A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

What's the origin of "egg nog"?

December 13, 1999

Dear Straight Dope:

Where did the word and beverage "egg nog" come from?

The easy answer is just to say that egg nog, defined as a drink in which the white and yolk of eggs--I'm presuming hen's eggs here--are stirred up with hot beer, cider, wine, or other spirits, and that it's a beverage of American origin, circa Revolutionary times. But as I'm bursting with holiday spirits, let me give you more. "Egg" is simple enough to figure out, but what about "nog?" The Oxford English Dictionary says that nog is "a kind of strong beer originally brewed in East Anglia." Over time different types of alcohol have been substituted for nog, or even eliminated for virgin egg nog. What does all that mean? Simply put, the original egg nog was a combination of eggs and nog. Seeing as how that answer is a yawner, I culled a few cookbooks and came up with a modern list of ingredients for egg nog:

1 dozen egg yolks
2-3 quarts of heavy cream
1 quart whole milk
Apple brandy to taste
Sugar to taste

Wow. Make sure to check your cholesterol level before you go a-noggin'.

But wait! Here's an extra holiday bonus for you from your doting Dogster. If that egg nog get a little too rich and cloying after the first few sips, here's a yuletime drink that'll take the stripes off your candy canes. Introduced to me by an old girlfriend from Sweden, I give you Glug (for those among us of legal drinking age, of course):

8 ounces water
1 cup raisins
3 cinnamon sticks
5 whole cloves
12 cardamom seeds
2 dry orange peels

Boil ingredients for 10 minutes in saucepan, then add:

1 gallon port wine
One 750-ml bottle brandy
16 ounces rum
1/2 cup sugar

Bring to a boil and let simmer 1 minute. Turn off burner and ignite. Allow the mix to burn for about 15 seconds. Serve hot.

Be careful with this stuff, or you may find the wrong hand down the wrong Christmas stocking. Your mileage may vary, but you were warned.

One drawback of homemade egg nog is the possible danger of salmonella or other bacteria which can be present in raw eggs (see http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fs-eggs.html).  So here's a recipe for cooked eggnog from the American Egg Board:

6 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1 quart milk* divided
1 teaspoon vanilla,
Garnishes or stir-ins, optional (see below)

In large saucepan, beat together eggs, sugar and salt, if desired. Stir in 2 cups of the milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film and reaches at least 160°F. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight. Just before serving, pour into bowl or pitcher. Garnish or add stir-ins, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 1.5 quarts or twelve 1/2-cup servings.

*For faster preparation heat milk until very warm before stirring milk into eggs and sugar.

MICROWAVE: In 2-quart liquid measure or bowl, beat together eggs, sugar and salt, if desired, until thoroughly blended. Set aside. In l -quart liquid measure or bowl, cook 2 cups of the milk on full power until bubbles form at edges, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir into egg mixture. Cook on 50% power until mixture is thick enough to coat a metal spoon with a thin film and reaches at least 160°F, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in remaining 2 cups milk and vanilla. Continue as above.

GARNISHES AND STIR-INS
Chocolate curls
Maraschino cherries
Cinnamon sticks
Orange slices
Extracts or flavorings
Peppermint sticks or candy canes
Flavored brandy or liqueur
Plain brandy, rum or whiskey
Fruit juice or nectar
Sherbet or ice cream
Ground nutmeg
Whipping cream, whipped

Note: All microwave cooking times are based on a full power output of 600 to 700 watts. For a lower wattage oven allow more time.

In closing, here's a truly scary site for you to visit: http://www.public.asu.edu/~jammer/NOG1.HTM.  

Obsession--it's not just for Trekkies anymore. People, hide your eggs.

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