George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe

eggnog served with whipped cream and nutmeg

George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe is purported to be from our first president himself, and speaks to the longevity of this merry holiday cocktail. I researched and tested the historic recipe, and here’s what I discovered…

George Washington's Eggnog recipe in a vintage glass

George Washington’s Eggnog Recipe ~

Is this really George Washington’s eggnog recipe?

Nobody knows for sure, and I couldn’t track down any definitive documentation, but the recipe is authentic to the era and was supposedly written down by George himself. Authorities as illustrious as The Farmer’s Almanac, CNN, Wikipedia, Time Magazine and National Geographic have reported it, but in an email to USA TODAY, Melissa Wood, director of communications at Mount Vernon, said no eggnog recipe has been definitively linked to Washington. So I guess it’s a delicious but unsubstantiated story.

Anyway, in the spirit of responsible journalism 😉 thought I’d give it a go myself. Note that George mentions eggs, but doesn’t specify how many. The general consensus is that 12 is the right number. Notice I’ve halved the recipe down below, because I don’t know about you, but our household is definitely not up for that much nog!

When it comes to booze, things haven’t changed much since George’s time, lol, and George’s recipe is perfectly drinkable today. George adds sherry to the classic combination of  bourbon or cognac, rum and whiskey which I love. It’s extra boozy, rich, and totally worthy of those epic end of year toasts (this year I think we’ll all be ringing in 2021 with a little extra enthusiasm.)

George Washington's eggnog recipe in a vintage glass with nutmeg and nutmeg grater

A brief history of eggnog, the delicious drink with a strange name

According to the Smithsonian ‘nog’ is an old English word that was used to describe strong ale, and it might be where ‘eggnog’ comes from. Another possibility is that the name refers to the archaic word for wooden cup, or ‘nog’.

Eggnog first appeared in medieval Britain as ‘posset,’ a hot milk drink with wine or ale added. Eggs were added as monks claimed the drink as their own, and sherry gradually replaced the ale. Posset was sometimes used as a cold and flu remedy, but today it’s more often known as a custard type dessert.

Eggnog eventually jumped the pond to become a special treat for the colonial set in America’s earliest days. The colonists replaced sherry, which was hard to come by, with readily available whiskey and rum.

The term eggnog was first used in America in the 1770s.

George Washington served eggnog at Mount Vernon according to the estate’s kitchen records.

By the 19th century eggnog was firmly established as a holiday drink in American culture.

The Eggnog Riot of 1826 at the United States Military Academy was a result of cadets smuggling alcohol into the then dry campus for their holiday party eggnog.

During Prohibition (1920 to 1933) consumption of eggnog decreased.

By the 1940s bottled non-alcoholic eggnog was being sold, and is available in November and December. The best bottled eggnog is always from your local dairy, sold in glass bottles. It’s worth hunting for.

In the 1950s president Eisenhower shared his favorite version of the drink (see that in the recipe notes below.)

Plant based eggnogs were introduced in the 1980s, including Tofu Nog.

December 24th is National Eggnog Day.

making eggnog with beaten egg whites

eggnog and food safety ~ what about those raw eggs?

In colonial times getting salmonella from raw eggs was not an issue, and eggs could safely be consumed raw. Today, even though it’s only about one in every 30,000 eggs that can be infected, it’s not a risk worth taking. Today you should not consume raw eggs, especially if you have a weakened immune system, are a young child, a pregnant woman or an older adult.

You can use commercially pasteurized eggs for this recipe. Pasteurized eggs have been heated just enough to kill off any dangerous bacteria, but not enough to cook the eggs. They look and function just like regular eggs, only they’re safe to eat without cooking. Look for them next to the regular eggs in your supermarket.

Food scientist Harold McGee suggests submerging eggs in a 135-degree pot of water for two hours to effectively pasteurize them and kill bacteria. If you’ve got one of the newer Instant Pots that can customize temperature, this might be handy.

Foodsafety.gov suggests that another way to avoid raw eggs is to cook the eggnog mixture first (before adding the alcohol) to an internal temperature of 160F. Do this in a heavy saucepan and stir constantly. Chill the mixture and then add the alcohol. Omit the egg whites.

Finally, you can make eggnog without the eggs altogether! Just leave them out. I would whip the cream and fold it into the mixture before serving. You might want to reduce the alcohol a bit as well since you’ll be reducing the volume of your nog.

eggs in a carton

Why do we age eggnog?

This is an interesting and complex question…aging foods, not just eggnog, is a time tested technique for intensifying flavors.

alcohol for eggnog

How would I tweak George’s recipe?

  • I use pasteurized eggs for safety.
  • I would add a bit more sugar, probably double. I feel like that little extra sweetness adds to the festivity of the drink.
  • I would cut down the alcohol a bit, but still use the original proportions.
  • We topped ours with loosely whipped cream and fresh grated nutmeg.
  • Martha Stewart adds folds whipped cream into the finished nog just before serving. Not a bad idea, it adds a nice thick texture.

adding alcohol to eggnog ~ George Washington's recipe

What kind of glasses do you serve eggnog in?

Small glasses are key, this stuff is rich and potent! The glass I used for my photos is about the largest I’d suggest. Usually I choose a smaller size, lol.

  • Small punch glasses (and a punch bowl) work great for a crowd
  • Old Fashioned cocktail glasses work well
  • Glass mugs and tumblers are a nice casual choice
  • Wine glasses
  • Delicate etched vintage glasses (check out thrift stores)

Don’t forget the garnish

  • sweetened whipped cream
  • a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg (or cinnamon)
  • a cinnamon stick tucked into the glass looks nice

eggnog served with whipped cream and nutmeg

More cozy winter cocktails

eggnog served with whipped cream and nutmeg
Print
5 from 16 votes

George Washington's Egg Nog Recipe

George Washington's Eggnog Recipe is purported to be from our first president himself, and speaks to the longevity of this merry holiday cocktail. (I've halved the original recipe and re worded for clarity)
Course cocktails
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Chilling 1 day
Yield 16 -20 servings
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • electric beaters
  • one extra large storage containers or bowls

Ingredients

egg nog

  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1/2 cup rye whiskey
  • 1/2 cup Jamaica rum
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 6 large eggs, spearated
  • 6 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk

optional garnish

  • sweetened whipped cream
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • a cinnamon stick

Instructions

  • Mix the alcohols together.
    alcohol in bottles, for eggnog
  • Best the egg yolks with the sugar.
    Egg yolks and sugar in a bowl
  • Slowly beat in the milk and cream.
    adding milk and cream to egg yolks for eggnog
  • Then stir in the alcohol.
    Making eggnog in a pyrex measuring cup
  • Beat the egg whites until stiff.
    Mixing beaten egg whites into eggnog
  • Gently fold the whites into the eggnog mixture.
    folding beaten egg whites into eggnog
  • Cover the eggnog tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to several days to allow the flavors to develop.
    finished eggnog, covered in plastic for refrigerator
  • Ladle into glasses and serve with whipped cream and a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg.
    eggnog served with whipped cream and nutmeg

notes and variations

  • I halved George's recipe, so double for a larger crowd.
  • Be sure to use pasteurized eggs because the eggs are not cooked in this recipe. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, or anyone with a weakened immune system are especially at risk.
  • Don't worry too much about what brands to use, any decent labels will work. Be sure to use a drinking sherry, not cooking wine.

 

President Eisenhower's eggnog recipe (from the Eisenhower Library

Ingredients
  • 1 dozen egg yolks
  • 1 pound granulated sugar
  • 1 quart bourbon (part of this may be either rum or brandy)
  • 1 quart coffee cream (this is half and half)
  • 1 quart whipping cream
Instructions
Put the dozen egg yolks in an electric mixer. Feed in the granulated
sugar very slowly as to get a completely smooth, clear light
mixture. When this is perfectly smooth, begin
to add the bourbon very slowly. (The process up to here would typically
consume at least 30 minutes -- with a good mixer.) Add one quart of coffee
cream. 
Put the whole thing in the ice box until a half hour before serving,
at which time the whipping cream should be beaten until only
moderately thick. Be careful not to get it too thick. Mix it slowly
into the mixture and serve with nutmeg.
Cheers!
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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17 Comments

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  • Reply
    Mary
    December 7, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    5 stars
    Oh my goodness, this looks and sounds like a really nice drop. As there will only be 2 of us for Christmas (like a lot of others) I don’t think I had better tempt us. But I would certainly like to………… :)))

  • Reply
    low and slow
    December 7, 2020 at 1:33 pm

    5 stars
    If I use my sous vide machine set to 135 degrees for two hours then will the eggs become pasteurized? BTW your husband is right about the the Maple Cheese Cake,the recipe is spot on was very successful,no cracks and really dense.thanks for the recipe.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 1:59 pm

      That’s what Harold McGee says, and I’ve read it elsewhere too. I’m so glad you tried the maple cheesecake!!

  • Reply
    Theresa Keller
    December 7, 2020 at 10:09 am

    5 stars
    What a great post! My mom’s family were all from Virginia and I grew up on this version that was my g grandfather’s.

    1 dz fresh eggs beat well and add in 1/2 cup of sugar, continue to beat and add 1 fifth of apple jack brandy, 1 qt of 1/2 & 1/2 and 1 pint of whole milk, mix well and chill before serving. dust with nutmeg

    This is not real sweet, and I like to make bread pudding with it if there is any left! Happy Holidays to you!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Theresa, it’s fun to trade recipes here, I’ll have to try yours. I’m definitely going to make some eggnog infused recipes this year, love that flavor so much.

  • Reply
    Donna Ford
    December 7, 2020 at 7:56 am

    5 stars
    Wow – this looks so good. Although I won’t be able to partake (lactose intolerant and can’t drink alcohol – life is so unfair sometimes!) my family will love it for Christmas. I read a lot of historical recipes, have been to Mount Vernon and read a lot about the food served there. The Mount Vernon website has a lot of great info and sells a book about the food grown, made, and served there. I know in the past eggs weren’t the enormous size they are now which is why many recipes call for what seems an extraordinary amount of eggs in a single cake! Washington had his own distillery and many different sorts of alcohol were served. Anyway, fascinating stuff if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life and have visiting the presidents’ homes (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe). All of them have associated cook books. Have a great holiday!

    • Reply
      Ellie Hart
      December 7, 2020 at 12:13 pm

      5 stars
      You can make it with coconut milk and water and it will still taste fabulous.

  • Reply
    Sarah
    December 7, 2020 at 7:33 am

    Wow, this was a really informative recipe I never knew any of these facts about eggnog.

    • Reply
      Shannon Molden
      December 7, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      5 stars
      Apple Jack would be wonderful in it

  • Reply
    Jane Saunders
    December 7, 2020 at 7:13 am

    5 stars
    What a way to chime in 2021. I love all the details you’ve found out about eggnog. I’m British, so didn’t know too much about it until I read this post. Very tempted to try it out now I understand more about it.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 7:33 am

      Supposedly eggnog started with you guys 🙂

  • Reply
    ali randall
    December 7, 2020 at 7:05 am

    5 stars
    Yum….I love the history lesson on where your recipe came from. We have been to Jamaica twice and actually have a bottle of rum in our cupboard. Definitely trying this recipe for my Christmas party. Thanks 🙂

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 7:33 am

      You’re all set!

  • Reply
    Tracy
    December 7, 2020 at 6:43 am

    5 stars
    Wow this looks incredible! And so Presidential! My eggnog loving husband will absolutely love this!!

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 6:47 am

      Haha, whatever ‘presidential’ means these days!!

  • Reply
    Alisa Infanti
    December 7, 2020 at 6:25 am

    5 stars
    Egg nog is still a drink I have yet to try but your looks so good I think it is time. I like the idea of folding some whipped in for a thicker texture.

    • Reply
      Sue
      December 7, 2020 at 6:29 am

      I hope you give it a try Alisa, it’s one of those things you don’t think you’re going to like, and then you fall in love.

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