Eggnog, that beloved holiday beverage that signifies parties and fetes, warm gatherings and fragrant moments, may seem innocent but it can pack a powerful wallop, as evidenced in the Egg Nog Riot of 1826 among cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Supposedly barred from drinking alcohol, the cadets smuggled in whiskey for their Christmas party’s eggnog which resulted in disorder, mayhem, and eventual career-ending court martials.
Seduced by Smoothness
All of which is easy enough to understand by anyone who has ever been seduced by its smooth, sweet, custard-like appeal. As was said of the political scene in Washington DC during the 19th century, government official got to work the day after the Christmas party either because of, or in spite of, their eggnog consumption.
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From “Posset” to Eggnog to “Lait de Poule”
Originally descended from a medicinal “posset” of ale, milk, and eggs that was enjoyed by English monks during the Middle Ages, it has always been a rich drink that comforted, on one level or another. The drink made it to the New World in the 18th century, where settlers had eggs, milk, sugar and an abundance of non-taxed rum to blend into their frothy drink. It is the rum that, some say, resulted in the name, a combination of the word “grog” which referred to rum, and “noggin,” a wooden drinking cup. The name didn’t make it to France, where versions of the drink are referred to as “lait de poule,” which means “milk from a chicken”.
Eggnog can be made in so many ways: sweetened with honey, maple syrup or sugar, with whole eggs or egg yolks, cream, milk, or half-n-half, with brandy or bourbon, rum or cognac. There are few constants; there are fewer rules. The main thing about eggnog is to make it according to your taste. It will warm those who cross your threshold; delight all who taste it.
A Dusting of…Piment d’Espelette
And while a quick dusting of nutmeg on the surface of each serving is traditional, I highly recommend using piment d’Espelette instead. Gentle and richly flavored, it will enhance your beverage and your experience.
Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!!
EGG NOG - LAIT DE POULE
- 6 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons vanilla confectioner’s sugar separated
- 6 tablespoons whisky or Bourbon.
- 1-1/2 cups (325ml) half and half, or half milk and half heavy cream
- Piment d’Espelette or Nutmeg, freshly grated
- Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in a large bowl.
- Add all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar to the egg yolks and whisk until the mixture if light and pale yellow.
- Whisk in the vanilla extract and the whisky or bourbon.
- Whisk the egg whites until they begin to break up and are frothy. Whisk in the remaining tablespoon of sugar, continuing to whisk until the egg whites make soft points.
- Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and either serve immedaitely, or chill for 30 minutes before serving.
- Pour the egg nog into glasses. Sprinkle each glass with piment d’Espelette (or grate nutmeg on top), and serve.