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Ask the critics: Holiday edition!

All your burning questions about eggnog, answered.

Illustration: Andy Friedman

Some restaurants (a.k.a. Lettuce Entertain You restaurants) offer an incentive to buy gift cards around the holidays. Example: Buy $100, get $25 free. Is it wrong to pocket the bonus? Most people locally know about the bonuses, so it’s kind of awkward not to give the whole thing. On the flip side, one time I was given a $25 gift card and I knew it was the free bonus.—Robert, River North
Giving the bonus as the gift is just wrong. Pocketing the bonus as a way to congratulate yourself for being a thoughtful person is juuust riiiight.

I’m a weirdo who really likes eggnog. Are there bars or mixologists who are making their own eggnog?—Brent, Evanston
Many. Markethouse(300 E Ohio St, 312-224-2200) is serving a Kentucky bourbon caramelized quince eggnog. At Storefront Company(1941 W North Ave, 773-661-2609), there’s something called Smokey Nog, made with Scotch, Carpano Antico and Benedictine. At Embeya(564 W Randolph St, 312-612-5640), it’s a coconut eggnog, spiked with rum.

I’m a lapsed Catholic with an invite to a Hanukkah party. What would be an appropriate dish to bring? I’m asking in terms of theme, pairings, appropriateness, etc.—Martina, Ukrainian Village
Hanukkah is all about hot oil. Bring doughnuts.

Where can I find a really good fruitcake? I’ve heard they exist.—Web, Rogers Park
What? Where did you hear this? You’ve been lied to. Though Chrissy Camba is making her own fruitcake at Bar Pastoral(2947 N Broadway, 773-472-4781) and turning it into a bread pudding with rum hard sauce—that might get you halfway there.

I’m an intensely critical Chicago-based food critic—a dessert purist—looking for the city’s best holiday cookies. Help?—Zach, Wicker Park
For the cookies: Palmiers and macarons from Floriole(1220 W Webster Ave, 773-883-1313), and/or Lydia Esparza’s shortbread cookies at Great Lake(1477 W Balmoral Ave, 773-334-9270). For the purism: therapy.

Do you have a good bourbon-based punch recipe I can serve at my holiday party? —Laura, Edgewater
No. But Paul McGee does.

Admiral Schley Punch (serves 24)
4 cups bourbon (McGee uses Buffalo Trace—“a benchmark bourbon as far as bang-for-your-buck goes.”)
2 cups rum (McGee uses Flor de Caña 7 Year.)
3 cups fresh squeezed lime juice (For bonus points, strain the pulp before adding it to the bowl; it will give the finished punch a better texture.)
3 cups demerara syrup (Heat equal parts raw turbinado sugar and water in a pan, stir over heat until dissolved, cool.)
1 ice wheel (Fill a Bundt pan with water and freeze; this should take about 6 hours.)
Clove-studded orange wheels (for garnish)
Angostura bitters (for serving)

When your ice is ready, combine the bourbon, rum, lime juice and syrup in a large punch bowl and stir together. Add the ice wheel and the orange wheels. As you serve your guests, add one dash Angostura bitters to each glass.

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