Traditional Holiday Eggnog > Recipe

Posted On December 22, 2009

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Among the great tragedies of the holidays, nestled between fruitcake and unannounced visits from in-laws, is eggnog.

Every year by the time Thanksgiving comes around, grocery stores across the US are stocked with cartons upon cartons of premixed eggnog on their shelves. But the sweet, gluey mess that comes out of these quart-sized containers hardly resembles the rich, creamy, deliciously-spiced and lightly sweet spiked punch that was the holiday drink of our forefathers.

Eggnog originated in England, where it was a drink for nobles, as the milk and eggs used to make it were in short supply. When the colonists traveled to America, they brought the recipe with them, possibly naming it Egg and Grog, which was eventually shortened to eggnog. Unlike their London-based brethren, the colonists had no shortage of milk and eggs, making it much more accessible to the common folk.

When the English crown levied taxes on brandy and wine those colonists, who enjoyed a “wee dram” every now and then, found their access to eggnog to be quite handy, as it allowed them to do an end run around the King. Brandy and wine were the winter drinks of choice at the time, so the new taxes forced these enterprising proto-Americans to make do with rum. According to several accounts, they would spike batches of eggnog to mask and “civilize” the harsh liquor for consumption. This provided a little warmth and festivity during the frigid colonial winter without running afoul of the tax man.

All this colonial history makes one thing clear, good eggnog, like bourbon, tobacco and apple pie, is the birthright of every American. Since the homemade stuff not only tastes better, but is easy to make, somewhat healthier, and mixes with liquor better, there’s not really any reason to suffer through the store-bought stuff.

This is especially true when you want to impress a crowd, or at least a date, with your bartending skills. Despite the simple recipe, people are always amazed when someone goes through “all the trouble” to make homemade eggnog. Best of all, like most punches, you can make it in advance in large batches, so there’s no need for the host to take a break from socializing to mix yet another drink.

Traditional Holiday Eggnog

The eggnog recipe below will serve about 30, and can be scaled up or down to suit any size party. As tradition dictates, it does a spectacular job of smoothing out the harshness of any liquor, leaving only a lingering warm glow as it goes down. Traditional Holiday Eggnog > Recipe

Ingredients >
12 eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 cups superfine sugar
2 pints rum
3 pints milk
1 pint heavy cream

Procedure >
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until thick. Then stir in the rum, milk and cream. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and pour into a punch bowl or pitcher. Beat the egg whites until stiff and stir into the eggnog. Stir in cinnamon and sprinkle the nutmeg on top.

It’s easy to change the recipe up as well. Add a little sophistication to the mix and stick it to the English by replacing the rum with brandy, celebrating the fact that all our liquor taxes now go to our own duly elected government. Or make it a truly American drink by using bourbon. The natural sweetness of Kentucky’s finest matches well to the creamy eggnog and adds a mellow burn to the cocktail. Plus, it adds a little testosterone to the drink. Given that few make it through a glass of eggnog without a milk mustache, it can’t hurt to man it up a little. Even if you’re a woman.

Other options include >

  • 1 pint of coffee liqueur, such as like Kahlua, mixed with 1 pint light rum, which would result in a incredibly creamy coffee-flavored concoction on a par with the most delicious Frappucino of all time.
  • 1 pint of pumpkin liqueur, such as Bols Pumpkin Smash, mixed with 1 pint bourbon, delivering a delicious, and drinkable, pumpkin pie.
  • 2 pints of tequila with a tablespoon of cayenne pepper in place of the cinnamon and nutmeg, a spicy take on eggnog perfect for the tequila craze. Just make sure to use a good silver or reposado tequila, such as Don Roberto or Patron.

Festive Drinks > Whiskey Eggnog

Posted On December 22, 2009

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Ingredients >
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whisky
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream

Procedure >
In a saucepan, beat the eggs and sugar until creamy. In a second saucepan over low heat, heat 2 cups of milk until hot. Slowly add to the egg mixture, stirring continuously. Cook over low heat, stirring, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Stir in the remaining milk, vanilla, whisky, and half the nutmeg. Chill 3 hours. In a medium bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Fold into the milk mixture. Ladle the eggnog into a punch bowl and sprinkle with the remaining grated nutmeg. Makes 6 cups.

Festive Drinks > Russian Tea

Posted On December 22, 2009

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Ingredients >
1 jar (1 lb. 2 oz.) Tang
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups instant tea
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
dash salt
1 small pkg (3 oz.) lemonade mix [such as Wyler’s]

Procedure >
Mix all ingredients well and store in tightly covered jars. Will keep indefinitely if kept in tight container.

Festive Drinks > Hot Apple Cider

Posted On December 22, 2009

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Ingredients >
1 large bottle Apple Cider
1 large bottle Ginger Ale
3 cinnamon sticks
15 whole cloves
15 whole allspice
1 oz. bag of red hots
Sprinkle of nutmeg

Procedure >
Mix 2/3 bottle of Apple Cider to 1/3 bottle of Ginger Ale. Place all spices in basket of coffee maker and fill reservoir with apple cider to make 4 cups of liquid. Add this liquid to cider mixture you made. The 3 cinnamon sticks can be returned to the cider mixture but discard the remainder of the spices. Taste cider mixture for flavor. Additional red hots can be added if preferred for color and spiciness. Steep cider for 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving. Can be refrigerated and reheated as neeeded.

How to make a homemade mulled wine

Ingredients >
350ml Port wine
750ml red wine
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
½ cup white cane sugar
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Orange slices/cinnamon sticks to serve

Method >
First pour red wine in a large pot. Then add the port and stir. Stir in all listed spices. Add the sugar and lemon juice. Place pot on low heat, stirring occasionally, so as not to allow the mixture to boil. Bringing the mixture to boil will ruin the final pleasant taste of the mulled wine. The mulled wine has to simmer for at least 25-30 minutes. When this time has elapsed, pass mixture through a fine strainer, so as to filter any amount of residue left by the spices. This should be repeated two to three times. Store in clean empty bottles of wine in a cool dry place.

Serving suggestion > homemade Mulled Wine

Serving suggestion >
Serve warm in a small glass, adding an orange slice or cinnamon stick, according to one’s taste.

Pass the peas and pop some grapes

Eating serving of pork also thought to bring good fortunes

When it comes to allaying our anxiety about the coming year, we look to pleasurable activities as favorite harbingers of good fortune. Many revelers will reach for a flute of Champagne, or some variation on the French sparkling wine. Others will reach for a bowl of Hoppin’ John, pop grapes into their mouths or slice into a braised pork chop.

In Denmark, there will be boiled cod. In Brazil, as in Italy, chances are residents will be spooning up a lucky bowl of lentils. In Greece and Cyprus, it’s a piece of cake, containing a lucky gold coin. For the Vietnamese, watermelon is a sign of luck because of its red flesh. People even dye the seeds red and serve them as delicacies.

But as midnight falls, progressing with hourly precision around the globe, we have faith that all will be well. And we, as do you, hope for a safe New Year’s Eve, and a happy 2007.

Grapes > The practice of eating 12 grapes at midnight is popular in Spain. As the story goes, at the turn of the 20th century, Spain experienced a gigantic grape harvest. This harvest was so huge that the year was marked as one of great luck. Now, with each strike of the clock at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Spaniards put grapes into their mouths. This event is broadcast on television, so everyone can do it in concert. Another grape is eaten in celebration of lucky years past and in hope of a lucky year to come. The grape-eating tradition also is followed in other countries, including Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela.

Saint Basil’s cake > To many in the South, eating greens on New Year’s means you’ll have green in your wallet all year. To the Brazilians and Italians, lentils are served because they can be considered coin-shaped. In Greece and Cyprus, however, a real coin is baked into the Saint Basil’s cake, or Vassilopita.

One legend says it started because of the notoriously high taxes levied during the time of the Ottoman Empire. Saint Basil tried to return the money to the people, but they started arguing over who was owed what. So he asked the women to bake a large cake with the coins inside. When he sliced the cake, the money found its way back to its rightful honors. Another legend says Saint Basil wanted the rich in his congregation to bake cakes with coins in them for the poor. That way, the poor wouldn’t feel like beggars but would have a little more money for their needs. Today, one coin is baked into the cake, which is cut shortly before midnight by the head of the household. Whoever finds the coin will be blessed with good fortune in the year to come.

Sticky rice and long noodles > For the Japanese, New Year’s is a major celebration that lasts three days. It’s also a time to party without a care in sight, which means that food lasting until January 3rd has to be prepared before midnight December 31. Bonenkai, or year forgetting, parties include visits to Buddhist temples where food is offered to the gods.

Each dish is made for a different purpose. Some are said to bring a good harvest, others are for fertility. Long soba noodles are popular, because it is thought that if you can suck up one without breaking it, then you will have a long life. Mochi rice, which is sticky in nature, is pressed into cakes called omochi, which are broiled or eaten in soup. Large omochi are first offered to the gods, then cut into pieces and eaten by the family because they are thought to bring luck as well as good health.

Pork > The custom of having pork on New Year’s Day can be found in cultures across the globe. For the Italians, it’s pork sausage over lentils in a dish called cotechino con lenticchie. For the Pennsylvania Dutch and many Germans, it’s pork and sauerkraut. Other Germans as well as the Polish like to eat pickled herring at midnight, but who really wants their lips on a cold fish at such a romantic moment?

Pork and pork fat both are incorporated into many Southern Hoppin’ John recipes, while Cajuns include pork in jambalaya. The Vietnamese serve a rice pudding known as banh chung or banh tet that contains mung beans and pork. And though the Chinese don’t share the same New Year’s Day as Western society, they, too, start off the year with pork in dishes including dumplings, buns (cha siu bao) and ginger pork.

Champagne > Why has Champagne at midnight become almost the worldwide symbol of welcoming in the new year? Perhaps because the wine was available mostly to Royalty in its early days, or because it survived through hard times, not to mention two World Wars. Or perhaps it is simply that it is bright, rich and effervescent. Just as we wish ourselves to be in the year to come.

Looking for a toast to offer this weekend or just any time? Here’s one from an anonymous source: “To my friends: Friends we are today, and friends we’ll always be, for I am wise to you, and you can see through me”.

A case of wine for the holidays

Maybe you rarely buy wines. Or maybe you stick with a few sure favorites. But for the holidays, you’re feeling the need to be more expansive and keep some wines on hand that are as friendly as you are, especially for drop-in guests or hostess gifts when you’re invited out.

Here are three wines and an ale that you can serve with confidence to anyone, be they wine (or beer) geeks or novices. They can be enjoyed on their own or paired easily with food.

Smart money buys a mixed case of the wines for discount. Plus, this is the season for mark-down specials, so it’s easy to find most of these wines priced below suggested retail. The ale is also inexpensive enough to keep a few bottles on hand. Most are widely available, although the ale is only in stores with artisanal beer selections.

Bah Humbug! Christmas ale
From Wychwood Brewery in England comes this beautiful, toasty amber ale. It’s mouth-filling and intense, with 6.2 percent alcohol. Beyond the traditional hops and malted barley, fruity notes like tangerine peel, allspice and white pepper are balanced with a bitter note. But it’s never rough or rogue-ish. Definitely made for sipping around the fire, or to go with mild Italian sausage or beer-simmered meats.

Gruet Brut NV
It’s always startling to see “Albuquerque, N.M.,” on Gruet’s labels, but the European winemaking Gruet family knew what it was doing when it chose to locate in the US state. Today Gruet Brut reigns as a classic, inexpensive sparkler, with regional roots, to boot. Crisp and citrusy, the nonvintage bubbly echoes the flavors of tart lemon curd on fresh country toast. Fine bubbles and a crisp, clean mouth-feel melt into a long, citric afterglow. Raise it for holiday toasts, or pair with light, cream-sauced pasta or fish, or mac ‘n’ cheese.

Banfi Le Rime 2005
This approachable, unoaked Tuscan blends chardonnay and pinot grigio to excellent effect. It’s light and crisp, with tropicals like pineapple and mango, dashed with lemon in the nose. Yet there’s a pleasant ripe-pear undercurrent. These flavors spill over to the mouth, where the fruit dances lightly, for a wine that’s crisp and clean, never sweet, and shaded by mineral notes. A friend to fish, fowl and pork.

Louis M. Martini 2003 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine introduces itself with bright, black-cherry fruit edged by dried strawberry and soft, leathery accents. Take a sip, and its fruit is amplified on the tongue as the tannins tug gently on your cheeks. Keep going, and hints of smoke and sage join in. The long finish changes like a kaleidoscope from darker, leathery notes to pure, fresh grape. It’s a natural with red meats and tomato-sauced pasta.

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