Whether it be Ponche in Mexico, Glühwein in Germany, Coquito in Puerto Rico, or eggnog in North America, many countries enjoy their own tradition of a warm or spiced cocktail during the winter holiday season. Here we break down the makings of some of the most popular winter drinks from around the world.
Eggnog, North America
Eggnog as we know it is a creamy cocktail enjoyed primarily in Canada and the United States, though its origins reach back to 18th century England. Like the name implies, eggnog is traditionally made of raw eggs, milk or cream, sugar, and the region’s liquor of choice. This results in many regional variations of the drink, but it is always served cold.
Another cream-based wintertime drink, Rompope hails from Mexico. Rompope is rum-based cocktail made with spiced almond paste and cooked on a stovetop, to be served later either hot or cold. While this drink was influenced by the Spanish egg punch, ponche de huevo, its origins in Mexico have been traced back to a nun from a Puebla named Eduviges, who is rumored to have taken the original recipe to the grave. Amidst the secrecy of its origins, Rompope remains one of the most popular drinks served throughout Mexico during holidays and other special events.
Coquito, Puerto Rico
To simply refer to it as eggnog’s Caribbean cousin would be doing coquito an injustice. Coquito is the holiday drink of choice in Puerto Rico, and perfect for anyone who loves a creamy, coconut-based cocktail served over ice. Some believe that coquito is a variation of a similar drink dating back to Spanish colonial times.
When it comes to Christmastime in Germany, a sip of glühwein is all it takes to get people into the holiday spirit. Glühwein is what is most commonly known as “mulled wine,” and its introduction to the wine-loving masses can be traced all the way back to the 1400s. Red wine, cinnamon, cloves, and orange are what make this a winter seasonal drink loved the world over. Other versions of glühwein include gløgg in Scandinavia, vin chaud in France, and bisschopswijn in the Netherlands.
Feuerzangenbowle is an evolution of mulled wine that’s especially concocted on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The preparation calls for a sugarloaf to be suspended with tongs over a bowl of mulled wine: the sugar is soaked in rum and set on fire, and the resulting rum and spiced wine beverage is shared amongst friends.
At first glance, ponche looks like a livelier version of mulled wine, but it’s actually much more. Ponche is in fact a warm fruit punch comprised of an assortment of fresh and dried fruits and spices such as cinnamon, guava, hibiscus, tamarind, and other local ingredients. Adult aficionados of the drink are known to add a splash of rum or brandy to their punch.
Some winter drinks serve the added practical purpose of warming you up from the inside out on those chilly nights. Enter sachlav, a warm and creamy beverage that has been nicknamed “the hot chocolate of the Middle East.” But don’t let the moniker fool you, because it’s not even traditionally made with chocolate. Sachlav usually calls for orange blossom or rose water, coconut, cinnamon, nuts and raisins. Traditionally the drink was thickened to an almost custard-like texture by introducing orchid tubers to the mix, but modern recipes have traded the orchid tubers for cornstarch or another similar thickening agent.
Dating back to the 12th century, Russian street vendors have made and sold sbiten, a hot, honey-based drink served up primarily in the winter. Since sbiten is made with honey and an assortment of spices, there are many that consider it an immune-boosting drink that helps fend off the common cold.
Christmas Eve in the Ukraine wouldn’t be the same without uzvar, a traditional drink made of dried fruits that are stewed, strained and served cold. While in the olden days the drink used to symbolize fertility and hopes for a sweet life, it originated as a health drink to help people overcome the common ailment of vitamin deficiency during the winter months.
Masala Chai, India
Chai has been a cultural staple in India for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the British arrived and set up black tea plantations that we landed on the current version. Because the historical cost of tea was high, local vendors began preparing it with milk, spices and sugar to keep costs low—it was from there that the popularity of the drink spread. While chai is consumed year-round on a daily basis, its spiced flavor and creamy texture are ideal for keeping you warm through the winter.
Cultures all over have seasonal food and drink traditions, including those that are built around specific holidays and it should come as no surprise that some of the most popular and iconic flavors from around the world can only be experienced in the winter. These are just some of the sweetest and most delicious reasons to stop chasing the endless summer, if we ever needed one.
Do you have any favorite types of holiday drinks?
Header photo by Toa Heftiba.