Festive drinks are integral to end-of-year celebrations. While our hearts are filled with holiday cheer, our mugs are filled with hot cocoa, mulled wine, or egg nog. And although our drink choices may differ, the tradition of toasting the season with a special beverage remains relatively the same around the world. Before you go a-wassailing this year, check out these traditional holiday sippers from different parts of the globe — you might even want to incorporate some into your own festivities this year.
1. Cola de Mono — Chile
Described as a fusion of coffee and eggnog, Chile’s cola de mono is a creamy beverage used to celebrate the holidays. Cola de mono (which, according to Smithsonian Magazine, translates from Spanish as “tail of the monkey,”) contains familiar Christmassy flavors like cloves, cinnamon, and vanilla, with coffee, alcohol (rum, brandy, pisco, or aguardiente, a traditional Chilean spirit), and sometimes citrus. Details of the drink’s inception are unclear, but its most accepted origin story is that it was created for Pedro Montt, president of Chile in the early 1900s. This drink is traditionally served cold and garnished with a cinnamon stick. Try out this recipe for cola de mono from Chilean food blog, Chilean Food & Garden.
2. Sorrel Punch — Jamaica
If you want a drink that looks as festive as it tastes, look no further than ruby-red sorrel punch, which is synonymous with the holiday season in sunny Jamaica. It’s made from dried hibiscus flowers (or sorrel), cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, oranges, and white rum. It’s served cold and especially savored around the holidays — because in Jamaica, sorrel is often harvested in December. Jamaica is the country most often associated with sorrel punch, but many similar, hibiscus-based drinks are enjoyed around the holidays in West African countries, like Nigeria’s zobo, Senegal’s bissap, and Ghana’s sobolo. Check out this recipe for sorrel punch at The Kitchn.
3. Ponche Navideño — Mexico
If you stocked up on hibiscus to make sorrel punch and still have some left over, use the dried flowers to make Mexico’s traditional seasonal sipper. Ponche navideño, which means “Christmas Punch” in Spanish, is often made of hibiscus, cinnamon, piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar, but you can sub regular sugar) tejocotes (Mexican Hawthorne fruit, but you can sub asian pears or crab apples), apples, sugar cane, and guava, according to food blogger Maggie Unzueta, whose recipe you can find here. It is traditionally served in a clay mug and enjoyed on Christmas Eve as a part of posadas, which are celebrations that occur in the nine days leading up to Christmas in Mexico.
4. Coquito — Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico does the holidays right. According to tourism website Discover Puerto Rico, locals start officially celebrating Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and don’t stop until mid-January. The 45-day celebration is often when this creamy, coconutty egg-nog-like drink is served. Discover Puerto Rico shares a recipe for coquito (which means “little coconut” in Spanish): It is traditionally served cold and made of evaporated milk, condensed milk, cream of coconut, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, and white rum. Its origins are disputed, but food blogger Lori Lange notes that its recipe was first recorded in Puerto Rican cookbooks between 1950 and 1970.
5. Poppy Seed Milk — Lithuania
If you can’t consume dairy but still want to toast some creamy eggnog drinks along with everyone else, consider trying Lithuania’s poppy seed milk — made with soaked and blended poppy seeds, water, and honey. In Lithuanian tradition, there is a large feast on Christmas Eve that features 12 dishes (one for each biblical apostle), and poppy seed milk — served alongside poppy seed cookies called kūčiukai — is one of them. Many Lithuanians abstain from meat and dairy during the advent season, which is one reason this dairy-free drink is a part of the meal. See a recipe for kūčikai and poppy seed milk on food website Edible Queens.
6. Feuerzangenbowle — Germany
When it comes to holiday drinks in Germany, you probably think of glühwein, the warm, spiced wine served in festive Christmas markets. But you should get to know another boozy German beverage often enjoyed this time of year, feuerzangenbowle — which is hard enough to say sober. Its name translates to “Fire Tongs Punch,” according to travel blogger German Girl in America (whose recipe you can find here) and its preparation sheds some light on that title. Feuerzangenbowle is made by preparing glühwein in a fire-proof bowl, setting a metal grate on top of it, placing a rum-soaked loaf of sugar on the grate, and setting the sugar on fire, allowing the caramelized sugar to drip down into the wine. You can find specific tools and mugs for making this drink on German Girl in America’s blog. Want to see this fiery punch prep in action? See the video below.
7. Sujeonggwa — South Korea
After you’ve over-indulged in Christmas cookies, trying reaching for sujeonggwa, a traditional Korean beverage served around the holidays that’s also said to aid with indigestion. Food site Taste Atlas notes that this drink, also known as Korean cinnamon punch, is made with ginger, dried persimmon, and cinnamon, and is garnished with pine nuts. Taste Atlas traces its origins to a mention in an 1849 book about seasonal customs. While some sources say it can be served hot or cold, Hyegyoung Ford, author of Korean food blog Beyond Kimchee (where you can find a recipe for the drink), says it should be served not just cold, but “icy cold,” and that some people even freeze it.
As much as we love the traditional holiday drinks we have here in the States, we’d gladly relinquish this year’s egg nog for one of these fun, exotic beverages. Whatever you’re toasting with this season, we hope you’re sharing it with loved ones. Cheers!