Light, creamy, and spiced with freshly grated nutmeg, this non-alcoholic Homemade Eggnog is so, SO much better than the store-bought variety that shows up in cartons each year around November or December. It is a beloved holiday beverage with a fascinating history!
It’s time for another installment in the Historically Hungry series that I’m doing with my friend Jenni, from The Gingered Whisk! The Historically Hungry series is where we showcase historical recipes that we feel deserve a modern-day resurgence in popularity. We like the idea of old recipes made new and geared toward modern kitchens and modern lifestyles. Like this easy homemade eggnog without alcohol that I’m sharing with you today! And Jenni’s got an amazing sounding Apple Cider Wassail that you should definitely check out!
A few disclaimers about this post:
- This is a non-alcoholic eggnog recipe, which, okay, okay, is not traditional (I’ll explain why below).
- Also, this is a cooked eggnog recipe, which, again, is not traditional.
- For a historical approach to homemade eggnog, this is not exactly a traditional eggnog recipe.
But before you waltz away to seek out a “more authentic” eggnog recipe, let me ‘splain why I’m sharing this particular eggnog recipe with a little historical context as my guide! And maybe, just maybe, you will give this recipe a try, realize it’s basically the best eggnog you have ever tasted IN YOUR LIFE (I’m looking at you eggnog haters) and be persuaded to come back and comment about your newfound love of all things eggnog.
Do you have your doubts? My husband, who has always proclaimed a deep and heartfelt loathing of eggnog, could not stop drinking this. Why? Because homemade eggnog is SO MUCH BETTER than the stuff you buy in a carton!
Admittedly, there seems to be a huge divide between fans of eggnog and those who say bah-humbug to the yuletide beverage. Seems like you either love it or you hate it. If you are in the latter category I hope I can change your mind.
So here’s the thing: store-bought eggnog tends to be sweeter, thicker, and richer than homemade eggnog. And to me, most of the commercial eggnog has a chemical sort of aftertaste that I really don’t enjoy.
But fresh, homemade eggnog is light and creamy, and the flavor of the freshly grated nutmeg really shines through!
History of Eggnog
It seems like there is consensus that eggnog most likely started out as a drink called posset in England in the middle ages. It evolved over time but was essentially a combination of milk, eggs, and alcohol.
No one is quite sure exactly how it got the name eggnog. Some say it was named for the small cups or wooden mugs, called noggins, that were used for posset and similar beverages. Others think eggnog got it’s name from the practice in colonial America of referring to thick drinks as grogs, and that this particular beverage became egg-and-grog and eventually, shortened to eggnog.
It was also in America that rum became associated with eggnog, thanks to rum being a product of the Carribbean and much less expensive in the colonies than other alcohol that would have been shipped from Europe. And since many Americans had their own farms to supply the milk and eggs, eggnog could suddenly be enjoyed by all classes, not just the wealthy.
Eggnog and its precursors were invented long before refrigeration, likely as a means of preserving the milk and eggs that were plentiful during the summertime so they could be consumed during the lean months of winter when milk and egg production slowed down and those ingredients were scarce. Alcohol was added as a powerful preservative and sterilizer, killing almost all bacteria that will cause food to spoil. So people could make batches of eggnog using lots of fresh eggs, milk, and cream, add some alcohol, and then let it sit for months before drinking it!
Kind of genius, right?
But ingredients like fresh eggs and milk were often not accessible to the poorer classes, so eggnog tended to be reserved for the wealthy. And because of it’s cost, it was often used for toasts on special occasions, which is possibly why it came to be associated with the holidays.
By the Victorian period (1837-1901), eggnog had largely replaced punch in America as the drink of choice during the holidays. It was also one of the few alcoholic drinks that was considered socially acceptable for ladies to drink in public.
I even found this article from TIME that has a brief history of eggnog, along with a famously heavy-on-the-alcohol eggnog recipe written by none other than George Washington and included in the “Old Farmer’s Almanac”:
One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 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.
Yeah, the recipe I’m sharing below is a little different, lol. But for legit reasons.
Modern Approach to Traditional Eggnog
First, I’m recommending that you heat the milk and cream, then use it to temper the egg yolks.
It’s not so much cooking the eggs as heating them just enough to kill bacteria, around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Honestly, while I personally don’t have anything against raw eggs and you would in all likelihood be fine without heating the mixture, I actually preferred the batches of cooked eggnog when I was recipe testing over the batches that were made with raw eggs. I felt like the heat improved both the flavor and the texture. Plus, if just gives peace of mind.
Even though traditional eggnog is uncooked, tempering the eggs does what the traditional alcohol would have done as far as sterilizing the eggs and killing any bacteria that could be present. And when you are making non-alcoholic eggnog, I feel like it’s a valid alteration to the classic approach.
The second tweak I personally recommend is to add a little rum extract to the eggnog. Again, classic eggnog wouldn’t have needed it because it was made with, well, rum. But in a non-alcoholic version, I feel like it totally makes sense to give the eggnog that little extra somethin’ somethin’ without adding any booze and rum extract does the trick. It’s totally optional, but even though the amount called for in the recipe is small, it definitely makes a difference in the taste and I definitely preferred the batches made with rum extract over the batches made without it.
My third tip is to use freshly grated nutmeg. I tried batches with both regular ground nutmeg and whole nutmeg that I grated using the same rasp I use to zest lemons and limes. And the freshly grated nutmeg makes such a difference! You can find them in the spice aisle next to all the regular spices.
Lastly, while you are probably going to want to drink the eggnog right away, I really feel like letting it sit in the fridge overnight helps the flavor and texture develop even more and taste even better somehow. Since classic eggnog was aged for weeks, even months, letting your eggnog have time for the flavors to meld together only adds to its authenticity.
But if you really can’t wait, then by all means, go for it. This eggnog will still taste delicious the day you make it.
Final Notes on Making Homemade Eggnog
If you really want an even more authentic experience, go ahead and skip the cooking and tempering process and just beat the egg yolks and sugar together before adding the remaining ingredients. I made a couple batches this way just to see what the flavor and texture differences are like and it’s very good (although, again, I ultimately preferred the cooked approach for reasons mentioned above).
If you are worried about raw eggs, you could look for pasteurized eggs, which the USDA has said are safe for consumption without cooking.
Also, while researching eggnog recipes, I also discovered that many people like to beat the egg whites into a froth and fold them into the mixed eggnog as a final step. Which makes sense because it seems like such a waste to not use so many egg whites!
I tried a batch using this approach as well, but didn’t really like the foamy froth, so I ultimately left it out of my recipe. I would rather use the egg whites for macarons or old-fashioned divinity anyway!
Light, creamy, and spiced with freshly grated nutmeg, this non-alcoholic Homemade Eggnog is so, SO much better than the store-bought variety that shows up in cartons each year around November or December. It is both a beloved and beleaguered holiday beverage with a fascinating history.
- 12 egg yolks
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cups milk
- 2 cups cream
- 3 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon rum extract (optional)
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl until light in color and creamy.
In a saucepan, combine the milk, cream, nutmeg and salt and heat over medium heat until barely at a simmer with bubbles forming around the edges, but do not bring to a boil.
Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the hot liquid into the eggs and sugar to temper the eggs. Repeat a few more times until about 1/3 of the hot liquid has been mixed into the eggs.
Add the tempered egg yolk liquid back into the pan with the remaining milk and cream and heat until it reaches 160 degrees or just starts to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum extract. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, then chill completely in the fridge until ready to serve. Best served the next day after the eggnog has had time to age slightly.
Don’t forget to go check out The Gingered Whisk’s Apple Cider Wassail too! Cloves, citrus, apple cider and cinnamon – it sounds fantastic and I’m sure it will make your house smell incredible this holiday season!
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