This Christmas, learn how to make the rich and creamy eggnog of your holiday dreams.
how to make eggnog
Credit: Southern Living

Sure, you can buy the stuff in the carton, but it's the holidays—‘tis the season for truly indulging. Homemade eggnog is easier to make than you might think. And when you make eggnog from scratch, you can enjoy it just the way you like it, whether that's ultra thick and creamy, intensely sweet, or super-boozy. For such a simple drink, there are many different types of eggnog. Here are a few pointers:

Yes, it's made with raw eggs.

It is called eggnog, after all. The drink was originally made to preserve raw eggs and dairy, which is why it was mixed with alcohol—to kill harmful bacteria. (And eventually, to make it a fun holiday party drink.) Certain medical conditions (including pregnancy) may prevent people from consuming raw eggs, but that doesn't mean forgoing eggnog completely. Make it with pasteurized eggs or cook the base on the stovetop.

Use a mix of dairy.

Great eggnog is made with a mix of milk and and heavy or whipping cream. Using only one or the other will result in a runny or overly rich drink.

160˚ is the magic number.

If you're cooking your eggnog, warm the dairy very slowly over medium heat, using a kitchen thermometer to make sure it does not heat up too much. Once the mixture bubbles around the edges (do not boil) and reaches 160˚, remove it from the heat. Any longer than that and the liquid can turn too thick and lumpy. Then slowly combine the warm dairy mixture with the eggs, as directed in your recipe. You can serve the eggnog warm, or store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Spike it—or not.

If you're making nonalcoholic eggnog, drink it within a day. Spiked eggnog will keep much longer—remember, it's a preservative! Eggnog with about 1 cup of liquor will typically keep for a few days. You can use rum, bourbon, brandy, cognac, or even praline liquor.

You might also be interested in:

Allow plenty of time to chill.

The eggnog, not you. (You can chill when the eggnog is done chilling.) If you're making a "raw" or "cooked" eggnog, refrigerate it for at least one hour. This allows the flavors to come together.

Fresh nutmeg is best.

A sprinkling of aromatic nutmeg is a traditional nutmeg topper. If you can find whole nutmeg and grind it yourself with a microplane, the freshly grated spice will take your eggnog from everyday to extraordinary.