Festive holiday eggnog or punch for all ages Essay

Festive holiday eggnog or punch for all ages Nonalcoholic refreshments for this party season can appeal to allages. Here we offer two very different choices: a rich eggnog and asprightly punch. You might consider serving both.

Bottled beverages are another option. Sold in wine bottles,nonalcoholic juices made from wine grapes can go into a tub of icealongside white wines so that guests can choose for themselves. Varietaljuice choices include Gewurztraminer, Chenin Blanc, White Riesling, andBeaujolais Blanc, plus native grape juices like Catawba.

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There are alsowines with very low alcohol (about .5 percent) content. Other beverages to consider, often handsomely packaged, aredomestic and imported apple ciders. The grape juices and cider costabout $1.50 to $4 a bottle. Praline Eggnog For a fluffy topping, if you make the eggnog ahead, reserve some ofthe cream to whip and add just before serving. 1 1/4 cups sugar 3 to 6 cups milk 3 sticks cinnamon, each about 3 inches 1 vanilla bean, about 7 inches, split in half lengthwise 2 cups whipping cream 12 eggs Nutmeg In a 3- to 4-quart pan, melt half of the sugar over high heat,stirring constantly until it is a golden liquid; lumps will melt on theheat. Do not let syrup scorch.

Remove from heat; at once add 3 cups ofmilk, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla bean. Mixture will sputter. Return pan to medium heat and stir until the caramelized sugar isdissolved. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours or overnight.Remove spices.

Rinse vanilla vean and let dry; reverve for other uses. Whip cream until it holds soft peaks; set aside. Whip eggs withremaining sugar until about tripled in volume. Whisk eggs and half thecream into caramelized milk. For less rich eggnog, add remaining 3 cups milk. Pour into a 4- to5-quart punch bowl, top with remaining cream, and grate nutmeg on top.

Serve cold. If made ahead, do not add nutmeg; cover and chill up to 2 days.Whisk gently to blend, then top with nutmeg. Dip down into punch as youserve. Makes 12 to 16 cups, or 16 to 21 servings of 3/4 cup each. Christmas Flower Punch Dried hibiscus are sold as Jamaica flowers in Mexican markets; theygive the punch a brilliant ruby color.

10 cups water 24 bags herbal tea with hibiscus flowers 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers, optional 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup lime juice 2 limes, cut crosswise into thin slices Bring water to boiling in a 4- to 5-quant pan. Add tea bags,hibiscus flowers, sugar, and lime juice. Remove from heat and letstand, covered, until flavors are blended, about 10 minutes. Pour punchthrough a stainer into a warmed punch bowl, top with lime slices, andserve hot. Or reserve lime slices and chill punch, covered, up to 2 days.Serve cold or reheat, and add lime slices. Makes 2 1/2 quarts, or 13servings of 3/4 cup each.

Photo: A dusting of nutmeg settles on cool, cream-fluffed eggnogthat is colored and flavored by caramelized sugar Photo: Bottled like fine wine, juices of wine grapes offer pleasantalternatives for people who prefer nonalcoholic refreshments

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