Cheers to the season!

Van Chaplin; Styling: Sissy Lamerton

'Tis the season to head over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house where she will hopefully greet you with a roaring fire and a glass of eggnog.

While a certain coffee chain has tried to make the season all about pumpkin spice and gingerbread, eggnog is the traditional seasonal favorite that can trace its roots back to medieval times.

Eggnog involves blending eggs, sugar, milk, cream, and hooch into a sweet, boozy custard-like stew. Of course, you can serve it without alcohol, but it’s not nearly as much fun. Plus, all that rum or whisky or cognac or all of the above actually helps ensure the eggnog is safe to drink. While we’ve all been taught to avoid raw eggs, lest we get sick from salmonella, according to culinary expert Alton Brown, you don’t really need to worry about that with properly prepared eggnog thanks to the copious amounts of liquor. He writes in an article for Mental Floss, “Don’t worry too much about safety. As long as your brew contains at least 20 percent alcohol and is stored below 40°F for at least a month, any microbial nasties that might haunt your innards should be nice and dead.” Of course, you can serve eggnog without alcohol, but it’s not nearly as much fun and aren’t the holidays supposed to be a little fun?

If you’re concerned about raw egg consumption, though, and the food experts at NC State may agree with you, it’s easy to use pasteurized eggs from the supermarket or effectively pasteurize your own eggs, following the FDA’s advice on how to do that safely.

Whether you make your own eggnog, buy it at the store, or opt for the Mexican version known as “rompope” or “coquito,” here are a few things to know about eggnog, in case you’re in need of conversation starters at this year’s holiday gatherings:

1. Eggnog Dates Back to Medieval Times

While the exact origin of the drink is unknown, most culinary historians believe eggnog originated from a drink called “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink enjoyed by the British in early medieval times, TIME reports. In the 13th century, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs, while the Elizabethans made their own version with spices, milk, eggs and fortified wine. It was served thick, hot, and reportedly somewhat chunky, per Food & Wine, which manages to make the drink sound far less appealing.

2. Its Name Comes From A Cup

"Colonists referred to rum as grog; bartenders served rum in small wooden carved mugs called noggins. Thus the drink eventually became egg-n-grog and over time eggnog," food historian, Babson College professor, and author of Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, Frederick Opie, told Delish.

3. Eggnog Was a Favorite in the American Colonies

It’s believed that British colonists brought the drink over from England to the still-nascent U.S. It was reportedly quite popular with colonists who added rum to the milky-egg mixture, because whiskey and cognac and other spirits had very high taxes levied on them.

4. George Washington Had His Own Recipe

The first president of the United States was such a fan of eggnog that he even penned his own recipe, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. While modern mixologists may want to whip up a batch of the founding father’s favorite drink, there’s one small problem: Washington didn’t record the exact number of eggs to use in the recipe. “Cooks in his era estimated a dozen would do,” according to TIME, revealing a booze-heavy recipe that involved cream, milk, sugar, brandy, rye whiskey, rum, and sherry.

WATCH: Spiked Eggnog is the Best Eggnog

 

5. Dwight D. Eisenhower Was a Fan, Too

“By the time he left office, Dwight Eisenhower had concocted a hearty collection of recipes, chronicled in his post presidential papers,” the National Journal reports, in the collection was a favorite eggnog recipe that includedone dozen egg yolks, one pound of granulated sugar, one quart of bourbon, one quart of coffee cream (half & half), and one quart of whipping cream.”

6. There’s a National Eggnog Month and National Eggnog Day

Fittingly, December is National Eggnog Month, while National Eggnog Day falls on Christmas Eve.

7. People Drink A Lot of Eggnog

The Huffington Post reports that more than 135 million pounds of eggnog are consumed each year.

8. It Caused a Riot

It was Christmas at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, when cadets rioted thanks in part to eggnog. In the cold winter of 1826, some enterprising cadet smuggled whiskey into the barracks where it was used to spike the communal eggnog. As can happen with whiskey, a few glasses in and tensions mounted, fights broke out, and soon windows were broken, guns were fired, and a lieutenant was knocked out cold. According to Smithsonian Magazine, in the end, twenty cadets were court-martialed in what became known as the Eggnog Riot. Interesting footnote: Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederate States, was one of the rioters.

9. It’s a Very Southern Drink

According to culinary historian Andrew F. Smith, in the early days of the United States, in the North, at a time when celebrations were frowned upon, eggnog was considered a sign of un-Christian-like decadence. In the South, though, eggnog was a staple of both Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. “Some people in the North consumed it,” Smith told Bravo TV. “But, historically it's a Southern drink.”

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