1. Preheat oven to 325°. Place 8 (6-ounce) ramekins or custard cups in a heavy-duty roasting pan.
2. Heat whipping cream to just under a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat.
3. Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whisking together just until smooth. Gradually whisk in hot cream. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher.
4. Divide custard evenly among ramekins. Fill pan with hot water to a depth of 1 inch. Cover with aluminum foil, crimping around edges of pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until custard is barely set and jiggles when shaken. Remove ramekins from water bath, let cool, and chill 3 hours or up to 3 days.
5. Remove from refrigerator. Sprinkle surface of each custard evenly with 1 scant tablespoon sugar. Caramelize sugar with a kitchen blowtorch, moving flame quickly back and forth across custard. Let cool 2 to 3 minutes before serving.
*Substitute rum or brandy, if desired.
Note: If you don't have a kitchen blowtorch, broil 3 inches from heat 2 to 3 minutes or until sugar caramelizes.