Whether you’d rather opt for a cooked custard base or you want to skip the stovetop and use pasteurized eggs, here’s your guide to making a batch of classic eggnog—plus, 5 ways to amp it up.

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that eggnog is a classic winter staple. The creamy, custardy, Christmassy drink has been popular at festive events in America since the 1700s, and earlier versions of the beverage existed centuries before that. And although it can be made without alcohol, the incorporation of brandy and rum in the drink can certainly warm you on a chilly evening.

Because of the incorporation of raw egg, many find the yuletide beverage intimidating to make. And some simply don’t care for the rich taste of the classic recipe. But if you’ve only had traditional homemade eggnog (or worse, never had homemade at all), it’s worth learning more about how this smooth, sweet beverage is made. To help you make your best batch of eggnog, we’ll go through a couple of basic eggnog making processes. We’ll then explore variations that either incorporate or deviate from the original recipe, like chocolate-flavored eggnog or eggnog mixed with coffee. Whether you whip up a classic, nutmeg-adorned batch or an apple cider-infused drink, you’ll love exploring this decadent treat.

How to Make Cooked Eggnog

Get the Recipes: Eggnog, Capital Eggnog

To make a basic cooked eggnog, start by adding 3 ½ cups of milk, ½ cup of sweetened condensed milk, one tablespoon of flour, ground nutmeg and salt to a medium pot. (If you’re looking for a lighter calorie version, you could use skim milk and fat-free condensed milk.) Heat the contents until the edges of the liquid bubble, all the while, stirring with a whisk. Then, crack two eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Whisk one-third of the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, and once that’s smooth, whisk the egg and milk mixture back into the pot. After a minute more of cooking on the stove, your eggnog should thicken. Take it off the heat.

Once that’s done, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract. At this point, your eggnog is ready to chill if you’re making the non alcoholic version. Pour the contents of the pot into a pitcher or bowl, cover the top of the container, and allow it to chill for at least four hours before serving. If you’d like to incorporate alcohol, add a fourth of a cup of bourbon and two tablespoons of brandy before putting it in the fridge to chill.

How to Make Uncooked Eggnog

In some traditional eggnog recipes, egg yolks aren’t cooked in a milk mixture. Instead, the yolks are whisked with alcohol, which traditionally was thought to remove the risk of salmonella. Unfortunately, the alcohol used in the recipe won’t mitigate the risks of eating raw eggs, but you should be fine as long as you use the freshest eggs you can find. Make sure they’re pasteurized!

To make a traditional batch of uncooked eggnog, crack open 12 large eggs and separate the whites from the yolks. Beat the egg yolks with a wooden spoon, and slowly incorporate 12 ounces of bourbon while you do so. Make sure to take your time with this step; the bourbon will thicken the yolk mixture and give it a pleasing, custardy finish.

Next, use a hand mixer or a stand mixer to beat your egg whites on high speed until you get soft peaks. Turn your mixer to medium speed, and slowly mix in 12 tablespoons of sugar. Turn the mixer back to high to create a meringue.

After you’ve whipped your egg whites sufficiently, fold your meringue into the egg yolks and bourbon mixture, starting with a fourth of the bowl at a time. Chill to serve later, or spoon your eggnog immediately into cups for a delicious treat. A dollop of whipped cream won’t go amiss here either.

If you’re not enthused by the idea of using raw eggs but don’t want to bother with a cooked base, try an instant version of eggnog using butterscotch pudding and Egg Beaters. Simply grab a four pack of butterscotch pudding snack cups and whisk their contents with one cup of egg substitute until smooth. Add in ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, along with a 12-ounce can of evaporated milk, two tablespoons of brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of rum extract. If desired, use a blender to incorporate. Serve immediately, preferably with whipped cream.

How to Make an Eggnog Cocktail

Once you’ve made your base eggnog, feel free to experiment further by turning it into an even more festive cocktail. You could add vanilla ice cream, bourbon, brandy, and orange liqueur along with your premade eggnog to make a rich, frosty drink, or you could add ice, coffee and Irish cream liqueur and vanilla extract to a blender and decorate a tall glass with ample chocolate syrup to make a yuletide mudslide.

If you haven’t made your eggnog yet and you’re willing to add a few steps, you can make an Irish coffee variation by mixing cooled coffee into your eggnog base while it’s still warm. Stir in Irish liqueur and vanilla extract, and your Irish cream eggnog will be ready to serve up.

How to Make Eggnog with Apple Cider

Get the Recipe: Hot Cider Nog

To infuse your eggnog with the delicious taste of apple cider, add in a cup of cider to a cooked eggnog base, after you’ve added in your eggs and incorporated them. Add the cider slowly so that the mixture emulsifies smoothly. To enhance the slightly fruity taste of this eggnog, consider adding orange liqueur along with cinnamon and nutmeg.

How to Make Eggnog with Chocolate

Get the Recipe: Chocolate Eggnog

Adding a bit of chocolate flavor to your eggnog can be a great way to mix things up. For this recipe, use 8 ounces of chocolate syrup (and, optionally, a quarter-cup of rum) for each quart of premade eggnog. Blend until incorporated, and then chill or serve immediately.

How to Make Eggnog with Coffee

Flavoring your eggnog with coffee can be a fun way to use up leftovers after a holiday party. To make an eggnog latte that tastes just like a seasonal Starbucks’ drink, brew a cup of espresso and heat up a half-cup of eggnog in a microwavable container. Combine the two, top with whipped cream, and enjoy.

Coffee lovers can also use instant coffee to instantly punch up an eggnog punch bowl. For each quart of eggnog, blend in a quarter-cup of brown sugar and two tablespoons of instant coffee. If desired, add in coffee liqueur and brandy, along with cinnamon and nutmeg.

How to Make Eggnog with Marshmallow Cream

Get the Recipe: Marshmallow Cream Nog

Marshmallow cream can be a great way to make a rich, delectable eggnog. For this recipe, combine four cups of milk, half a cup of marshmallow cream, three tablespoons of sugar, and either a split vanilla bean or vanilla extract to a pot. Heat over medium-low heat until the marshmallow melts into the milk. Stir a fourth of your cream mixture into egg yolks or frozen egg substitute, and then mix your egg mixture back into the pot. Cook over low heat until thickened, about one or two minutes. Then remove from the heat, add bourbon if desired, and sprinkle nutmeg over the top. Serve immediately, or chill to enjoy later.