In the Drink

New twists on eggnog. PLUS: A creamy coconut-eggnog cheesecake recipe.

It’s that time of year, when spirits are high. From Mad Elf to Moët to cranberry-hued “holi-tinis,” many of us will spend the better part of December a little less clear-headed than usual.

One of the more traditional options is eggnog. OK, so maybe it’s not the healthiest beverage, all beefed up with milk, cream, sugar and eggs. But with a little experimentation, you can make your recipe low-carb, vegan or even lactose free (Silk makes a soy eggnog).

This year, ditch the punch bowl and opt for a chilled martini glass and a hit of Frangelico or almond extract. Also worth trying: dark rum, rye whiskey, bourbon, brandy, coconut milk, and a little cinnamon with your nutmeg.

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Leftover ’nog makes a great addition to holiday desserts, its rich consistency perfect for cookies, pies and cakes. A Web search will turn up plenty of recipes, but if you want something truly decadent, see the creamy coconut-eggnog cheesecake recipe below. It’s one of our favorite ways to indulge.

Toasted Coconut-Eggnog Cheesecake

Serves 10-12

• 1 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tbsp. dark rum
• 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
• 1 tbsp. cornstarch
• 1/2 cup eggnog
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
• 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
• 12 vanilla cream sandwich cookies, broken into pieces (Vienna Fingers is recommended.)
• Garnishes: sweetened whipped cream, ground cinnamon

• Bake 1 1/4 cups coconut in a shallow pan at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, for 8-9 minutes or until toasted. Reserve 1/4 cup for garnish.

• Process cookies and pecans in a food processor until cookies are finely crushed. Add butter; pulse until crumbs are moistened. Add 1 cup toasted coconut; pulse just until combined. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan.

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• Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

• Meanwhile, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggnog and the next four ingredients, beating just until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until the yellow disappears. Stir in vanilla. (Do not over-beat.) Pour batter into baked crust.

• Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes or until set. Remove from oven, and immediately run a knife around the edge of the pan, releasing sides.

• Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours. Garnish as desired. Sprinkle with reserved 1/4 cup toasted coconut.

Featured on by Southern Living magazine.

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