The spiked holiday beverage dates all the way back to Medieval Britain.
If ever there were one beverage that has become synonymous with the holidays, it’s eggnog. In spite of its pervasiveness during the holiday season, the nutmeg-flavored, dairy-based drink is quite polarizing. People are either repulsed by the fusion of milk, raw egg yolks, spices, and alcohol, or after trying it for the first time, they can’t get enough of each adulterated sip.
For those of you who love drinking a warm cup of eggnog while wearing your ugly Christmas sweater, here’s how it became a holiday tradition for many families across the U.S. Surprisingly, it didn’t start with stateside merrymakers. The custom of toasting to the new season with this festive cocktail actually began during Britain’s early medieval years, and the drink later became popular in the American colonies by the 19th century. However, per TIME, eggnog has been associated with Christmas since the 1700s.
While most food historians would argue that eggnog began as “posset” in Britain, some still dispute its exact origins. Merriam-Webster defines “posset” as a hot drink of sweetened and spiced milk curdled with ale or wine. According to PBS’ “The History Kitchen,” it was the monks who possibly added in whipped eggs and figs into the spiked drink. The posset was actually consumed by the wealthy and those in the upper class. They would use posset to toast to good health and prosperity, much like we do today. In the American colonies, however, since sherry was too difficult and expensive to procure, families started to swap in the more prevalent whisky and rum into the beverage. It’s also on record that George Washington served an eggnog-like drink to his guests at Mount Vernon. You can find his original recipe here.
Because of its warm temperature and the incorporation of flavors, like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla bean, we’ve grown accustomed to drinking eggnog during the winter season, particularly around Christmas.
WATCH: Spiked Eggnog
No matter what side of the eggnog debate you fall on, one thing we can all agree on is that the holiday favorite is a staple of the Christmas season. Not to mention, it’s perfect for toasting to a happy and prosperous new year, even if you can’t bear drinking it.