The holidays always seem a little sweeter than the rest of the year. One great reason for that is the seasonal beverage eggnog. It's a versatile treat that truly christens this jolly time. Whether one prefers traditional, light or with a kick, eggnog is the ultimate refreshment for a wintertime get-together.
Eggnog has no definitive origin but may have first appeared in medieval England as "posset," a milk-based hot drink often mixed with ale or wine. "Nog" may have been derived from "noggin," which was a small wooden mug used for alcohol. In later centuries, the European aristocracy added eggs, spices and headier spirits, calling it "egg flip" or "egg 'n' grog." Once the recipe hit the American Colonial shores in the 1700s, rum, whiskey and bourbon became popular additives.
Most modern eggnog concoctions include milk and/or cream, sugar, eggs, cinnamon and/or nutmeg, but with consumers' changing tastes, even those opposed to ingesting animal products can enjoy this. The website http://www.egg-nog.info offers a way to make vegan nog; just substitute in soy milk and tofu. That site also boasts the "secret recipe" of Starbucks' eggnog latte, a warm coffee-based alternative to the average holiday fare.
For the more experimental nog-heads out there, try http://www.EggnogRecipe.net. Here one can find how-to's on chocolate nog, coconut nog and alcoholic mixed blends. Want one that's icy cold? Check out AllRecipes.com's eggnog smoothie (with vanilla pudding added). This vast info portal also teaches how to make eggnog pancakes, eggnog bread and a cranberry eggnog cocktail.
Need a quicker fix? Most food markets across the country sell ready-to-drink eggnog from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. Generally, it's in the dairy section of the grocery, costing approximately $3-$7 depending on the richness and the container. Most outlets offer low-fat alternatives, and some even have multiple flavors on hand.
Midwesterners are in luck; Roberts Dairy makes a "Halloween" blend, which is available weeks before most other nogs hit the shelves. "Halloween eggnog is usually (sold) after the week of Oct. 15, just in quarts," says Al Streeter, corporate marketing director for Roberts Dairy. "It's the same eggnog (but it comes in an orange carton). One of our sister dairies had done it and had some success with it." Come Nov. 1, Roberts Dairy switches over to the classic holiday recipe, which is available primarily in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.
Other celebrated brands include Broguiere's Farm Fresh Dairy (Southern California), Utah Farms (Utah) and Ronnybrook Farm Dairy (New York).
For drinking-age adults, there are numerous ways to enjoy alcoholic eggnogs. Two in-demand pre-mixed brands are Evan Williams and Christian Brothers, both produced by Heaven Hill Distilleries in Kentucky. As Larry Kass, director of corporate communications for Heaven Hill, explains: "Evan Williams is Southern-style (with bourbon in it). Christian Brothers uses brandy in it. They're actually the No. 1 and 2 spirited eggnog products in the country." Both are available in nearly all states and are shelf-stable for about four months.
Additionally, consumers can pour just about any type of dark alcohol they desire into a serving of store-bought eggnog. Though it's a sweet treat, one should measure the booze-to-nog ratio carefully and drink responsibly.
Here's to warm and happy bellies this holiday season, all made a little more heavenly when eggnog makes a guest appearance.