Until recently, I thought one of the lines in “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” was “Have a cup of GIN.” It’s actually a cup of “CHEER.” In my book, the words are interchangeable.
This Christmas we’re adding to cheer to our gatherings with Latin American versions of eggnog: rompope and coquito, and also, with an unexpected punch. All recipes are from our book, Winter Cocktails, and we’d like to share them with you and yours here.
ALSO! Listen to my spiel on Eggnog on NPR!
serves 6 to 8
The first rompope, a derivation of Spanish ponche de huevo (egg punch), was brewed by seventeenth-century nuns in the Santa Clara convent in Puebla, Mexico. According to legend, Sister Eduviges requested that the nuns be allowed to drink the rompope they were only permitted to make. Legend also has it that there was one secret ingredient in the recipe that Eduviges took with her to the grave.
Rompope is served chilled, often over ice, but it can be served warm, which is how I prefer it when cold weather sets in. Either way, it’s rich, velvety, fragrant, and certainly full of cheer.
2⁄3 cup blanched almonds
11⁄2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
6 cups whole milk
2 cinnamon sticks
Rind of 1 lemon*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
8 large egg yolks
1 cup white rum or aguardiente**
*Remove the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler, being careful to avoid the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor.
**Aguardiente literally means “burning water” in Spanish. It is a strong (29% or higher) spirit distilled from fruits, grains, and commonly sugarcane.
It’s available at most liquor stores; for additional sources, see page 156.
Pulse almonds with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a food processor until ground to a fine paste.
Bring milk, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, and baking soda to a boil over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottom saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks, the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, and ground almonds until thick and pale. Remove cinnamon and lemon rind and discard. Whisking constantly, slowly add the milk to the yolk mixture.
Return mixture to pan and cook over low heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours.
Stir in rum or aguardiente. Serve.
serves 8 to 10
Coquito brings a refreshing and tropical twist to the winter season. Like rompope, it is traditionally poured and shared on nochebuena (Christmas Eve) and given out as a gift in festively wrapped bottles, but it will fit in at any holiday celebration. The recipe is similar to rompope, but with a few tweaks: sweetened condensed milk acts as a sweetener, evaporated milk takes the place of milk, and, of course, the island influence is asserted with coconut milk and rum.
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk 8 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut crosswise into thin rounds
1 (15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk*
1 cup white rum
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish
*Do not substitute cream of coconut for the coconut milk, because the drink will be too sweet.
Bring evaporated milk, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger to a boil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine-mesh sieve and discard solids. Let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Place spiced milk mixture, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, vanilla, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg in a blender and blend until fully combined and foamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour into chilled glasses and dust with additional cinnamon and nutmeg.
SWEET SURRENDER, a chamomile punch
makes about 13 cups (about 3 quarts), serves 24
This punch marries chamomile’s delicate floral notes to honey and champagne, with a dash of infused alcohol thrown in for good measure. The result is sure to soothe your winter-weary bones.
1 (750-milliliter) bottle gin or vodka, chilled
2 cups brewed chamomile tea, chilled**
2 cups Honey Syrup, chilled***
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
2 (750-milliliter) bottles champagne, chilled
*To make the ice mold, fill a Bundt pan or medium metal mixing bowl with water and freeze until set. To unmold, run the container under warm water, just until the ice begins to loosen. Turn the mold over onto a surface covered with a clean kitchen towel to grip the container and lift it off the molded ice. Place the ice in punch bowl or other serving vessel as directed by punch recipe.
**To make chamomile tea, bring 2 1⁄2 cups water to a boil in a small sauce- pan. Add 1⁄2 cup dried chamomile flowers or 8 chamomile tea bags and allow to steep until mixture comes to room temperature. Strain through a fine- mesh sieve, pressing down on solids to release all liquid. Discard solids.
*** To make the honey syrup, combine 1 cup honey and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring, until honey is completely dissolved. Let cool to room temperature and store, refrigerated, in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups.
To make the punch: Stir gin or vodka, tea, syrup, and lemon juice together in a punch or other serving bowl. When ready to serve, stir in champagne and slide in ice mold. Serve.