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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Colonial Favorite: Eggnog Punch by Cynthia Howerter

Americans have always loved their eggnog.  A popular drink in the American colonies, eggnog originated in Britain where it derived from a medieval beverage called “posset.”

Posset, served hot, was composed of eggs, milk, either ale or wine, and whatever spices were available.  Due to the ingredients which weren’t readily available to the masses, it was a drink mostly enjoyed by the lord of the manor and his guests.   

Over time, the ale in posset was replaced by wine or brandy and the name changed to "eggnog."  This delicious libation continued to be enjoyed almost exclusively by the English upper class whose large estates provided them with dairy products.  Alas, the common folk had little access to dairy products and rarely saw a glass of milk.  

Life in the colonies was vastly different from England.  Thanks to the numerous farms, eggs and milk were not only abundant, but readily available to most people, allowing citizens from all walks of life to enjoy eggnog punch.  Wealthier colonists added expensive wines and brandies to their eggnog punch, while the affordability of rum made it a popular addition to the average person’s nog.  No matter what type of alcohol was used, its addition to eggnog most certainly delivered a “punch”—hence the significance of that term.

It’s not known exactly how the name “eggnog” came into being.  During the seventeenth century, drinks were served in wooden cups and mugs called “noggins.” It seems logical that the serving of the egg-based drink in a noggin was combined into one word, “eggnog.”  Perhaps after one had consumed several noggins of the alcohol-laced punch, it was just easier to lift an empty mug and request a refill using an efficiency of words: "Egg-nog--if ye please."

George Washington loved eggnog, so much so that he is supposed to have hand-written his own recipe for it.  He notes that the concoction should be “tasted frequently” as it cured in a cool place for several days, but as he did not identify who the taster should be, we will leave that to our imaginations. 

Over two-hundred years later, Americans still enjoy their eggnog, especially during the Christmas holidays.  While it can be purchased ready-to-drink, there’s nothing like a punch bowl filled with homemade nog.

My family and our guests have enjoyed the following recipe for several generations.  I do hope you’ll try my recipe, and as you lift a cup in a toast, remember to thank our forefathers for passing along this traditional drink. 

To you, your good health, and the New Year! 

Cynthia Howerter’s Eggnog Punch

Yolks of 12 large eggs (use pasteurized eggs, available at most grocery stores)
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 quart whole milk

1 quart heavy cream

3 cups half-and-half

Ground nutmeg for dusting

            In a large mixing bowl, beat 12 egg yolks,* sugar, and nutmeg until the mixture lightens in color and falls off the whisk or beaters in a solid “ribbon.”  In another bowl, combine the milk, cream, and half-and-half; slowly beat this mixture into the egg mixture.  Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least three hours.  Pour into a punch bowl and dust with additional nutmeg.  Makes about 24 small noggins.
*Note:  Either use the egg whites for another recipe or dispose of them.

All photographs ©2014 Cynthia Howerter

Award-winning author Cynthia Howerter loves using her training in education, research, writing, and speaking to teach and inspire others about a time in America that was anything but boring. A member of the Daughters of the American revolution (DAR), Cynthia believes history should be alive and personal.

Visit Cynthia's website: Cynthia Howerter - all things historical 


  1. Interesting article, Cynthia! I've heard posset before but that was a long time ago. And that is neat about the noggins. Thanks for the post and Happy New Years!!!

  2. Thanks, Carrie! Glad you enjoyed the article. Now you'll have to make the eggnog and invite me over to taste it!

  3. I was just thinking about looking for a traditional posset or eggnog recipe for my adventures in historic food post for my blog. So, I guess you were reading my mind! And, Happy New Year, too.

  4. Thanks, Sassy. Hope you enjoy my family's recipe! And a very happy new year to you!

  5. So after the eggnog is in the refrigerator to season, you can use the egg whites to make an angel food cake. http://www.food.com/recipe/angel-food-cake-homemade-12591

    I love the fact that each takes an even dozen eggs. By the time you've finished making the eggnog, the egg whites will be at room temperature.

    Thank you for sharing your family recipe.

    1. Thanks, Judith, for letting me know about the angel food cake recipe! Now I won't have to feel guilty throwing out a dozen yolks! My family loves angel food cake, by the way.

  6. Nice blog and recipes, Happy New Year !

    1. Hi, Retriever! Thanks for the kind words! Happy New Year to you!


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