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A spiked egg nog is a happy egg nog

Egg Nog at Excelsior
At Excelsior, the E Squared cocktail is made with a fresh egg nog mixture designed by executive sous chef Justin Winters shaken with spice enfused Diabolique bourbon and topped with cinnamon. The festive drink will be on the menu until New Year's Eve for $12. (Photo by Christina Caturano)

According to eggnog legend, the roots of the beverage reach back to the early 19th nineteenth century, when aristocratic Brits who had access to expensive dairy products had to get rid of the stuff in a hurry, since refrigerators didn't exist. So they mixed eggs and milk with brandy, and called it good. The concoction proved to be an adaptable one, and when it hit American shores, rum was the hot liquor commodity and was used instead of brandy as eggnog's spiking agent. That adaptability, reflected in the many styles and tastes of eggnog, is still evident today.

A key issue is the booze-to-dairy ratio; no less an authority than Martha Stewart decrees going heavy on the liquor, and her powerhouse recipe calls for cognac, bourbon, dark rum, and a dozen eggs - and that's before the heavy cream and spices. A few spots in town have taken liberties and put their own spins on the stuff, which is still being widely served in this week leading up to New Year's.

C.F. Donovan's (112 Savin Hill Ave., Dorchester. 617-436-2226) actually has two types: Sweet-seekers should ask the bartender to shake up an eggnog martini ($8) - 'nog mixed with Stoli Vanil and A Amaretto - while the Savin Hill eggnog ($8) comes a bit closer to Martha's approach, implementing everything from Captain Morgan to Korbel brandy to Jack Daniels.

A mellower version ($9) can be found at Excelsior (272 Boylston St., Boston. 617-426-7878), where the bourbon of choice is Diabolique, a locally produced infusion. The dried fruits, vanilla, and cardamom with which it's infused jazz up the kitchen's fresh, thick, dairy-heavy 'nog.

Those in pursuit of lighter delights can head to Ashmont Grill (555 Talbot Ave., Dorchester. 617-825-4300), where the Ashmont eggnog ($9) includes involves light cream, Jim Beam, and Crème de Cacao. ''It's eggnog in quotes,'' says general manager Francie Doyle. Hey, it's all 'nog to us.

- LIZA WEISSTUCH

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