How to drink the holidays like a native—of somewhere else
The December holiday season is celebrated in most countries around the world. Though the languages are different and the festivities have a cultural spin unique to their countries, the spirits still flow.
Traditional beverages are comforting and familiar, making the season merry and bright for those who can’t be at home or who want to remember the past and pass on these recipes to others. For Americans, Christmas in a foreign country may be something few will experience, but that doesn’t mean we can’t toast like the natives do with a few simple recipes.
Wassail is a hot mulled cider that remains the favorite holiday beverage in England. “Wassailing” is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “be in good health.” Traditionally, it involves going door to door singing Christmas carols.
While the exact origins of the practice are not known and it is a rare practice today, in general it is like the American holiday of Halloween. The carolers ask for “figgy pudding” and “good cheer” (food and wine) and they “won’t go until they get some!”
The beverage served to the carolers became known as Wassail. In Scandinavian countries—Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark—a similar recipe of mulled cider is known as “glogg” is served.
The Christmas punch from Mexico, Ponche Navideno, is often sold by street vendors during the holiday season. The combination of flavors varies from recipe to recipe, but always includes sugar cane, apples, pears, citrus and dried fruits, including the native tejocotes.
Adult versions add tequila or rum, packing a punch to both warm your stomach and possibly make you settle in for a long winter’s nap.
In the warmer climates, cold holiday drinks are the norm. In Chile, natives ask for a Cola de Mono or “monkey’s tail.” Similar to eggnog in texture, the drink is served over ice and is a combination of milk, coffee, vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
The local alcohol is aguardiente, but you can substitute rum or brandy as you prefer. On the tropical beaches of Jamaica, locals sip sorrel punch, which features sorrel or the petals of a type of hibiscus flower (not the bitter, green American plant). Combined with sugar, fresh ginger, lime juice and rum, this beverage is light and refreshing and a treat all on its own.
And finally, in Puerto Rico, you will find perhaps the richest of all the holiday beverages (with the possible exception of the Canadian and American eggnogs): the Coquito. This local “eggnog” has spiced rum, vanilla, warming spices (like cinnamon and nutmeg), and—here’s where the calories kick in—both condensed milk and coconut milk. Served chilled it is a satisfying tropical end to any meal.
Enjoy and happy holidays!
Coquito (Puerto Rican Eggnog)
(courtesy of food.com)
- 2 cans coconut cream
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup rum
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
Blend ingredients in blender for five minutes, refrigerate, then serve cold. Serves 4-6 people.