Eggnog has a mysterious past that has been completely lost to most, yet is still so ubiquitously entwined within our Winter holiday seasons that one could hardly imagine being able to survive the drinking gauntlet to New Years without having acquired the frothy mustache at least once. Simply mentioning the word “eggnog” brings forth the sense memory assault of allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg swirling within a rich batter of pungent family therapy. Store bought cartons of this ripe mixture will undoubtedly compost among the war-torn mounds of whimsical wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and Aunt Norma’s yearly gift of a diabetus bejewelled fruit cake.
You have two choices:
1) Sit there in your ironically ugly Christmas sweater, partaking of the drunken walrus ejaculate, wishing to any god that might be listening, from any one of the religions your family wasn’t fortunate enough to be born into, that you can survive this annual gathering of evolutionary misfit toys… or 2) stand up and proclaim dominion of the historical nog and bring liquid enlightenment to your (questionably derived from) family!
The definitive cocktail tome (of which you surely have a reprinted copy of, RIGHT?!), Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks from 1862, has six recipes for “Egg Nogg,” two words, capital ‘N’ and an extra ‘G,’ bitches! It also notes that in Scotland, they refer to “Egg Nogg” as “Auld Man’s Milk,” which conjures up all sorts of questionable imagery. Walrus ejaculate’s making a little more sense now, huh?!
(Use large bar glass)
1 table-spoonful of fine sugar, dissolved with
1 table-spoonful of cold water, 1 egg.
1 wine-glass of Cognac brandy.
1/2 wine-glass of Santa Cruz rum.
1/3 tumblerful of milk.
FIll the tumbler 1/4 full with shaved ice, shake the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed together, and grate a little nutmeg on top. Every well ordered bar has a tin egg-nogg “shaker,” which is a great aid in mixing this beverage.
It then notes that Hot Egg Nogg is very popular in California (the Gold Rush started thirteen years previously). It is prepared exactly the same way but with boiling water instead of ice.
This is a far cry from the creamy, frothy version we might think of today. It’s been suggested the term “nogg” might be derived from “nugg” or “nugged ale” which warmed ale with a hot poker from the fire. This method is commonly known as a “flip” in colonial America, however, by the time of Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide, the flip was described as “flipping” or repeatedly pouring the drink between two vessels. One can imagine a fine establishment in the 19th century didn’t have fire pokers laying around the bar, so a flip developed into another method to make the drink frothy and turbulent. Do any of your modern family traditions use a blender to make eggnog?
Looking at the recipe again, you can start to see the lineage. It’s simply an “ale” of booze, milk and sugar syrup with an egg. The milk punch is a close cousin, as it is also the cousin of Prohibition era cocktails using egg whites to create a richer mouth feel and soften the harsh edge of lower quality spirits.
But what of the rich soup we sip today? That’s quite an evolution from this thin mixture to a rich and decadent dessert among an explosive family of subtle variations of technique.
The Egg Flip, as described by Jerry Thomas, is far closer in its heritage to our modern Eggnog, with a grander production involved.
Put a quart of ale in a tinned saucepan on the fire to boil; in the mean time, beat up the yolks of four, with the white of two eggs, adding four table spoonfuls of brown sugar and a little nutmeg; pour on the ale by degrees, beating up, so as to prevent the mixture from curdling; then pour back and forward repeatedly from the vessel to vessel, raising the hand to as great a height as possible – which process produces the smoothness and frothing essential to the good quality flip. This is excellent for a cold, and, from its fleecy appearance, is sometimes designated “a yard of flannel.”
The Scottish “nugg” abounds in that description of an Egg Flip.
One last recipe that is worth noting, that continues the rich mixology history of cocktails and their constant adaptation and artistic exploration, is the Tom and Jerry. If you want to go full-blown spirited geek on your family, give this a try this holiday season. After your family partakes a couple of these, it might be clear how the cocktail influenced the origin of the cartoon’s name and rambunctious theme.
Tom and Jerry
(Use punch-bowl for the mixture)
5 lbs. sugar.
1/2 small glass of Jamaica rum.
1 1/2 teaspoonful of ground cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoonful of ground cloves.
1/2 teaspoonful of ground allspice.
Beat the whites of the eggs to a stiff froth, and the yolks until they are as thin as water, then mix together and add the spice and rum, thicken with sugar until the mixture attains the consistence of a light batter.
To deal out Tom and Jerry to customers:
Take a small bar glass, and to one table-spoonful of the above mixture, add one wine-glass of brandy, and fill the glass with boiling water, grate a little nutmeg on top.
Adepts at the bar, in serving Tom and Jerry, sometimes adopt a mixture of 1/2 brandy, 1/4 Jamaica rum, and 1/4 Santa Cruz rum, instead of brandy plain. This compound is usually mixed and kept in a bottle, and a wine-glassful is used to each tumbler of Tom and Jerry.
N.B. – A tea-spoonful of cream of tartar, or about as much carbonate of soda as you can get on a dime, will prevent the sugar from settling to the bottom of the mixture. This drink is sometimes called Copenhagen, and sometimes Jerry Thomas.
As all bars and bartenders do, they vary the recipes over time, borrow influences from many sources, as well as adapt to cost and the reality of running an establishment. The flavor profile of one beverage might influence another. The technique to wow patrons may be employed to add flare to the experience. Popularity inspires business ventures and industrialization, requiring new techniques and ingredients to store and ship what used to be made to order. As time changes from alcohol being employed to preserve and pasteurize pathogens to a national ban on alcohol, so too do recipes change.
Auld Man’s Milk… Nugg… Egg Nogg… Egg Flip… Eggnog…
Whatever cocktail path your family tradition embraced, grab hold of it and make it yours to develop further into the future. As you grasp that carton of eggnog, tell stories of these ‘odd’ recipes… maybe a seed of curiousity will be planted for next year’s gathering. Otherwise, join me in portioning out these historical recipes to your loved ones this year!
I hope you have a spirited holiday season and expand the palate of all around you.
-Spirited Geek 🍸