Eggnog worth a riot | West Point Nog

Eggnog worth a riot | West Point Nog

The Holidays are upon us, and just like every Holiday season, there are three things you just can’t run away from: aggravating Christmas music, fruitcake, and eggnog. (Include things, or people, we missed in the comments)

Eggnog is the liquid equivalent of the Christmas sweater. No one is particularly excited about it, but you still do it once a year because you don’t want to be the one who disses the tradition. But let’s face it, grocery-bought eggnog is a sad affair, on par with A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s usually gooey, too sweet and full of artificial stabilizers and thickeners (like guar gum and carrageenan, thrown in to emulate the texture real eggs would have contributed had they not been powdered first). Further, why does it taste like bubble gum!? Nothing to feel cheery about.

A proper eggnog is quite easy to put together: sure, you can whip out a couple liters of it at a time, but it is even better when made à la minute like a flip, a shaken drink with a whole egg. Add to it a nice dram of whiskey and rum, and it can even spell trouble: it is, after all, the only mixed drink that ever had a riot named after it.

Eggnog worth a riot

A few days before Christmas 1826, two cadets came up with a plan to smuggle liquor in the north barracks of the prestigious West Point Military Academy, in upstate New York, so they could throw a proper eggnog party. Little did they know this particular night would go down in history as the Eggnog Riot.

The Eggnog Riot painting

The Eggnog Riot painting. One assumes this was earlier in the night.

The Academy has long had a strict no-drinking policy, but on December 21st the pair succeeded in rowing two gallons of whiskey across the Hudson river in the middle of the night. Somehow, superintendent Sylvanus Thayer got wind of the party, and decided to assign more patrols; nevertheless another gallon of whiskey and one of Medford rum made it through to the north barracks the following night.

On Christmas Eve, nine cadets, including one Jefferson Davis, used their impressive stockpile of booze to spike a massive batch of eggnog, then proceeded to get trashed. As the night went on, things went south (nod to Jefferson Davis): more students joined in, and soon enough dozens were stumbling around the halls with loaded guns and bayonets chanting obscenities and wrecking the place.

At dawn, the south barracks who missed out on the party woke up to the sound of gunfire, smashed windows and drunken rants; so much damage had been done than the repairs took over a week, although miraculously no one got shot. In total, 70 cadets got involved, and 33 eventually got kicked out, although young Jefferson Davis managed to get away without being disciplined; this eggnog conspirator went on to become the President of the Confederate States of America, in 1862.

Rest assured, making your own eggnog for your Christmas party doesn’t necessarily mean the night will degenerate, although you can be bet it’ll be a lot more fun for everyone than if you were to serve stuff out of a carton. Watch your guests’ shocked faces as they realize how delicious this beverage can be. Just make sure to lock the guns away!

West Point Eggnog

West Point Eggnog

West Point Nog

(makes 2 servings)

This classic eggnog recipe follows the 3:1 rum to whiskey ratio that got smuggled into the north barracks of West Point Academy. True to the era, the whiskey should be a bold, spicy rye, and a rich Demerara rum will make a fine substitute for the hard to find Medford-style rums that prevailed in New England at the time. Grand Ten Distilling, in Boston, makes one you may want to get your hands on. A touch of PX sherry will bring in candied notes of sultanas and figs, but also a nice hint of racy acidity that will keep the drink from being dull. The perfumed tonka bean is a modern touch, but fresh nutmeg will do in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on this chameleon spice. For bigger volumes, I find a blender works just fine; just omit the ice and add 2 extra ounces of milk per drink for the dilution.

1 oz Grand Ten Medford Rum or Demerara rum

3 oz rye whiskey

1 oz Pedro Ximenez sherry

1 teaspoon raw sugar

4 oz whole milk

1 whole egg


Dry shake, shake with ice, fine strain in a cup. Shave some tonka bean on top. Toast to “Duty, Honor, Country.

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