Eggnog: the festive cocktail that either brings joy or strikes fear into the heart, depending on one’s tolerance for raw eggs.
I happened across Leo Engel’s 1878 book American & Other Drinks while browsing our recent contributions to the UK Medical Heritage Library. Engel was an expat from New York who worked as bartender in London’s esteemed Criterion Restaurant, which had opened five years earlier.
Of the 200 recipes in the book, Engel offers us six for ‘Egg Nogg’: cold and hot versions in single servings, and punch bowls for up to fifteen guests. The Baltimore Egg Nogg, despite its mix of brandy or rum and Madeira, gives the would-be drinker hope for the Morning After:
Egg Nogg made in this manner is digestible and will not cause headache. It makes an excellent drink for debilitated persons and a nourishing diet for consumptives.
In the long-standing tradition of self-experimentation, a topic well covered in the Wellcome Library collections, I set to work recreating this 120 year old drink recipe. (Spoiler alert: I survived!)
As any recipe historian can tell you, it can sometimes take some effort to translate ingredients, quantities and techniques from the past to what’s available today. For a single serving glass of eggnog, I could assume that our standard wine pour of 175ml was not the measure Engel intended. Cross-referencing this recipe with a 21st century cocktail book, I established the 25ml pour as my unit of measurement for the liquor. My take on the recipe is as follows:
- 1 US tablespoon each of sugar and water, approximately 15g sugar to 15ml water
- 1 fresh egg
- 50ml Cognac
- 25ml rum (I used Barbados rum)
- Ice cubes to fill 1/2 the tumbler or other serving glass
- 1/4 tumbler whole milk (a mix of cream and milk may be used)
Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and give it a good shake for as long as your hands can grasp the cold steel. Strain into your tumbler, top with grated nutmeg and enjoy. Having grown up drinking commercially-produced, non-alcoholic American eggnog, this cocktail was a revelation. Not too thick and not too sweet, this version would make a nice afternoon cocktail or accompaniment to a dessert.
Engel’s bar book is not the only one in our digital collections to feature eggnog. In the third edition of Mrs. Maclurcan’s cookery book: a collection of practical recipes specially suitable for Australia (1899), the author eschews sugar and milk entirely. Nothing more than ice, nutmeg, brandy or rum and an egg are required for the Maclurcan nog.
This book, like many other cookery books in the collections, connects health and wellbeing to what we eat and drink. The chapter on Invalid Cookery includes a recipe for gruel with the suggested addition of wine or rum.
What better way to spend your free time this festive season than a bit of kitchen experimentation? If you’re a connoisseur of curious tipples, mix up a few drinks from Engel and Maclurcan and let us know how you get on (and how you feel afterward!).
To your health!