The holidays are upon us, and seeking out the right wines to serve with holiday meals become my primary focus, as well as some well deserved proper cocktails at some of my favorite city haunts. Recently at Apotheke, located in Chinatown, whose cocktail list is designed by a Venezuelan consultant known for aggressive flavor profiles, I imbibed on a tomato basil libation, which sounds like a salad, but was understated. Clean tomato, then a hint of fresh basil, surprising and effective. I am no mixologist, save for a proper sidecar, so I need to make a holiday drink for me that is not too taxing and for the masses.
Enter eggnog, a milk and egg drink spiked with brandy or Madeira, one of the true gifts from our neighbors across the Atlantic. Eggs and milk were very expensive during the 18th century, brandy too, so rum from the Caribbean became a natural, cost-effective substitute. But New Americans soon switched to whiskey and bourbon, anchoring the eggnog of present day.
Good recipes travel fast, as our Mexican neighbors have a version called rompope. Originally made by the nuns of Puebla, vanilla flavoring is added and extra egg yolks, imparting a more yellowish color. In East Harlem, at a cakery called Pasteles Capy, the Dorado family have a rompope flavored version that would sweeten any holiday table.
Heading to El Caribe, the center of rum production, variations of these eggnogs became traditional national beverages. In Puerto Rico, the Borinquen version resides in the coquito, made with coconut and condensed milk, spiced by cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
In Haiti, the drink is called kremas, comprised of creamed coconut and often evaporated milk, which is less expensive than condensed or regular milk. Aside from cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla, anise is also added. The following is my family recipe:
2 egg yolks
2 cans evaporated milk
4 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 can cream of coconut
1 Vanilla Bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 star anise
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
2 cups Haitian rum like Barbancourt
In a large sauce pot, add all ingredients. Whisk until well incorporated. Bring to a simmer and stir until mixture thickens. Cool down mixture for 15 minutes. Add mixture to blender for thirty seconds. Pour into large glass container with a lid and refrigerate for 24 hours. Serve cold.