Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Homemade Vanilla Extract

Christmas & Egg Nog

From an old Bacardi Rum advertisement.

Christmas time is here. I know this because around this time of year I develop two strong cravings. The first is to listen to my Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas station on Pandora. The second craving is to make some homemade eggnog. I'm not sure where these come from. It might have something to do with a change in the gravitational field as the Earth orbits the Sun, or maybe not. Whatever the reason, I am looking forward to the eggnog.

I first started making my own eggnog in 2004. I spent Christmas 2003 in Thailand with some friends and while enjoying the local food we talked about how we were missing Christmas dinner. We decided that when we got back we would make our own Christmas dinner and began planing the menu. In the spirit of the meal I decided to find a recipe to make my own eggnog. Looking around the interwebs I found a recipe from Cigar Aficionado' Jack Bettridge. I liked his recipe because it attempted to recreate an 18th century style nog that our Founding Fathers might have drunk.

Here's his recipe:

6 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup spirits (whiskey and brandy work, but rum is traditional), 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 pint half and half cream, 1 pint milk, and Nutmeg.

In a large bowl, beat eggs to a froth. Add sugar and salt, continue beating. Stir in spirits, cream, vanilla and milk. Chill at least three hours (some recipes call for Egg Nog on the rocks, but our forefathers didn't have refrigerators.) Serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

I like to use pasture raised eggs because their yokes are richer than regular or even “free range/cage free” eggs. For the spirit I tend towards a good Jamaican rum like Appleton V/X or Reserve because its full flavor stands out amid all the sugar and cream. I also like to use my own vanilla extract, which I make from vanilla pods steeped in a 4-5 oz bottle of vodka. I know some have expressed concern about the raw eggs, but I have been making this recipe for almost 10 years and neither I or any of my friends and family have ever gotten sick from this. I just make sure to buy everything fresh the day of or the day before it is serve.

The most striking thing about this eggnog when you first drink it is how light it is compared to most store bought nog. I'm not sure why all the eggnogs I buy are so thick but this recipe is a nice change. It doesn't leave you feeling overly full which makes it great for holiday parties. I keep coming back to this recipe because it is has been a perfect a night cap after Christmas dinner spent in the warm embrace of family and friends.


DIY Spirit Aroma Kit

Last year the Commonwealth Club of California hosted a panel discussions entitled “Distilled in the Bay Area: How to Drink Like a Locavore.” During the Q&A, one question that seemed to be on the minds of many in the audience was, how to improve one's ability to detect and describe the aromas present in spirits? The panel of distillers offered a few suggestions. Their primary suggestion, which I've heard before, was to hold a tasting with some friends. At the tasting you pick a couple spirits of the same type (i.e. gin, bourbon, scotch, rum) and as you smell and drink them you talk with your friends about the aromas and flavors you are noticing. It is helpful to do this in a group because not only will different people notice different things but they may also use different words to describe whats in the glass. I can say from my own experience these types of events are very helpful. Numerous times I have had an experience where I have been stuck trying to describe an aroma and a friend offers their suggestion which perfectly describes the sensation.

The second suggestion the panel offered to improve one's ability to recognize aromas was to practice with an aroma kit. An aroma kit is a collection of small vials that contain aromatics that match the name on the label. For instance vials labeled oak, green apple, black cherry, clove, smell like their name. The purpose of these are to practice associating the smell of an aroma with its name so that when you come across a similar aromas in spirits you can identify them. However, the only commercially available aroma kits I was able to find were geared towards red wine drinkers and very expensive. I was primarily interested in aromas found in spirits and I not that keen to spend hundreds of dollars on a kit that some reviewers complained came with vials that didn't smell at all.

I was almost ready to give up on the idea when my brain connected a conversation I had with a friend about herbal tinctures with my homemade vanilla extract. A number of years ago some friends gave me a vanilla extract kit for Christmas. The kit consisted of a 4oz bottle three whole vanilla beans and a bottle of vodka. To make the vanilla extract I slit the beans, placed them in the bottle, filled it with vodka and let it sit in the cupboard. Since alcohol is a solvent the vodka dissolves a little of the vanilla bean infusing it with its flavor and aroma. Tinctures are similar in that they use alcohol to extract healthful properties from various herbs. I put these together and I thought maybe I could make my own spirits aroma kit.

To do this I bought some 2oz amber glass bottles with the plan to fill them with various herbs, spices, other aromatics common to spirits and 40% vodka and see what happens. Future posts in this series will show my process, the results and hopefully prove to be a low-cost alternative to buying a commercial aroma kit.

Update: Read about making my first batch of spirit aromas.