Eggnog is a staple drink during the holiday season. Historians debate the exact ancestry of eggnog but most agree that it originated from early medieval “posset”, a hot, milky, ale-like drink. Eventually, expensive and rare ingredients like eggs, sherry, brandy and Madeira were added and the drink became the trademark of the upper class.
During the 18th century, eggnog found its way across the Atlantic to British North America. However, since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, colonists substituted more cost-effective alcohol like rum, domestic whiskey, bourbon, and even home-made moonshine. With access to inexpensive liquor and plenty of fresh eggs and dairy products, the popularity of eggnog soared in the colonies.
Given his connection to numerous myths, it is unsurprising that a “George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe” falsely claimed to be written by Washington himself circulates widely on the Internet. As popular as the drink was in the 1700s, he certainly drank it and served it to others but “no recipe penned by Washington appears in George or Martha Washingtons’ papers nor in the cookbook that Martha inherited from her first marriage nor in her personal copy of The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse, which was the most popular English cookbook in America in the latter half of the 18th century (published in 1747).”
Nevertheless, we decided to make an eggnog using this mythical Washington recipe. Given the ingredients, I think you might understand why. Moreover, although it originally dates from the 19th century, it certainly could have been made a century earlier.
“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”
This potent mixture creates a classic colonial eggnog. Purists who argue that store-bought versions can’t hold a candle to the homemade goodness will be quite satisfied.