Brunch at Hola Arepa

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Getting to Hola Arepa’s Restaurant in Uptown, across the street from the legendary Pat’s Tap, was a long road in coming… now granted, I never paid attention to when they opened, so I don’t know HOW long a road, but I can figure at least a notable few months right? Having only two days off a week doesn’t help either, especially figuring they aren’t open on one of them (who’d figure it was Monday and not Sunday? Good thing there’s Brunch). But I got out recently so yay.

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I’m going to start off by saying this, I mean I expected them to be good of course (there’s a reason the truck’s been so popular), figured a really sweet Mexican lunch ‘sandwich’ spot reminiscent to a truck experience, but I didn’t think they’d be THIS good. Hell this was a TRIP on level with a trip to Pizza Luce, and you know how good they are.

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Especially during Brunch, which happened to be the time me and my dear sister ended up making it there. It was here that I discovered, to my intense satisfaction, how popular the spot has become, garnering a half hour wait for a table for two (so one can safely say that, unlike the truck, not the best spot for those trying to get in and out fast, at least unless you get to brunch early). Not that we minded, it gave us the opportunity to grab some rather badass cocktails.

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Here comes my first happy surprise, seeing a menu full of fun, modern Craft Cocktails reminiscent to some of our favorite finds at local bars such as NE Social, Pat’s, and Marvel. For my sister, the Seasonal Horchata Cocktail, based off a house-made ‘spiced whey horchata’ with flana cor 4yr rum, bitters, and cinnamon. A fantastic, thought-provoking improvement on the classic spiced rice-milk drink in the form of a ‘milk punch’ (look it up, they’re delicious and I want to make one). For myself, because the sister already grabbed the cocktail I wanted, something with the name of Paradise (okay, I forgot to steal or take a picture of the menu, thought the website would have it okay!? I was wrong) filled with Tropical flavored Aged Rum, Bourbon, Vermouth, Bitters, Lillet (if I remember correctly), and other cocktail things.

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Smooth, delicious, refined, definitely a great thing to sip on the benches outside during a beautiful sunny day. I absolutely love the pineapple flavor it got; subtly present, not super bright or artificial, just that deep tropical undertone lifted up and fused with the aged rum and whiskey spirits, mixing with the botanical-infused spirit elements to bring body, sweet complexity, and that amazing mouthfeel.

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But it was gone, and we got a table, and another cocktail was deserved, thus I grabbed an “Hola Fashioned” based out of well-aged rum with a dash of smoky Lagavulin Scotch to subtly tie in to the original cocktail, giving it just a light, subtle bit of that whiskey barrel-aged whiskey essence in the back while the rest fills with that delicious mix of orange aroma and rich sugar spirit. The sister got a seasonal Sangria, Red, with blueberries and another fruit. Let me just say, sangria is almost never something I crave or ever really FEEL like drinking unless it’s just in a fridge at a party (or offered to me), but THIS is one I’d go back to.

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But that’s enough talking about booze, let’s get to the actual food. There’s been plenty of articles written about this already I’m well aware, in fact I do wish I could go back for the Chicharone and Arepitas dishes, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy my own experiences right?

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It’s not a trip without an Arepa, and I got to grab one I had yet to experience so far, of the ‘Breakfast’ Variety. Stuffed with a Fried Egg, Beans, the white cheese Cojita and some Tomatoes + Aioli, we decided to take the next step and also add in Pork. Which I’m glad we did, because without it I would imagine it’d be a very flat, not-so-full sandwich. Along with the meat, it certainly met the basic requirements, though I feel I’ve found more enjoyment with their other arepas (more of that rich, juicy experience, plus the dough today felt a little denser than usual). The real highlight of the order, though, was the Yuca Fries. God these fit literally every feature that I look for in PERFECT fries (at least of the thick-cut variety). Crunchy and crispy outer crust, soft pillows inside (maybe a bit more starchy than the really fluffy white potatoes), and big, these were a delight, especially with a side of aioli.

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Main Course happened to be Cachapas (yellow corn pancakes) and Fried Chicken; the latter a drier style with thick crust, truly ideal in those ‘chicken and waffle’ experiences when you just wanna cut it up and get a big piece of peppery fried batter in every bite of food. The pancakes came super soft, naturally savory-sweet highlighted from the corn sprinkled on top, and acting as an amazing base to carry the flavors of the accompanying egg, bacon, jalapeno… and of course that syrup. Easily the best part on that plate, for it truly completed that smorgasbord flavor of the ‘full pancake breakfast’ we expect, and without needing to cover the whole plate in calories. Just a few drops over my giant forkfuls of food, and that distinctly unique and deep chipotle-maple flavor could be picked up amongst everything else. It was classic, yet modern, yet traditional in a different way, and all executed well to convene in a mass that hit everything I wished for at Brunch (unless I’m craving hash brown skillet sorta thing, but that’s another day).

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Let’s move on, two more small items to get through (btw, yes there was leftovers… not much, but some nonetheless). Nowadays I love granola, yogurt, fruit and honey in the morning, and their version is easily now one of, if not MY, absolute favorites. A simple Yogurt Flan (baked custard, panna cotta, etc) with fresh Blackberries and a Cornflake-Pepita ‘Granola,’ which if anything was more of a candied mix of the two, with some sort of syrup on bottom (my money’s on a flavored Agave, but who knows? Maybe it was just honey based). Whatever the details were, it was good, and a perfect way to have a little dessert at breakfast time; I want more of the ‘granola,’ that was just sweet and crispy and addictive, they need to make an actual cereal out of it.

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Despite that, I had to try a certain actual dessert, the Mini “Churro.” Both I and they use the quotation marks for good reason, because I’m pretty sure they don’t use the same crème-puff-style dough which churros are usually made from. It came out more… actually, now that I think about it, it was basically like a coffee cake. A really good one, covered in a thick layer of cinnamon-sugar, and then served with a chocolate-coffee sauce on the side. Which, may I say, was DIVINE. Silky, smooth, with that teasingly bitter flavor that makes you think of classic Mexican Cacao, all to dip and pour over your little ‘churro,’ which ate nicely (if not messily, and yes you MUST use your hands for this or you aren’t a proper Hombre). It’s not a churro on any real fashion besides the fry job and cinnamon, but it is still good for what it is.

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And that thus concludes my little round-up of my first, and hopefully not last, visit towards Hola Arepa. I know I don’t have to wish them any luck, so instead I shall simply set my feet, look forward, and continue on towards the next meal, wherever it shall take me. Certainly I hope you can do the same. Good Luck and Good Eating.

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Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites

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https://www.facebook.com/undeadfrankszombiebites

https://twitter.com/UndeadFranks

Main Location: Minneapolis, Etc

            You know, it’s been bad enough as-is every time I’ve had to tell someone that I have yet to actually go to Psycho Suzi’s. The shame and embarrassment of not being able to experience another one of the practically staple Minneapolis businesses to visit. Yes yes I know, it’s right in Nordeast, what’s wrong with me, they’re funky and already have another bar under their name, etc. I guess lack of money keeps one from the best night activities.

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            And now I feel even worse. Cuz if I HAD started going to Suzie’s or their brother bar Donny Dirk’s, I probably wouldn’t have had to wait until April to find out about the Food Truck they started up. Donny Dirk’s is, after all, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites’favorite nightly stop, usually hanging outside every Thursday-Saturday. Since the bar doesn’t seem to serve food, it’s quite the perfect arrangement (maybe Marvel should get their own food truck… now wait, they have snacks now. Darn); it’s definitely a fun experience to get one of their undead crafted cocktails with the forbidden edibles. Their themes do match after all.

            Along with a few interesting street food items (may I present 3 different kinds of “Meltie?” Chicken, Beef, and ‘Fundido,’ aka just cheese and veggies), Undead Frank’s mainly serves up various Bar Snack typebaskets. Mostly filled with their own truck-unique items; such as the Zombie Bites, “Undead” Fries and (handmade) Chips served with Cheese, Jalapeno Coleslaw, and a hot dog aptly named Frank’s Furter; they also bring back a much missed Psycho Suzi’s classic in their Minne-Mex Rolls. These babies disappeared from the restaurant menu some time ago to the chagrin of many regulars, so the Truck decided to bring them back. Round it off with a Cactus Pear Lemonadeand we have ourselves a fun addition to the quirky little Undead restaurant family.

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            Accompanying the food, Frank’s truck is completely bedecked in a sickly zombie green, the blood of its recent ingredi… I mean, survivors, splattered here and there. Doctor Chefs are studded out in long grey labcoats, hopefully a sign they’re working on a cure between taking orders… either that or fine tuning a new chainsaw.

            My first foray with Frank’s took my straight to Donny Dirk’s about only 3 days after I found out about the truck. I say “first” because, sadly, the menu at the time did not include that one, single item which I truly needed to have; ‘dem Zombie Bites. Not that it was a total loss, due to this I was able to try a few items, enjoy them with a friend and a cocktail (the Executioner: an apple-y, spicy whisky and egg emulsion, very delicious with the food), and come back again to get even more at the Art-a-Whirl (got some fun Tiki pics while there, as you can see).

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            Starting out solely around the various restaurants and certain events, once Frank gets their own portable generator (which I suspect to have happened by the time this is posted), they plan on widening their reach throughout Minneapolis. So don’t be surprised to see them at more breweries, games, events, or just random places on the street. You know how those zombies are, they get around and show up everywhere…

Food: 8.5

             Quite a few things I’ve sampled here, let’s see if I can make this quick (for once).

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             A great street food item is the Meltie; basically a burrito placed in a panini-like-press, a tight wrapping and crispy exterior enfold a tasty, “melty” filling. The filling was good, tasty, but there wasn’t anything too exciting about it; I was really looking forward to the “beer cooked chicken,” but none of that flavor actually came through. Still juicy and well cooked, it’s a well-made standard tortilla-based munchy.

            I can see why people were upset at Suzi’s demise of the Mex-Rolls; crispy-crunchy but sorta soft fried dough, a lightly spicy, gooey cheese and black bean filling. It certainly fit with the odd bar food theme. And they look like fingers.

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            Buying just a side of coleslaw just feels odd to me, especially from a food truck (though it does at least fit my annoyed thoughts of people automatically adding sides to a mobile food and making it require a basket), but I can certainly say the Jalapeno Slawis about worth it. Its presence solves a conundrum I’ve been having for a while; what exactly makes a good quality creamy/mayo-based slaw? You can salt and drain the cabbage to absorb more, but then they get soft… or do you leave it fresh, but sometimes they affect the cream. Of which, what’s the consistency like? However it is, Frank has nailed it; crunchy cabbage, though there’s a liquid that settles into the bottom it’s not disgusting, the flavors are delicious with a good jalapeno-ness, and there’s still a nice creamy substance sticking to the outside. Maybe not the best description, but it tastes damn good; probably the best non-asian-style Coleslaw I’ve had (sorry for not keeping this one short).

             Finally, my second visit allowed me to grab those Zombie Bites. I had wondered what exactly they were like… my thoughts filled with the description of a deep-fried bundle of mozzarella, tomato sauce and pepperoni… figured it’d be like a mozzarella stick but in ball form, and with other stuff. Then I got it…

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             Do you see!? Do you see it!? It’s a Pizza Roll!!They make their own pizza rolls! And it’s got the same thin, stretched-dough-crispy crust that’s absorbed the cheese and pepperoni fat, and the almost-homogenous red filling. But it’s bigger, not as messy, sorta like an empanada version of it. I just loved it, total Nostalgia kick that I still enjoy; it’s definitely official, Undead Frank’s Zombie Bites have reached Toe Ringmaterial.

Holdability: 9

              Most items revolve around basket-based snack fair, all of which are pretty non-messy and easy to eat with the hands. The Jalapeno Slaw is quite the oddity, being served in both a cup and basket; though I guess if one’s getting it for a side with other food anyways they already eliminate the ability to hold something in one hand anyways. I am a bit saddened that the Melties are automatically cut in half; otherwise they could have made ideal one-hand-only street item. Though they are still easy to pick up from the basket and go… could probably still do it with one hand, they’re pretty thin, sorta smush them side-by-side.

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Price: 9

               $7-$8for different Melties and Main Items (like the Hot Dog), with $4-$5 for Side and Snack-based things. Overall it’s a pretty good range, multiple items which hit the mark, though it feels like a stretch for others. $5-6(it changes apparently) for “Undead Fries” or Chips, which are basically a basket with their cheese sauce, seems a bit much for a Food Truck offering, and the Hot Dog didn’t look big enough to justify $7 despite the toppings. Everything else seems about right though.

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Speed: 7.5

               About average waits for items.

The TOE: 10

               It is a ZOMBIE FOOD TRUCK! The food may not make you think of it so much (unless you look at it a certain way, though one could apply that to a lot of things), but the experience of going there is nonetheless absolute. Especially when enjoying them at Donny Dirk’s. Just what one could expect by the relative business of both Donny’s and Psycho Suzie’s; if there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s creating an “Environment.” Even got the window chefs dressed up in lab coats… simple, dank gray lab coats, but lab coats nonetheless (I wanted white with blood spatters! Whyyyyy!???). Oh, and don’t forget the Toe Ring.

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              There are likely some small aspects, of the overall package, I could knock them for, but I feel everything else just launches them far enough over these indescrepencies that I don’t care. Hell, if I had higher tiers of scoring for this then Frank’s would be one of the guys up there.

                       Tally: 44/50

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Final Thoughts

            I really think the best experience here, much like Motley Crews and the breweries, is to head down to Donnie Dirk’s, grab a basket of your favorite thing to snack on at the bar, and enjoy with one of their fun cocktails. Zombie Bitesare obviously at the top of my list, many other are obsessed with the Mex-Rollsso I think they’re as much a viable suggestion here.

            That doesn’t mean they aren’t a great option on the street. Though I haven’t had it yet, the Cactus Pear Lemonadeis near the top of my list for Food Truck Drink Options (it’s actually unique… hopefully it won’t go the way of the overused Hibiscus trend). Plus the Meltiesare strong, stable street food carry items with a unique package (compared to other options we have so far). They’re all good, but I feel like the Beefwould be my favorite.

SFC: Nog Yog Hog Fog?

              Eggnog, also known as “Egg Milk Punch” at one time or another, enjoys a very debated and disjunct history as to possible origins (which is a really fun little read actually, you should take a quick peak on its Wikipedia site or find some random article on the matter). Nonetheless, the thick, custardy drink has earned a very potent location during this time of the year in both our US states and neighbor Canada to the North. Finding a taste for it about 10 years ago (or more, can’t remember) when my sis had me try it from one of those store-bought cartons, the slowly growing inner cocktail geek within me has been gradually creating a special spot in my heart for this oh so unique and classic drink (I think it’s on a shelf right above Bourbon and a bit to the left of Pink Gin, no supports yet though).

                I started making my own holiday batches of this creamy, eggy mixture about two years ago, starting with a basic recipe and experimenting with a couple more later on. If you have a bit of time, some patience, access to booze and no vegan friends (unless there’s one you wanna tease), then I think you should give it a try yourself.

                Let me just start off by saying that as for recipes, there are a TON… ish. Most of them are distinctly different and WILL yield different results, so although I will be offering up a particular recipe today, I would highly suggest you do a bit of looking around to find a particular proportion/mix that better suits your purposes (especially when changing it with flavors, there are some you might want thicker, creamier, eggier, lighter/fresher, etc). I myself am doing two different nogs this year, and normally would probably use two different recipes depending on each; but I’m a bit lazy this year and have lotsa other things to do.

                If anything, the main purpose of this post is to go through the METHOD of making Eggnog, as well as particular techniques for flavoring (and certain possibilities).

Basic Classic Eggnog ala Alton Brown

1 pint Whole Milk

4 Egg Yolks

1/3 cup + 1 Tb Sugar

3 oz (3/8ths cup) Bourbon

1 tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg

1 cup Cream

4 Egg Whites

                For any normal recipe, this entire setup can be completed within the half hour, if not fifteen minutes, and we would start off with the Eggs. As this particular segment involves my flavoring of the cocktail, however, we start with the milk; 1-2 days in advance please.

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                Warm the Milk slightly in a pot; think of it as a bit under steeping temperature one uses when making a custard. Once warm we can add our NON-ARTIFICIAL flavorings. For my first one, I have some Cranberries, freshly grated Ginger, and Fresh Mint.

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                My second eggnog of the night is going to be a Toasted Marshmallow-Bacon (as opposed to the JUST Marshmallow of last year… what was I thinking?). As mentioned in a post a while back, I like using the mini marshmallows for this, toasted in a hot oven, to get a much higher ratio of the toasted area to the actual marshmallow body. It’s definitely best that we’re heating the milk for this too, as it’ll allow the mallows to dissolve that much easier.

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                Add those to the pot, whisking in, and follow with some freshly cooked and still hot Bacon Pieces (chopped) and all the fat from the pan. Take both pans off heat but let them stay warm a bit; the mint should be taken out w/in 15 minutes, to avoid bitter chlorophyll flavors, but the other ingredients SHOULD stay in overnight to ensure full integration (unless you put in a lot of ginger, that stuff’s powerful. Either do a lot for a short period of time or a little bit to let mature). Move to a container and into the fridge once both milks have fully cooled down.

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                Strain next day, taste to ensure milk is flavored how you desire, and move onto proper production.

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                Beat egg Yolks thoroughly (electric mixer much preferred) until light in color and thick/airy/”ribbon stage.” Add the first 1/3 cup Sugar, noting that for the Marshmallow recipe its toasted addition should be considered a delicious replacement for most if not all the sugar needed at this point (so either add only a little sugar or none at all), and continue beating for a bit longer until well integrated and further “fluffed.”

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                Stir in the milk, Nutmeg, and your Alcohol of choice; yes, CHOICE. Though we mainly consider Bourbon to be the “classic” liquor option for eggnog, which is certainly true for US tradition I’m sure, there really is no set law on application, especially considering its uncertain historical evolution. Besides bourbon, we can use rum, brandy, rye whiskey, scotch, cream liqueurs, vodka, etc. It’s all your decision, and it all comes out delicious.

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                For myself, to better match with what I was doing I stuck with a simple, slightly sweet bourbon for the marshmallow-bacon and used a Brandy which I had marinated with cranberries (which I then used for the later infusion) for about a week.

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                At this point, this and many a recipe would have you add all the Cream in as well. However, what I enjoy doing is reserving most of it (I still add a little) and whisk in a cold metal bowl to make Whipped Cream (at least “soft peak” stage, maybe a bit more if you like). This I fold into the eggy-alcy-milky mix, helping to thicken it somewhat and facilitate the next step.

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                What I just did with the cream I now do with the Egg Whites, but with a beater (in a CLEAN bowl with no hint of egg or fat or whatever), adding the teaspoon of sugar after it’s gotten near a soft peak stage. Whip it back to soft peak, you don’t really want it “firm” as it’ll be even more difficult to fold in and integrate with the nog base, but you want it all whipped up and stable together.

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                Fold this in like before, ensuring full mix, and pour into a bowl, pitcher, etc. You can then serve this as is or, as I like to do, make the whole thing a night before and let sit in the fridge. I doubt there’s any real “aging” or “evolution” of flavors like when cooling a just-hot custard overnight, but maybe the alcohol will smooth down a bit, the egg may develop, the nutmeg may round out. Plus, do it the night before you don’t have to worry day-of.

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                There is something you should know ahead of time though. It. Will. Separate. No matter what you do or how well you whip and integrate your air-incorporated elements (cream, egg whites, marshmallows, etc), as it sits your little mixture will start turning into a pool of lighter custard on the bottom half with air-filled clouds of white on top. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not going bad, all you need to do is just stir it back in (whisk works well, but I actually like plunging with a large ladle better, plus this way you only need the ladle for both serving and fixing) and it goes back to almost-before. I promise it’ll keep tasting just as good so long as it’s kept cold.

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                Serve in your favorite little mug and garnish with a fresh grating of Nutmeg (on the classic or the Mint-Ginger flavored one) or maybe a bit of Candied Bacon (on the Marshmallow). You now have yourself a rich, spicy, creamy yet not that heavy (well, maybe the marshmallow depending on how much you add) Holiday Treat filled with that nice warmth that only alcohol can bring. Enjoy at a party or just hog it all to yourself next to a fire. Either way you won’t be disappointed.

                With drink in hand I wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, and Good Eating throughout!

 

Disclaimer: by this point, there are most likely at least one or two people reacting to the obvious notion that not once, during the entire process, are the eggs cooked or “pasteurized” for your protection. And as such this is a risky and potentially dangerous cocktail to drink due to salmonella risk. To those reactions I sincerely ask you people to please be quiet (and thankful that that comment is the worst I was willing to respond with). The whole idea of how “dangerous” raw eggs are has been extremely exaggerated throughout the years due to minute cases in the PAST, hell Rocky drank them. And though I certainly understand and don’t mind the worry when it comes to eating them straight or nearly so, in highly manipulated dishes and custards such as this one has to consider the interplay of so many other additions to much reduce this already miniscule issue, especially since we have alcohol also coming into play (it does do a wonder at disinfecting and “curing” things).

However, I do understand that despite my strong objection to what to me has become an outlandish worry, there are still those that would feel very uncomfortable making something like this (or making a nonalcoholic version that very sensitive children may consume). As such I feel obligated to inform that one DOES have the option of “pasteurizing” this; following the same steps, heat the milk/cream to almost a simmer and temper the beaten egg yolks (with sugar), bring to the stove and heat to 160F. Remove from heat, stir in your alcohol and let chill in fridge before moving on.

The resulting nog will, undoubtedly, not retain as many of the full, refreshing flavor aspects of the traditional, though the “custardyness” of it may increase slightly, and its resulting texture might actually reduce the separation/splitting factor a bit as well.