What the Heck Is a "Nog" Anyway? Why Is the Holiday Beverage Called That?

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Dec. 8 2021, Published 10:51 a.m. ET

Egg Nog
Source: Getty

For whatever reason, there are lots of holiday foods that seem to get a lot of hate. For Thanksgiving, it's green bean casserole (I don't think casserole is on anybody's death-row meal list). For Easter, it's those little Peeps marshmallows that are just tiny bites of sugar. And for Christmas, it's fruit cake and eggnog. While the latter treats receive what I would argue is an inordinate amount of slander, we need to address eggnog for a second. Does anyone know what the "nog" means in eggnog?

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What does the "nog" mean in eggnog?

During the holidays, you'll probably see tons of eggnog cartons lining refrigerators, and maybe your favorite coffee shop will even serve up some eggnog-flavored beverages to get you in the Christmas spirit.

However, drinking eggnog back in the day was a total flex, because to make it before refrigeration existed meant that you had a ton of money.

That's because the recipe for the stuff (which used to be called Milk Punch, blech) included a ton of sugar and brandy, not to mention plenty of milk, eggs, and egg yolks. It all had to be consumed at the party or it would've gone to waste (remember, no refrigeration), unless folks lived in a cold climate and put it in a jar to leave out in the snow.

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Woman Grinning While Holding a Cup of Eggnog
Source: Getty Images

OK, so we've got that part of the drink's history established, but what about the "nog" bit? We'll have to dig back in time to find the answer to that as well.

The curiosity first started when someone posed the same question in the Food 52 forum, along with what they've heard about the origins of its nomenclature.

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User Lapadia writes, "I have read that the 'nog' of eggnog comes from the word 'noggin' ... a noggin being a small, wooden-carved mug. Wondering what you have read, heard, or know."

Dictionary.com defines a noggin as a slang term for someone's head; most notably, it's also known as a small quantity of liquor.

Source: Twitter | @SimpsonsQOTD
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While there were several folks who seemed to echo Lapadia's own definition of a small wooden cup being defined as a noggin, it seems to make the most sense that calling a bit of alcohol a "noggin" would apply to the name of eggnog.

That's because, while the drink is an alcoholic beverage, when you think of going out and getting hammered with your friends, pounding a bunch of eggnog probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

What's a good eggnog recipe?

It's hard to go wrong with any of these classic Food Network recipes that feature both cooked and raw eggnog. Generally, they all follow the same ingredients and preparation methods.

The site reads, "The basic premise is whisking egg yolks with sugar to increase the volume of the yolks and create a natural thickener."

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Source: Twitter | @Davyngingivitis

As for the difference between the uncooked and cooked versions of the recipe: "For the raw version, you just take those steps and it’s done. For the cooked version, you basically make a custard with the egg yolks, sugar and milk. Then you add the cream (whipped or not, your call) and the whipped whites."

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Source: Twitter | @PFTCommenter

While each recipe more or less calls for the same stuff, if you're trying to make specific versions, like this Classic Capitol Eggnog, you'll need:

  • 6 cups of whole milk
  • 2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon of fresh, ground nutmeg (don't be afraid to sprinkle extra)
  • 12 pasteurized egg yolks
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • Bourbon or another liquor of choice

Include that last part if you're looking to spice up your drink, but it's probably a bad idea to do so if you're not interested in coming up on the short end of a White Elephant gift exchange.

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