Outside, the rain beat down on the tarp we had rigged above the kettle and propane burner and inside, the glasses were lined up, as were the eight mason jars of eggnog. It was time to do the taste testing, to see how the eggnog made a week before had come out. Although it was cold, our stomachs and throats soon tingled with warmth. With two half-bottles of rum and brandy, we were on our way to merriment.Eggnog is not just a drink for Christmas. Rather, it is a winter drink that should be enjoyed throughout the season. As January and February approach, a glass of eggnog should be just as welcome as it was in December.I subscribe to a recipe, nay, a way of making eggnog that requires a bit of delayed gratification. As a homebrewer, I'm used waiting. I wait for months — if not years — for a beer, cider, mead or wine to develop. The eggnog should sit for about a week, if not two or three, before being imbibed.To get the recipe just right, I made two gallons of eggnog in a series of batches, with three different kinds of liquors, different ratios of eggs to milk and cream and with different spices. The following weekend I gathered my brew friends around the kitchen table to test each of the mason jars of eggnog. A clear winner quickly emerged from the whirlwind of testing, an eggier and spicier nog than its competitors.One of the original recipes I used as a guide called for using a bottle of rum and a bottle of bourbon, resulting in too much eggnog. I halved the recipe and used bourbon, as directed, for the first batch. Despite the various spice combinations, one thing was clear.“Bourbon is not the answer.”Although one of the creamier versions was palatable, the bourbon still overwhelmed the eggnog. “It's bourbon ice cream!” one of the taste-testers proclaimed. Yet another version elicited a stronger response: “Oh my God, it's bourbon!”For the second attempt, I went for creamier and eggier because the original recipe just didn't bring the taste. I increased the eggs by two, but then decided instead to double the eggs. The egg increase brought the taste to where it needed to be, in conjunction with spices. For the second attempt, I switched out bourbon with the same amount of brandy and kept the rum the same.The plain version of the second attempt, which saw nutmeg as the only spice, (nutmeg was a constant in every batch) tasted like an alcoholic coffee creamer, which is not bad. But it is not eggnog. When it was just cloves and nutmeg, the cloves lent a bad aftertaste. However, when cloves, ginger and cinnamon were put together, it came out delicious. Ingredients:12 eggs11⁄2 cups brandy11⁄2 cups spiced rum41⁄2-5 cups whole milk. For a richer taste, use 21⁄2 cups whole milk and 21⁄2 cups light cream (or half and half) 2 cups heavy cream1 cup sugar (more or less to taste)2 tablespoons vanilla1 whole nutmeg, grated, or, 2 tablespoons ground1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1⁄2-1 teaspoon ground cloves1-2 teaspoons ground powdered gingerDirections: Beat the eggs until they are a light yellow color. Slowly mix in the brandy and rum so the eggs do not stiffen out. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until it begins to stiffen or peak. Fold or mix in the heavy scream with the egg and alcohol mixture. Add the whole milk (or light cream) to the egg, cream and alcohol mixture while stirring.Mix in the sugar. Grate the nutmeg into the liquid or add ground nutmeg. Mix in the vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Refrigerate for at least a week before consuming. The alcohol, egg and spice flavors will mellow and blend with time. I store the mixture in mason jars. Make sure to vigorously mix the eggnog before serving, which is made easier in a lidded mason jar. Keep refrigerated.
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