog has taken a backseat to other less filling intoxicants. However, if you can find an evening between Christmas and New Year when you are using up leftovers, this delightful tipple will take you back to Christmases of yore!
• 700ml whole milk
• 240ml heavy or double cream
• 3 cinnamon sticks
• 1 vanilla bean pod, split and seeds removed
• 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for garnish (or you can use cinnamon)
• 5 eggs, separated
• 130g granulated sugar
• 175ml dark rum, bourbon or brandy
In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, cinnamon, vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, and nutmeg.
Bring to the boil over a medium heat.
Once boiling, remove from the heat and allow to steep.
In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat egg yolks and sugar until combined and thick ribbons form when the whisk is lifted.
Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to mix until the mixture is combined and smooth.
Add bourbon, rum, and stir.
Refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
Before serving, beat the egg whites in a large bowl or stand mixer until soft peaks form.
Gently fold into eggnog until combined.
Serve and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon.