Cheers! Toast the holidays with real eggnog | Michigan Radio
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Cheers! Toast the holidays with real eggnog

Dec 23, 2020

Eggnog gets a bad rap because people have not had one made fresh for them.

“These days we think of eggnog as a nonalcoholic drink that you can add alcohol to. But traditionally eggnog was an alcoholic beverage. That's where it started. And it was basically a flip. It's a very, very old classic style of drink,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings explained.

Cheers! presented a flip recently on Michigan Radio’s Stateside. You can hear it here.

Tammy measures the Grass Widow bourbon she chose for her eggnog.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

These days eggnog is often made with spiced rum. There are some Michigan spiced rums (here’s a list from the Rum and Stuff blog), but Tammy didn’t have any at her house. And, really, you can make eggnog with just about any spirit.

“These classically would have had all sorts of different kinds of spirits in it. Brandy or Madeira was common in England where eggnog started. In America, cheap and easily available rum became the spirit of choice in the colonies. But after the Revolutionary War, that rum supply dried up and Americans turned to whiskey for their eggnog. So I thought, I have no rum. I'm going to go with some whiskey,” Tammy said.

She chose Grass Widow Bourbon from Two James Distillery in Detroit which is aged in Madeira casks.

About the only think I know about Madeira is Thomas Jefferson was a fan when he was young (his tastes changed as he got older) and it was the beginning of a love affair with imported wines that left Jefferson with a fair amount of debt.

And about the only thing I know about whiskey during the colonial period is that George Washington had one of the largest in the colonies. (Mount Vernon has a page about that here.)

So, a whiskey aged in Madeira casks and used in eggnog is practically patriotic. Right?

Tammy says it was so patriotic that it caused a riot at West Point Academy. No alcohol was allowed at the military school in 1826.

“Everybody wanted some. Somebody went out to town, smuggled in whiskey to be able to make eggnog. And it led to such a quantity of drunkenness that there was a riot and it ended with court martial of twenty cadets and one enlisted officer,” Tammy explained.

Here’s a 2013 article from Smithsonian Magazine about the riot.

Tammy says as she’s learned about cocktails, she’s seen all the ways in which alcohol has driven civilizations in many ways over history. It makes studying history a lot more fun.

This eggnog is really tasty. It’s not at all ‘gloopy’ like some commercial eggnogs can be. They often don’t use much egg, but they do add stabilizers, gums, and other thickeners.

“What I like about this style of eggnog is that it’s got a lot of rich, creamy flavor, but it doesn’t have that gloop,” Tammy said.

This drink is shaken twice. First without ice to emulsify the egg. Second time with ice for a good long shake.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Egg Nog Flip

2 oz bourbon (or spiced rum or other spirit of your choice)

2 oz half-and-half

2 tsp superfine sugar

1 egg

Dash vanilla extract or bitters

Garnish: nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Shake for 10 seconds. Add ice and shake hard for 15 seconds. Strain into coupe or martini glass, garnish.

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.