Every year about this time our thoughts turn to eggnog. (We think of a lot of other things, of course, but eggnog also comes to mind.) Eggnog is a winter drink and a lot of people drink it cold. We suggest you try it hot. It’s made with eggs, plus milk or cream (or both), sweetened with sugar and flavored with cinnamon or nutmeg. And, of course, you can add alcohol. In fact, although most places that sell milk also sell non-alcoholic eggnog, the alcoholic versions are the originals.
Eggnog seems to have been concocted first by the British, though that’s not an established fact. In any case, it was an upper-class drink because poor folk — the great majority of the population then, as now — couldn’t afford milk or eggs, much less sugar. Settlers from England carried it to the American colonies in the 18th century and here it became a drink democratically enjoyed by the great majority. Wealth was more evenly spread in this country and colonial farmers had a far better life than their English counterparts. British troops sent here to quell the revolutionaries were astonished by the large productive farms owned by ordinary citizens and couldn’t understand why these well-off colonials were in such an uproar against the king.
In the colonies rum was mixed in with the eggs and cream and the whole was heated before being downed. (One derivation for the word eggnog has it beginning as egg-and-grog. Maybe, maybe not.) Later, during the war for independence, rum was hard to come by and colonial bourbon was used as a substitute. And, as it happens, many American recipes specify bourbon.
You might want to look at a few eggnog recipes before trying to invent one. There’s a web site called eggnogrecipe.net and we think that’s a good place to start. We haven’t been able to track down the source of the eggnog photo up there. But we did find a bottle of Evan Williams Egg Nog — the label says since 1783. The label also says Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Blended Whiskey. Rum and Brandy. We’ll be drinking that and doing research on it, so we can report back to you in a good frame of mind sometime after New Year’s Day.