Every year when the holidays roll around I am perplexed by a question: Why isn’t everyone drinking eggnog, in large quantities? For the uninitiated (and apparently there are a lot of you out there), eggnog is a rich and sweet beverage made with milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and a smattering of other ingredients like vanilla or nutmeg. Basically, it’s a milkshake (but on the thin side) and you can spike it (more on that in a bit).
But here’s the dismaying stat- only about half of Americans like eggnog. HALF! That is crazy. Half of audiences liked Alice through the Looking Glass and that movie was just terrible. Eggnog is awesome and well over 90% of America should be chugging it right now. So why not?
First, let’s dispatch with any of this “oh, it’s too heavy” or “I need to watch my cholesterol” or “I’m diabetic and I’d be risking hyperglycemia if I drink it” nonsense. Eggnog, though best in its unadulterated form, is widely available in low-fat, non-fat, and even sugar-free varieties; these stripped-down versions are plenty yummy. Plus, we’re talking about a holiday indulgence here, not something that needs to be poured over your cereal 365 mornings a year.
There actually is some science behind the adage that there is no accounting for taste. Food preference development is a complex interaction of genetics and aspects of eating environments. Humans have some innate reactions to basic tastes- generally rejecting sour and bitter, but digging sweet and salty. Eggnog is plenty sweet and has the slightest bit of salty flavor for balance, especially if it’s spiked. But even though we should be predisposed to liking the flavor of eggnog, a lot of people seem to be swayed by associations and contexts that can influence our preferences. It could very well be that because “egg” is in the word people reflexively think of Rocky Balboa gunning raw yolks for breakfast.
My thinking is that eggnog is not getting passed from one generation to the next. So basically it’s been fading from our culture like handwritten letters, sitcoms, and travel agents. Sorry, mom, but we can all blame our mothers. Research has shown a significant relationship between mothers’ and their children’s food preferences; specifically, foods disliked by mothers tend not to be offered to their children.
So here is my modest proposal. Moms and dads across this great land need to try eggnog, even if they have never had it before. Discover the simple truth that it is delicious and that you’ve been missing out all these years. Let your children see you drink it and have them try it, thereby establishing a generational bond that will keep eggnog flowing forever.
If necessary, parents may add alcohol to their own glasses of eggnog. There are various schools of thought on how to go about this. My own research has led me to conclude that brown liquors are the best. My bronze medalist is brandy and the silver goes to bourbon (the sweet smokiness is a nice complement). Be forewarned that when you add a spirit to eggnog it looks nasty at first as it curdles; but just stir a few times and all will be well. And here is my recommendation for the best way to spike eggnog and it is far and away the winner in my mind: Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey. Wow. Just imagine a milkshake with hints of honey and butter that, despite its cool temperature, just warms you all over.
Bottoms up, America!