A brief but entertaining history of eggnog


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Eggnog has a weird history but this article about it is definitely worth the read.

Tis’ the season to be ‘noggy. Eggnog, a drink almost as controversial as pineapple on pizza among teenagers, has finally hit stores, prompting the question: is it possible that eggnog has a history that’s even weirder than it’s texture?

I’ll give you a hint: it’s about as close as this election was (still is??). 

If you’re anything like me, you wait anxiously for the fateful day that eggnog comes to the local coffee shops. If you’re anything like some of my peers, the thought of drinking yolks makes you gag.

The epitome of holiday cheer is embodied in this single cup (Grace Radeke)

Caribou released their eggnog based drink, the Fa La Latte, last Thursday, and Starbucks, their eggnog latte, the following day. After ordering my first Fa La Latte of the season, I promptly sipped my iced ‘nog and wondered: what kind of person does it take to combine egg whites and nutmeg and call it a holiday celebration?

Turns out, there’s evidence of monks drinking eggnog as far back as the 13th century, though it became known as a holiday staple in the 1700s after hitching a ride to the American colonies. According to TIME magazine, the “nog” term probably comes from the word “noggin,” which refers to a wooden cup, or possibly the term “grog,” which was a nickname for very strong beer. 

Eggnog wasn’t originally intended to be an ale, though. The drink was originally enjoyed hot, immediately after brewing, but some were concerned about the safety of drinking several raw eggs (as any sane person would be). The alcohol was added to make the eggs safe to drink. 

So the eggs plus the “grog” equals nog. Can it get any weirder?

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, it can. On Christmas Eve, 1826, Cadets attending West Point Military Academy were informed that the ‘nog to be served at their annual Christmas party would be alcohol free, as per the academy rules. 

The students were evidently unsatisfied with their virgin eggnog. They smuggled about four gallons of whiskey in order to spike the holiday drink. The riot that ensued tore the academy apart, all in well-intended (but very destructive and highly discouraged) fun. Furniture and windows were smashed by sword-wielding students as they tore through their barracks. That Christmas Eve became known as, drumroll please, the Eggnog Riot. 

Not to go unpunished, of course. Of the 90-some boys involved, 19 students were promptly indicted. Among them was the future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and his general, Robert E. Lee.

Nowadays, of course, ‘nog is tastefully and tastily alcohol free in stores, so you and I can rightfully enjoy our lattes and related holiday cheer.

So the next time you get a whiff of nutmeg and egg yolk, remember that it isn’t eggnog’s fault that the odd beverage has an equally odd history. Consider celebrating this year with a festively-noggy flair.