The Real Story of George Washington’s Boozy Eggnog Recipe — and Martha’s Christmas CakeHistorians in the News
tags: George Washington, Christmas
Every holiday season, the inquiries start pouring into Mount Vernon — enough to make the estate’s kind longtime historian roll her eyes a bit.
“We get a lot of questions about eggnog,” said research historian Mary Thompson.
George Washington had his own recipe for the drink, according to legend — and it was pretty heavy on the alcohol. Do a quick Google search and you’ll find a bevy of boozy formulas attributed to the nation’s first president. “George Washington’s eggnog recipe will destroy you,” reads one headline.
There’s just one problem: It’s not true.
“We have no references to the use of eggnog at Mount Vernon,” Thompson said.
It’s unclear how the myth began, she said. Likely people just want to honor the Founding Father.
But there are some “real dead giveaways” that a recipe is not from the 18th century, such as instructions for a “Martha Washington candy” that include a can of sweetened condensed milk. Condensed milk, as we think of it at least, wasn’t invented until the 19th century.
“I’m sorry, the Washingtons didn’t have that,” Thompson said with a laugh.
The only recipe actually found in the president’s papers was one for “small beer.” (Coney Island Brewing Company took up the challenge of reproducing it about a decade ago, dubbing it the Fortitude’s Founding Father Brew.)
However, there are some authentic holiday recipes from the estate, including Martha Washington’s Great Cake.
It was copied down for the first lady by her granddaughter, Martha Parke Custis, and historians still have the piece of paper.
“The fact that they kept that for 200 years I think says that it did mean something,” Thompson said.