Egg Nog & More, Prohibition Style.

It’s that time of year again. Just cold enough to put away all the fizzy, seltzer filled drinks of the summer and time to break out the heavy, sweet & preferably hot beverages for the winter. Just as the leaves on the tress begin to turn, so does the dairy isle of the grocery store turn to a winter beverage wonderland. Suddenly the shelves are filled with nog! Egg nog, holiday nog, soy nog, even pumpkin spice flavored nog. Yuck!

What exactly is “Nog” though? And is it even remotely like the historic “Nog” of 100 years ago?

Brandy Flip, "Bottoms Up", 1934.
Now, if you’ve been following Slightly Obsessed for a while, you know I’m a research fiend. So it won’t surprise you to hear that I’ve gone through over a dozen cocktail & bartenders guides while searching for the answer to this. Not to mention I’ve done more than my fair share of “experimental archaeology” with the recipes I’ve found. What I’ve discovered is that historic egg nog & its brethren (flip & milk punch), are much easier to concoct than the modern version & come in an almost infinite array of variations to suit every taste. There is no reason not to try these historic beverages at home tonight.

21st century people are most familiar with egg nog, a combination of booze (or not), milk and/or heavy cream, sugar & eggs which have been separated into whipped white & yolks & sold in 1 quart cartons. It’s the extra step of separating and whipping the eggs that makes most modern cooks skip homemade nog & go straight to the pre-made, and even pre-boozed, version.

Our ancestors of 100 years ago didn’t have the mass refrigeration & mega grocery to bring them their beloved nog each season though. Instead they turned to an entire family of creamy, sweet & boozey drinks which included not just egg nog but flip & milk punch. But after a few similarities it becomes almost a math lesson in how many different cocktails you can make with just a few ingredients ingredients. For the math averse out there, the answer is... a lot!

Start with your choice of spirits & a sturdy jar or cocktail shaker. Almost anything goes. Whisky, Rum & Brandy are typically listed first or popular enough to get their own mentions in many books. But sherry, port and even gin are suggested. You can also get creative and combine spirits to make more variations, brandy & rum, whisky & port, you name it. I am usually pretty adventurous when it comes to foods, especially my cocktails, but I did draw the line on trying any of these with gin! Do let me know if you try it though, all in the name of historic research after all.

Boston Milk Punch, "For Snake Bites or Something", 1920
From there add a bit of sugar. The proportions vary by the bartender, so start small & build up if the resulting drink isn’t sweet enough for your personal taste.Anything between 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon works well, depending on how sweet your chosen booze.

This is where things get interesting and where all the combinations come into play. Do you want a Nog, a Flip or a Punch?

Feeling like a Flip? Just add in an egg. Don’t be all squeemish about raw eggs either. Consider it an “acceptable historical risk” all in the name of research.

Always wondered what that Milk Punch they talk about in old books tastes like, now’s your change. Instead of adding an egg to your booze & sugar pairing, add several ounces of milk or heavy cream for the decadent folks.

But where does that leave the old traditional favorite, Egg Nog? Nog is basically what happens when Flip & Punch have a child. Yep, it’s that simple. If you want a historical Nog, toss in a whole egg plus a couple ounces of milk or heavy cream.

Next, pop the lid on your jar or the top on your Boston shaker & shake, shake, shake! Give it enough force to break the egg yolk, get the milk bubbly and dissolve that sugar.

Let us try prohibition and see what this will do for us.

Finally, strain into a glass with cracked, shaved or crushed ice. Yes, these drinks were most commonly served cold. In fact at least one egg nog recipe says it is particularly popular in California! The straining is optional if you don’t have a cocktail strainer in your kitchen junk, but it does help keep out any thick parts of the egg white which might not have mixed in during your shaking session. Plus, it just looks cool when you strain one-handed & who can resist that crackling sound.

Now wait, you are thinking, I thought the point was to get away from icy summer drinks & these sound awfully cold for warming up on a frigid day. Don’t worry, Nog & milk punch were served hot historically as well. The recipes are identical, only you use hot milk instead of cold and obviously strain into a mug rather than over ice. Flip, unfortunately, doesn’t heat up as well as the others. I’ve tried gently warming the shaken Flip but the line between “hot enough to drink” & “cooking the egg” was a very fine one. The milk in Nog & Milk punch really helps prevent the egg from accidentally cooking even if you heat it up so stick with those if you're looking for something to warm you up, literally & figuratively this winter.

Now if all that was just a bit too confusing, especially after you’ve had a couple of these rather potent drinks, don’t worry. I’ve made this handy little chart that details all the variations & steps to Nog, Flip & Milk Punch making. Keep it on your phone or in your pocket for all your last minute historic cocktail needs. If you are like me, there will be plenty of those in the coming months.

See you in the past!

Works Cited:
One Hundred and One Drinks as They Are Mixed. Manilla: Kuenzle & Streiff, 1921.

Roe, Charles E, and Jim Schwenck. The Home Bartender's Guide & Songbook. New York, NY, 1930.

“1920 For Snakes Bites - or Something.” EUVS Vintage Cocktail Books – Library, 1920.

Warnock, Charles S. Giggle Water. New York, NY, 1928.

Cover Image: "Krazy Kat Club" off Thomas Circle, Washington DC, 1921.

Quote: "We have seen the evil of the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors in our midst; let us try prohibition and see what this will do for us." Thomas Jordan Jarvis, American Politician, 1836-1915.