As evening fell on Christmas Eve, 1826, in West Point, New York, three military academy cadets crossed the Hudson River in a covert search for whiskey.
In celebration of Christmas Eve, an eggnog party was scheduled for the cadets; however, the draconian academy commander, Sylvanus Thayer, had recently banned all booze on campus. Faced with the AWOL-inducing boredom of a dry eggnog party, the cadets saw little recourse, and a plan was put into action.
What ensued is today known as the Eggnog Riot. Glasses were broken. Shots were fired. Military property destroyed. Indictments and censure for approximately one-third of the military academy’s cadets were followed by suspensions and expulsions.
In short, it was one heck of a party.
My first favorite image from this story is the cadets—in some proto-Animal Party parody of Washington crossing the Potomac—braving a choppy Hudson on (almost) Christmas night, in search of a tavern willing to sell them a half-gallon of whiskey.
My second favorite is the following story from James B. Agnew’s 1979 book, Eggnog Riot: Somewhere between 2 am and 5 am Christmas morning, teetotaling Tennessean relief sentinel James G. Overton encountered three stumbling cadets wandering the campus. When asked what they were doing, they told Overton in slurred voices that they were in search of drums and a fife.
Of course they were.
Eggnog, for the most part, is a bad idea. But, then again, as detailed above, some people love it, so maybe I’m eggnogging wrong.
In Colonial America, farmers—with access to dairy and eggs, if nothing else—helped solidify eggnog’s reputation as a yuletide potation by the 18th century by breaking out the viscous drink in times of celebration. George Washington had his own recipe, which pops up annually in enterprise Christmas newspaper articles. (It involves an undisclosed amount of eggs and four different types of brown liquor.)
This year, if I decide to imbibe, which I will undoubtedly will, I plan to forgo the corn syrupy supermarket concoction, grab a dozen Walden pasture-raised eggs, and give ole’ George Washington’s recipe a try (via the Farmer’s Almanac):
“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”
Taste frequently and happy holidays from all of us at Walden.