Christmastime is here. Chaos has commenced. While there is a dollop of happiness and cheer, most of us experience anxiety levels rise to troublesome levels. Malls are gridlocked with frantic patrons finalizing their holiday lists. Christmas pageants, school recitals and office parties fill an already brimming schedule. Family gatherings are ... well ... filled with family. Feuds are foreordained.
In a season indelibly marked with stress and busyness, we can all relate at times to Charlie Brown's holiday melancholy monologues. But we have an effective countermeasure that poor Charlie Brown did not: alcohol.
This season, assuage the holiday anxiety with a remedy of equal potency. Crack a few eggs, break out the liquor, and mix up a batch of the quintessential Christmas beverage: eggnog. Looking for a pairing partner for your nog? Hawaii has the perfect sweet companion. So grab a glass and read on!
Hatching the Egg[nog]
Eggnog’s frothy beginnings can be traced back to the 14th century, when medieval Englishmen enjoyed a hot cocktail known as posset, a thick, boozy concoction of hot milk curdled with ale or wine and spiced with whatever the noble lord had in his kitchen. What it did not initially include was eggs. This came later, as monks, always in holy pursuit of the best inebriating beverage, would add whipped eggs and figs to the delectable drink. Sherry, the adored beverage in Elizabethan England, naturally found its way into eggnog in substantial quantity. Due to the excessive cost of ingredients, however, eggnog was only enjoyed by British aristocracy during winter holidays, when the cold weather provided natural refrigeration.
With British expansionism, eggnog voyaged across the Atlantic to the New World, where it found popularity in the burgeoning colonies. The more expensive Sherry and Madeira, taxed by the Crown, was replaced with local whiskey and Caribbean rum. Liquor, essential; type, negotiable. Besides, tax evasion has a sweet taste like no other. Eggnog even garnered a presidential following. Our beloved Founding Father, George Washington, was known to harbor a penchant for eggnog, and penned an original recipe for the libation that was served during the Christmas season at Mount Vernon. A mixture of four liquors, Washington’s nog was not for the fainthearted. A boozy beverage fit for the frontier.
Nog Yourself Out: The Eggnog Riot
Eggnog has not always enjoyed the purist of reputations. As a beverage coupled with festive cheer and an exorbitant level of alcohol, there is bound to be the occasional debauchery. Enter the Eggnog Riot of 1826.
The rigors of academia and military training can be tolling on the young cadets at the esteemed West Point Academy. For stressed students, the annual Yuletide indulgence of eggnog would wash away the failures of the semester and usher in the festive holiday season. In 1826, however, a new superintendent came in town, determined to restore the prestige and propriety of the eminent institution. He instituted strict new policies, including prohibiting cooking in dormitories, outlawing duels (no more Dueling Tuesday?!?) and, worst of all, banning the consumption, purchase or storage of alcohol at West Point. Admittedly, duels are probably not the most prudent method of conflict resolution. But no alcohol?! Poppycock. Smuggling in whiskey and other alcohol from nearby taverns, the eggnog-crazed cadets ensured that the holiday party would proceed as planned. The event, however, took a destructive turn when, confronted by officers, besotted patrons began to riot. Shots were fired, fires were set ablaze, and one cadet even attempted to shoot his commanding officer. When the dust settled, 19 cadets were expelled. Jefferson Davis, future Confederate States President during the Civil War, managed to avoid expulsion, as did future General Robert E. Lee, notwithstanding their participation in the evening’s drunken revelry. The riot is a sobering reminder to always nog responsibly.
Eggnog’s global sojourn washed up on the shores of Hawaii as early as the 1840s, where it played a starring role in holiday "Eggnog Parties" amongst island high society. The Pacific patricians would engage in inebriated sauntering between homes in diligent pursuit of the next swill of eggnog and perhaps a dance or two. Eggnog was the life of the party.
Although the Eggnog Parties of yesteryear are no longer vogue, Christmas has become a grand celebration in Hawaii. Christmas lights spiral up palm trees; vibrant wreaths showcase tropical flowers, and Santa makes his island commute via outrigger canoe. White Christmas may not be a practical reality, but even this can be manufactured at some level. Popup ice skating rinks and artificial snow piles delight children while their parents scamper from store to store. In a unique combination of Christmas cheer and business ineptitude, Hoffman Saloon in Honolulu once offered frozen “artificial” snowballs (painstakingly imported from California) and paired with free eggnog to all who were thirsty. Shockingly, the saloon is no longer serving thirsty patrons.
The largest Christmas attraction, however, are the Honolulu City Lights in the historic downtown district. Visitors leisurely stroll the outdoor venue to admire the 50-foot tall Christmas tree, giant holiday-themed statues, (including Shaka Santa and Mrs. Claus at the beach) and a corridor of oversized Christmas lights. Food stands, keiki rides, and decorated tree and wreath competitions offer something for everyone.
Best of all, Christmas is a time of eating and drinking, and Hawaii does both extraordinarily well. Need a pairing for your eggnog? The unique and vibrant cuisines of Hawaii have created the perfect eggnog pairing.
Rise of the Malasadas
Malasadas are the essential Hawaiian treat to enjoy during the Christmas season. Now more commonly associated with Hawaii, malasadas are Portuguese doughnuts, sans hole, that are deep fried until golden brown and generously coated in sugar. Although traditionally not made with fillings, in Hawaii, malasadas can be found filled with creams and puddings, such as haupia (coconut), chocolate, or vanilla custard. The name, meaning “poorly cooked,” is a reference to the fried, sugary exterior contrasted by a soft, doughy interior. Wonderfully light and airy, pliant and soft, fluffy but with the right amount of chewiness. Nothing about that description sounds poorly-cooked to me.
Malasadas are ubiquitous at family gatherings and work parties. Amidst the panoply of plates at any potluck, a pink box inevitably waits at the end of the table. Most often, that box is from Leonard’s Bakery, established in the early 1950s and known as the first location to commercially sell malasadas. Leonard’s malasadas have reached cultish infatuation on the islands, and its bakery is a required stop for anyone looking to satisfy their sweet tooth. During the Christmas season, Leonard’s takes its malasadas on the road, with its festive red-and-white-striped malasadas truck taking up residency in the middle of the Honolulu City Lights extravaganza. On a chilly evening, passersby can snack on warm, doughy, deliciousness while enjoying the lights, rides and competitions.
Not in Hawaii this holiday season? That shouldn’t be a barrier to the blissful enjoyment of malasadas. One of my favorite food bloggers, Maui girl Alana at Fix Feast Flair, has created an incredible recipe for Malasadas with Haupia Filling. Fry, eat, repeat.
Malasadas and eggnog are the perfect match. The creamy texture of the eggnog wonderfully balances the deliciously unhealthy sugar and deep-fried elements, while the complementing flavors of egg and spice in drink and dessert comingle with pleasure. The sweetness of the eggnog was necessary to rise above the sugar-coating of the malasadas and its deep-fried characteristics. Sweet needs sweeter, and eggnog delivers. A pairing euphoria for the sweet tooth, if you are looking for a holiday match, eggnog and malasadas will never fail to satisfy.
A Colonial Christmas Concoction
Sugar-laced and preservative-filled commercial eggnog is an anathema. It shouldn’t even be permitted to bear the title of eggnog, given that the Food and Drug Administration allows the drink to be made from as little as 1% egg yolk. Milknog, anyone? More importantly, the taste of commercial eggnog is appalling.
This season, eschew factory-made eggnog in favor of mixing up your own homemade concoction, preferably in the traditional method, with copious amounts of alcohol. Eggnog preparation is actually quite simple, and can be accomplished with only a few ingredients and a modicum of culinary aptitude.
As a history wonk, I am compelled to proffer Washington’s eggnog recipe - a Colonial Christmas concoction that is certain to please.
One Dozen Eggs
One Quart Cream
One Quart Milk
Three Quarters Cup Sugar,
One Pint Brandy
One Half Pint Rye Whiskey
One Half Pint Jamaican Rum
One Quarter Pint Sherry
Mix liquor separately. Separate yolks and whites of 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. Chill and store for at least 5 days. Taste frequently.
A few tips.
Spice it up. I prefer to add a touch of spice. Freshly grated nutmeg is my preferred addition (if you have ground nutmeg, dispose it immediately, and never speak of it again). Cinnamon can be a worthwhile substitute, either sprinkled on top or as a cinnamon stick garnish.
Alcohol. Don’t have the full spectrum of liquors used at Mount Vernon? That’s okay; replace the above with 2 pints of whiskey. Rye or Bourbon work best.
Aging. After eggnog spends six months to a year in the fridge, a curious chemical collusion takes place between egg proteins, alcohol and milk sugars. The resulting elixir is authentically eggnog. Yes, there is a lot of booze, but the longer eggnog ages, the more mellow it becomes.
Safety. In liquids, alcohol concentrations as low as 8 percent are often sufficient to kill most bacteria. Buy hey, this is eggnog, so your brew should contain at least 20% alcohol anyway. Stored at cool temperatures and with a little patience, any meandering microbes should be neutralized. Apparently, there are two reasons — the first, of course, being extended time with family — to make a strong nog.
If you must, you can procure pasteurized shell eggs from the supermarket. Pasteurized eggs have been heated to a temperature sufficient to kill any pathogens.
Far from the birthplace of either eggnog or malasadas, Hawaii's diversity of flavors and cultures has brought together the perfect holiday pairing. Enjoy this season with regularity.