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Why Is Egg The Only Nog?


This holiday season, we're tracking down the origins of some favorite holiday traditions - today, eggnog. The egg part is obvious. Traditionally, there's raw eggs in the drink - but nog?

ALTON BROWN: Historians argue a great deal about why we call eggnog eggnog.


That's Alton Brown, a TV personality and author of all kinds of books about the history of food.

BROWN: Well, a nog was a kind of strong ale that was made in parts of England around Suffolk. But others believe that it comes from the use of a wooden cup called a noggin.

SHAPIRO: Either way, the drink is really old.

BROWN: The beverage that we know of as eggnog actually has its roots in a drink that goes back at least to 13th century England called possit, which was essentially a spiced, warm ale that had eggs mixed into it, both the egg yolks and the whites.

SUAREZ: He says eggnog used to be a drink for the rich. Eggs, milk and spices were scarce in Europe in the Middle Ages. And then Europeans started to move to America. Here's mixologist and writer Colleen Graham.

COLLEEN GRAHAM: The colonies had their eggs and their milk and rum readily available to everyone. It became a commoner's drink that everyone could enjoy together.

SHAPIRO: Since then, eggnog has become a tradition for many families in America.


SUAREZ: As it is in Elizabeth Lonsdorf's family.

ELIZABETH LONSDORF: It is an ancient family secret. And in fact, the original handwritten recipe from my great grandmother is kept in a safe deposit box. My grandfather always made it. My mom remembers him making it from when she was little.

SHAPIRO: And then her parents took the recipe and turned it into a party - a yearly party in which eggnog is the star. Now that Elizabeth is an adult, she and her husband are in charge of the eggnog party every year, and they take it very seriously.

LONSDORF: My husband just landed from a business trip from Sweden last night, and it's not an exaggeration to say that his trip was timed to be back to make eggnog.

SUAREZ: It takes three dozen eggs and nearly two gallons of alcohol to make enough nog for the party. But for the Lonsdorfs, it's more than just a boozy beverage.

LONSDORF: I remember helping my parents make the eggnog, and my kids have helped me make the eggnog. And my parents have actually been with us in the house when we've made eggnog with my kids, so we've had three generations of people making eggnog.

SHAPIRO: With the kids involved, the future of this traditional treat looks bright. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.