Make Your Own Nog!

It’s not that difficult. It’s not that spendy. And it’s really f#$%*&* delicious.

Some things I will never understand, like cookie dough in a tube or bottled salad dressing. Some foods need to be made from scratch—no ifs, ands, or buts. Why would you ever deprive yourself of the joy of creaming together butter and sugar or whisking oil with balsamic vinegar? I'd put making eggnog at the very top of this scratch list, because store-bought eggnog is as antithetical to the holiday season as good cheer in a can. You must play a part in the creation of this simultaneously airy yet creamy, rummy yet childlike beverage. Many of the thousands of eggnog recipes available on Web sites and in magazines don't ring true. Low-fat eggnog strikes a chord of discontent inside me in a way that near-beer never could, and all attempts to simplify or healthy-up this king of beverages should be thwarted. Nog requires time. It requires your attention and resolve. The reward comes when you look all your guests in their googly eyes, wild with the delight of something so decadent, and survey a mob of smiling mouths painted in bourbon-laced creamstaches. With each cup, you will have taken .03 years off their lives, but proper holiday cheer demands sacrifice. For the ultimate eggnog, you will need (don't blanch): 1½ cups sugar 12 egg yolks (see note below) 1 cup good dark rum 1½ cups bourbon 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract 1½ teaspoons ground nutmeg 4 cups whipping cream 4 cups whole milk 1 teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom (optional) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until glassy (save your strength and use an electric mixer). Add all the alcohol, the vanilla, and the spices and whisk again. Let this mixture sit in the fridge for at least three hours. Once chilled, whisk in the milk. Right before serving, whip the cream into stiff peaks and fold into the nog. Garnish with ground cinnamon or cardamom. If you're going to serve the eggnog hot, heat the mixture after you've added the milk but before you whisk in the whipped cream. Regarding egg yolks: Hard spirits do not kill salmonella, so you have three options. You can take your chances (I've never had a problem) or buy pasteurized-in-the-shell eggs. Or you can make a custard by combining the 12 yolks with 1½ cups milk (reduce the amount of milk you add later by the same amount). Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until it reaches 140 degrees, then maintain that temperature for at least 3½ minutes. Chill, and continue with the recipe. Modify this recipe to your tastes by substituting your favorite brandy or liqueur; Grand Marnier, Metaxa, even amaretto can add a fruity or buttery note to the final nog. Just be careful to use less sugar if you use a sweeter spirit—eggnog can never be too rich, but it can easily be too sweet. Heed one warning: Light rum is forbidden. I like cinnamon and cardamom sprinkled over top at the end, but you can substitute allspice or more nutmeg if you like. A chef friend of mine reserves the 12 egg whites, makes a meringue, and adds that along with the heavy cream, but even I can admit that's going too far. What to do if you're nogging for one: In the dark of the five o'clock hour, sometimes you want to delight in a creamy beverage. The cocktail equivalent of eggnog is called a flip and generally uses brandy. To make a flip, you need a Boston shaker or something else in which you can contain the drink while you shake the hell out of it. Fill the shaker half full of ice and add 2 ounces of brandy, 1 whole egg (I whisk mine first), 1 ounce of whipping cream or half-and-half, 1 teaspoon of fine sugar, and a healthy pinch of nutmeg. Shake it like your happiness depends upon it, and serve in a big, festive glass.

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