What makes eggnog so addictive?

It's the time of year for seasonal food trends: apple begets pumpkin spice begets butternut squash and sweet...

Posted: Dec 21, 2018 12:27 PM
Updated: Dec 21, 2018 12:27 PM

It's the time of year for seasonal food trends: apple begets pumpkin spice begets butternut squash and sweet potato-rich foods. And now peppermint and eggnog.

Some of these are more universally enjoyed than others. But I wondered what exactly makes eggnog such an enticing treat between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I asked some experts in the sensory and food technology fields for insight.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Consumer products

Dairy products

Food and drink

Food products

Kinds of foods and beverages

Sugar

Sweeteners

Sweets and desserts

"It's like ice cream. ... It's cold, and it's sweet, and it tastes good, especially when you haven't had it for 10 or 11 months," said Steven Young, a consulting dairy and food technologist based in Houston and principal of Steven Young Worldwide, a technical and marketing consultancy.

Eggnog or ice cream?

In fact, eggnog dates back decades, and it was often consumed as a riff on classical French vanilla ice cream or custard.

"You would start by taking just regular ice cream mix with egg yolks in it, which are added for color and flavor," Young said. A manufacturer might add more yellow color to the mix, in order to make it even more compatible with the egg yolk, similar to the color of a manila folder, according to Young. And then of course, you add vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.

"It's a lot easier to take plain ice cream mix and 'dress it up' to become eggnog. For all intents and purposes, that's what eggnog has been," Young said.

Ice cream mix consists of cream, milk and sugar, and it is very thick before it's whipped and frozen because there's no air in it. But the thickness is perfectly suited for making eggnog, as it allows the mixture to be stable enough to tolerate being diluted later with alcohol, ultimately giving it a mouthfeel and flavor that is compatible with what you are looking for in the final product, Young explained. "That's the dance."

The 'milky way'

Alternatively, rather than drawing off a classic ice cream mix, companies may create an eggnog beverage from whole milk that is heavy and thick enough to withstand the rigors of ice as well as alcohol, Young explained.

An ingredient known as pasteurized sugared egg yolk (which is also used in French vanilla ice cream mix) is added to the milk, acting as a source of eggy flavor and color. The mixture is then heat-treated (pasteurized and cooled to refrigerator temperature) to ensure that it is safe to consume.

"You have caramelized sugar with cooked egg and dairy, and it unifies beautifully with the vanilla and brown spirits," said Gail Vance Civille, founder and president of Sensory Spectrum, a consulting firm that helps companies learn how sensory cues drive consumer perceptions of products. "For a lot of people, it's the richness of the fat and flavor of the custard that gives eggnog its sensory appeal."

Some companies sell eggnog bases, which are pre-formulated mixtures of ingredients with specifically designed flavor qualities. These mixtures can be incorporated into milk or an ice cream mix, and they offer manufacturers a convenient, efficient and microbiologically safe way to produce large scale quantities of eggnog.

These mixes can also be formulated to be compatible with specific varieties of eggnog, for example, reduced fat or fat-free milk-based nogs or plant-based nogs, such as soy, almond and cashew.

As with other food products, the quality of eggnog ingredients matters. According to Civille, prepackaged eggnog made with powdered egg and artificial vanilla flavors or nonfat dry milk powder will not offer a rich, eggy nog.

"It should be made from real whole milk cooked to a custard with real eggs, and it should have real vanilla in it," Civille said.

The role of sugar in eggnog

Could the amount of sugar in eggnog also contribute to its "addictiveness"? Sugar's addictive properties have been studied, and ice cream mix used to make eggnog contains its fair share, both from the milk sugar lactose and from added sugars.

"Mathematically, basic eggnog has a lot of sugar, but by the same token, you have to expect it to have enough viscosity, flavor and sweetness to be diluted later with ice or alcohol and still be able to carry its sensory appeal," Young said. "There is a lot of to manage, and this puts pressure on the inherent sweetness of the mix, in order to deliver the desirable sensory appeal of the finished beverage."

A quick look at the nutrition facts labels for a sampling of store-bought eggnog reveals that the holiday drink often tops 20 grams of sugar -- the equivalent of 5 teaspoons -- for a mere half-cup serving.

"The amount of sugar will depend on the recipe and brand you buy. Some have tons; others don't ... but if it is loaded with sugar, it can become a dessert instead of a sweet beverage," Civille said.

Forbidden nog?

So we have a chilled, sweet, milky beverage, similar to ice cream and milkshakes. I wonder, is there something else that I missed when it comes to the magical appeal of eggnog?

I pressed Young once again to tell me the secret behind the allure of the holiday drink.

"We love it maybe because it's cold and sweet -- and all of a sudden, we get it for three or four weeks ... kind of like 'forbidden nog,' " he said.

"The day after Christmas, it's over," he added. "If any is left in the stores, you have to do something with it, because it just won't sell. And after the first of the year, the novelty of eggnog goes down to zero."

Absence makes the stomach grow fonder, I guess.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37624

Reported Deaths: 1503
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12150785
Ramsey4805226
Stearns234519
Dakota228690
Anoka2180107
Nobles16626
Olmsted110115
Washington106940
Mower9452
Rice8357
Scott7004
Clay58538
Kandiyohi5701
Wright4565
Blue Earth4532
Todd4002
Carver3641
Lyon3092
Sherburne3075
Freeborn2900
Steele2281
Watonwan2160
Benton2143
St. Louis17715
Martin1635
Nicollet15912
Cottonwood1340
Goodhue1298
Winona12215
Crow Wing10612
Pine1030
Le Sueur981
Chisago971
Otter Tail931
McLeod880
Carlton850
Dodge840
Polk812
Chippewa781
Unassigned7637
Isanti720
Itasca6412
Waseca640
Douglas620
Meeker611
Morrison591
Murray580
Becker550
Faribault550
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pennington500
Pipestone371
Mille Lacs342
Renville322
Wabasha310
Brown302
Rock300
Yellow Medicine300
Beltrami290
Fillmore280
Houston250
Swift211
Norman200
Wilkin203
Redwood180
Cass152
Wadena150
Aitkin140
Big Stone140
Kanabec141
Koochiching141
Roseau130
Marshall120
Grant100
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen81
Clearwater70
Hubbard60
Lake60
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30975

Reported Deaths: 720
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6464179
Woodbury321544
Black Hawk225258
Buena Vista171111
Johnson12648
Dallas126329
Linn126282
Marshall104319
Scott77810
Story7623
Pottawattamie72111
Wapello70630
Dubuque68322
Crawford6772
Muscatine62944
Sioux4630
Tama46229
Wright3801
Louisa36013
Jasper32317
Plymouth3165
Warren2731
Dickinson2642
Washington2369
Webster2132
Hamilton1871
Cerro Gordo1561
Boone1481
Clay1330
Clarke1312
Allamakee1284
Mahaska11517
Shelby1140
Clinton1071
Poweshiek1048
Carroll961
Pocahontas941
Bremer926
Franklin890
Des Moines882
Henry863
Emmet850
Cedar821
Taylor790
Monona760
Cherokee751
Floyd722
Hardin700
Marion700
Guthrie664
Benton651
Sac630
Jefferson590
Osceola590
Jones560
Humboldt541
Butler532
Harrison530
Lee532
Hancock510
Iowa510
Buchanan501
Monroe506
Calhoun492
Delaware491
Fayette480
Madison452
Clayton433
Lyon410
Palo Alto410
Davis391
Winneshiek380
Grundy370
Mitchell370
Mills360
Howard350
Kossuth340
Lucas304
Greene290
Jackson290
Chickasaw280
Winnebago280
Union270
Ida230
Cass220
Appanoose203
Keokuk201
Page200
Van Buren200
Worth190
Audubon161
Unassigned160
Adair150
Ringgold150
Decatur110
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
Rochester
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 83°
Mason City
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 82°
Albert Lea
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 85°
Austin
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 86°
Charles City
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 83°
Hot and sticky fourth of July weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Alternative baseball hopes to come to the Med City in 2021

Image

FOURTH OF JULY IN AUSTIN AND STEWARTVILLE

Image

Seans 6pm Weather 7/4

Image

Fans excited for Honkers return

Image

Honkers fall to St. Cloud in home opener

Image

Baseball returns to the Med City

Image

Seans 10pm Weather 7/3

Image

Leaders advocate for the homeless

Image

Fireworks Show During the Pandemic

Image

Pillars of the City Unveiled

Community Events