How Drinking Eggnog Became a Favorite Holiday Tradition

The spiked holiday beverage dates all the way back to Medieval Britain.

eggnog with cinnamon sticks
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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 they can't get enough after trying their first adulterated sip.

For those of you who love drinking a cup of eggnog while wearing your ugly Christmas sweater, here's how it became a holiday tradition for many families across the U.S.

A Christmas Toast

Surprisingly, the tradition 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.

British Roots

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 monks who possibly added 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 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.

A Lasting Tradition

Because of its warm spices 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. A holiday party with a punch bowl filled with eggnog is a welcome sight.

How to Serve Eggnog

Classic homemade eggnog requires only a few ingredients. If you want to try a more convenient route, the good news is that there's an easy way to enjoy eggnog that doesn't require pulling out the hand mixer. A carton of store-bought eggnog is totally acceptable. You can doctor it up with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg for a simple upgrade. Spike it with a little rum for an adult version. Add some grated orange peel and a dash of nutmeg to the top and you have a perfectly toastable beverage.

More Than Just a Drink

If you find yourself with more eggnog than you can drink or if you really love the holiday flavor, there are plenty of recipes to use it in. Try a quick Cranberry Eggnog Bread, Eggnog Cookies, or Overnight Eggnog-French Toast Casserole.

Eggnog keeps refrigerated for a few days. Use store-bought eggnog by the date on the carton.

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.

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