What Exactly Is Eggnog and How Do You Make It?

Here's everything you need to know about eggnog so you can whip up your own batch this holiday season.
white holiday eggnog with cinnamon stick

Eggnog is a truly polarizing holiday drink. Whether you love it or hate it, there's a lot of mystery behind the egg-based sip. You might be curious about why people started drinking the odd mixture of egg, milk, and alcohol, or what gives the drink its unique appearance and taste. To answer these questions, we consulted the team at Fairway Market to learn more. Plus, we have a recipe for making your own batch at home (we promise, it's better than the store-bought one you've been getting).

What is eggnog?

"Eggnog is a stirred custard that is aged to create its very distinct properties and flavors. Culinary anthropologists think it could have originated from posset, a late medieval concoction of hot milk, hooch, and spices," says the Fairway Market team. Whereas posset was made with sherry and no eggs in England, once this drink came to the US, things changed based on availability.

"When colonists began settling in America, they had access to an excess of fresh eggs and milk, so egg-based drinks began to regain popularity," says the Fairway team. That excess of eggs and milk came from the large number of dairy farms in the colonies, and both ingredients were easy to get. And while expensive sherry wine was what was used in England, in America, the colonists switched the liquor to rum, which was a cheaper spirit they could make and buy themselves.

As we've previously noted, scholars aren't entirely certain where the word comes from—it could be a contraction of "egg and grog" or a reference to a "noggin," which was a type of cup at that time—but either way, the first recorded use of the word was in 1775, according to the etymologists at Merriam-Webster.

The aging process is pivotal to achieving that quintessential (and divisive) eggnog flavor. The Fairway team suggests aging it for a month or two before you want to drink it. If you age it any longer, the creamy beverage's flavor will become a bit more aggressive. Case in point: Serious Eats tried aging their eggnog recipe for one year and found that the booze used in their version was almost too overpowering and clashed with the milky flavor and consistency after being aged for so long.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

Aging eggnog is what gives it its eggnog-y flavor, but we're here to tell you that you can age it for a mere hour and still end up with the signature sip's taste. Here's how with our homemade eggnog recipe you can make with a secret weapon: your crockpot.

Easy Homemade Eggnog Recipe

two cups of eggnog sprinkled with nutmeg next to two cookies
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!

This is our favorite way to make eggnog—in a crockpot! And if the kids want to sip on it as well, you can skip having a spiked version, too, and make a mocktail version instead.

Here, we've aged the eggnog in just one hour in the fridge and still got creamy results (because we know during the holidays you want as many cooking shortcuts as you can).

Makes 10-12 servings

Ingredients

6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup liquor of choice (bourbon, rum, rye, cognac, etc.)
Cinnamon and nutmeg (for topping)

Directions

    1. Separate egg yolks from the egg whites using two bowls.
    2. Whisk in 1 cup of sugar into the egg yolks.
    3. Add in the 3 cups of milk, then 1 cup of heavy whipping cream. Whisk together.
    4. Add in the desired amount of alcohol, or just leave it plain.
    5. Wrap up the top and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
    6. Pour the mixture into a slow cooker.
    7. Cook the eggnog mixture in the slow cooker for 1 1/2 to 2 hours on high.
    8. While the eggnog is cooking, whisk the egg whites until they are frothy and make soft, stiff peaks. You'll know they are stiff if you take out the whisk and the peaks stand on their own.
    9. Serve in mugs with whipped cream on top, with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Now that you what eggnog truly is, you can surprise your family this Christmas with this eggnog recipe.

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more
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