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In Praise of Eggnog, Which Is Good

An ode to the much-maligned holiday beverage

Eggnog Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The worst part about the holidays is when people complain about the holidays. They’re stressful and sad and they make us fat and broke! Sure, but pointing it out is like announcing that it’s raining in front of a window. We know.

The best part of the holidays is eggnog.

If circumstances and (rotten) luck have dictated that you have not seen or tasted eggnog — perhaps you are one of the aliens visiting Earth looking for your alloys which we stole, in which case, greetings and I’m so sorry — it is a frothy seasonal punch, traditionally made from milk, cream, whipped eggs, and sugar, and frequently spiked with liquor and garnished with cinnamon or nutmeg. It can be served cold or warm. It’s supposedly a modern update of a medieval British concoction called posset, which is made from curdled milk. Posset sounds gross. Some people think that eggnog is also gross. They call it rude names, like “nasty holiday sludge” or “Christmas drinking mayonnaise” or “Santa’s cum.”

Those people have corrupted, incorrect palates. Like cilantro and garlic, eggnog is polarizing — beloved and loathed, embraced and evaded — and like cilantro and garlic, eggnog tastes marvelous. George Washington loved eggnog, which means if somebody asked him if eggnog was good, he would’ve said, “Yeah!” (Or, I suppose, something colonial like “’Tis!”) And guess what? George Washington could not lie. Eggnog ’tis good.

One of the main strikes against eggnog is how flamboyantly unhealthy it is, a sinful slurry of alcohol and dairy and sugar and fat, the sort of over-the-top indulgence that makes you feel flabbier just by having it in the same room. Counterpoint: It’s unhealthy only if you chug a bunch of it. If you drink the correct amount of eggnog — one glass — it’s a perfectly healthy seasonal treat. Eggnog is for sipping, not guzzling. Its viscid-velvet consistency does not invite gulps, only tasteful nips, as though the drink itself wants us to imbibe like sophisticates. It’s sweet and rich enough to sate a craving for a Christmas cookie, and anyway, Christmas cookies can’t get you tipsy.

Since it’s a beige-colored milk punch, eggnog isn’t very Instagram-friendly. In this way, eggnog is a reminder that amateur food photography should stay where it belongs, in 2014.

In December 1826, a bunch of cadets at West Point got rowdy off of spiked eggnog and then, after some of them were reprimanded, they decided to riot. One of the cadets involved in what is seriously known in history as the “Eggnog Riot” was Jefferson Davis, who went on to be the leader of the Confederacy. If the Union Army had given eggnog the respect it deserves, it would’ve realized that all it needed to do to win the war was to get Davis hopped up on nog. We could have ended that shit a lot sooner.

Eggnog spoils. It’s no good in January, which belongs to seltzer and early bedtimes and hot yoga. It’s not even good if you leave it sitting on the counter when you get too wrapped up in watching a video of a baby whale your cousin found; the ice will melt or the drink will cool until a film covers the top, lukewarm and insipid. You drink it in moderate tipples as someone unwraps a sweater and your favorite aunt laughs, and then it’s done, you’ve had enough, a time-honored and time-constrained drinking experience somehow ceremonial and comforting, all at once. It’s the most occasional of occasional drinks, odd and decadent and temperamental, meant for marking something important: reunions with loved ones, getting through the cold together, and the end of a year we can never get back.