For many, the Holidays are a time to bring people together, and preferably around a table of food and drinks. Not only are people eating together with more frequency during this special time of year, but they’re also hosting more with signature drinks playing a big role in festive celebrations. However, the drink of choice will undeniably vary depending on where you find yourself in the world. For most Americans, eggnog or mulled wine is the standard drink that first comes to mind, but there is so much diversity out there to explore.
Holiday cocktails can come in various styles and flavor profiles, ranging from sweet and spicy to ice cold or steaming hot. They can either be crisp and refreshing like a punch or a comforting tea-like concoction that warms us up from the inside out. But you’ll still come across some shared qualities when searching for new drink recipes, such as the use of wine, dried fruits, or warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise. Although everyone’s personal taste is different, there will always be a drink recipe that ticks all your boxes. So whether you’re looking for something spicy, creamy or piping hot, here are 11 holiday cocktails from around the world that you can make at home.
If you’re Puerto Rican or happen to live in the New York City area, you definitely know a thing or two about coquito (pictured above). This deliciously sweet and creamy drink is typically made from coconut milk, cream of coconut, condensed milk and rum. Other ingredients like cinnamon and nutmeg are added for their aromatic properties and warm flavors before the drink is chilled and enjoyed in the days leading up to Christmas. Coquito is a distant cousin to eggnog and is made with eggs in some households, but it all really comes down to personal preference. Whether you like your coquito sweeter, thinner or on the thicker side, it’s all very easy to personalize and enjoy with loved ones. The beverage only requires a few steps to make and can hold in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container; therefore, feel free to make a few batches of this sweet coconut drink for any upcoming events.
Ingredients: 750 ml of white rum, 12 oz evaporated milk, 12 oz condensed milk, 15 oz cream of coconut, 3 cups water, 2 tbs vanilla extract, (cinnamon, cloves, anise, ginger to taste)
If you’re interested in a tart and crisp beverage this holiday season, sorrel punch is the drink for you. With roots in West Africa, this punch gets its intense, deep red color from its main ingredient: hibiscus. This naturally sour flower traditionally gets sweetened with simple syrup and is served cold once brewed. The rest of the drink’s flavor comes from ginger, cloves, allspice, citrus juice and, of course, rum. The final result is a sweet, spicy, and pleasantly tart fruity punch that looks like it belongs on a beach somewhere. Feel free to play with the notes in your punch by adding some bitterness from orange peel or more simple syrup for extra sweetness. Sorrel punch is also delicious as a non-alcoholic beverage and will taste like a spicier version of Mexican agua de jamaica.
Ingredients: 4 oz rum, 2 oz lemon/lime juice, 6 oz hibiscus/sorrel, 2 qts water (ginger, cloves, allspice, citrus zest, simple syrup to taste)
For South Koreans, the colder months are ushered in by persimmon season, where these jammy sweet fruits appear on trees across east Asia and are turned into a variety of recipes. One of these recipes is sujeonggwa, a spiced persimmon tea associated with Korean royal court cuisine and the country’s annual harvest celebrations. This persimmon tea is actually cinnamon-based and is made from boiling cinnamon sticks, sugar, and ginger before adding dried persimmon fruit and pine nuts. Sujeonggwa is also best served cold, but add the dried persimmon an hour before consuming to allow the fruit to rehydrate and release its natural fruitiness. The final result is something sweet, spicy and extremely sophisticated. This tea is also very nuanced, with different flavors coming through from cinnamon, ginger, and persimmon.
Ingredients: 4 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 oz ginger (pine nuts, persimmon to taste)
Chile’s cola de mono is a beautiful combination of sweetened coffee flavor and brandy that we love. Its texture is deliciously creamy and comes from mixing milk, canned evaporated milk, cloves, cinnamon sticks and instant coffee over gentle heat. Once you achieve your ideal level of sweetness, warm spice and coffee flavor, remove your mixture from the heat, strain out the solids, and add your brandy. The final product is very easy to drink, with its name translating to “the monkey’s tail” because some might be swinging from the trees like a monkey after one too many glasses. If you’re not a fan of brandy or don’t have it around the house, feel free to substitute the liquor with vodka or rum.
Ingredients: 1 cup brandy, 1 gallon milk, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup instant coffee (cloves, cinnamon, vanilla extract to taste)
Few drinks are as festive and controversial as eggnog. Considered to be as polarizing as fruitcake during the Christmas season, this North American classic gets its rich creaminess from egg yolks, milk, and heavy cream that’s afterward flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg. You can adjust the drink’s consistency by lowering your quantities of egg yolks or cream, and eggnog tastes excellent as a non-alcoholic drink as well. Add brandy or bourbon to booze up your decadent eggnog and enjoy it cold with some cookies. This drink can last a few days in the fridge, so feel free to make some larger batches.
Ingredients: 6 egg yolks, 3 cups heavy cream, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup bourbon (nutmeg, amaretto, anise, vanilla to taste)
Glögg is more than just a fun word to say. This Swedish take on mulled wine has an incredible depth of flavor and is an excellent way to either end or begin a meal with loved ones. Consisting of a base of dry red wine, you can flavor your warm punch with spices like cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, cloves, and the bitter tanginess of orange peel. Feel free to increase the alcohol content with a splash of vodka and port wine for added sweetness. Texture is also something that glögg welcomes, with raisins and slivered almonds being traditional favorites. You’ll end up with an addictingly warm, sweet and bright wine punch that smells like this time of year.
Ingredients: 4 cups red wine/port/Muscat, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup brandy, 1 cup water (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, citrus zest, raisins, almonds to taste)
You’ll commonly find this comforting drink being sold all around Turkey during the winter months, but its main ingredient, salep flour, might be a bit tricky to find in the U.S. However, if you happen to come across it at your local Middle Eastern supermarkets, definitely give this fragrant recipe a try. Salep flour comes from a variety of orchid bulbs native to Turkey and has this beautiful floral flavor that can’t be substituted. Once you get your hands on this lovely ingredient, you simply add it to boiling milk along with sugar before it reaches a creamy consistency (similar to North American eggnog.) Top your hot mug of salep with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, and you’re finished. This drink has a unique taste that can be described as subtly sweet, grassy and warm from the cinnamon.
Ingredients: 2 tbs salep flour, 2 cups milk, 2 tsp sugar (cinnamon to taste)
Mexican ponche navideño plays with spice in more ways than one. This fruity and tangy drink gets sweetness from cinnamon sticks and piloncillo (unrefined cane sugar) in solid form. These natural sweeteners get boiled in a pot of water before adding both fresh and dried fruits, like sliced guava, apples and dried prunes. Ponche navideños’ heat and tartness come from brewing tamarind pods and hibiscus flowers in the pot until it gets a beautiful dark red color. After the entire drink simmers for about an hour, serve hot with some of the stewed fruits on top. We love this holiday drink for its kick of spice from tamarind, sourness from its hibiscus and dried prunes, and floral sweetness from guava. You can serve this as is or add some alcohol, preferably tequila, to take things to the next level.
Ingredients: 1 gallon water, 2 sugar cane sticks, 8 whole cloves, 16 oz tequila (apples, pears, guavas, prunes, raisins, tamarind pods, hibiscus flowers to taste)
This eastern European drink can be called either uzvar or kompot and has ties to traditional methods of preserving fruits during harsh winters in the Balkans. Today it’s very popular in Ukraine and Russia and consists of brewing a combination of fresh and dried fruits to make a sweet and tart beverage. Common ingredients include dried apples, dried pears, prunes, raisins, cherries, blueberries and apricots, all of which can be adjusted for personal preference. The drink is also traditionally sweetened with honey, but sugar can be used as a substitute. The key to good uzvar is to give it sufficient time and allow the hot mixture to cool down to room temperature to taste its varying levels of tartness. The usual preparation doesn’t include alcohol, but feel free to add vodka if the occasion calls for some.
Ingredients: 1 litre water, 100 g dried apples, 150 g dried pears, 50 g raisins (honey to taste)
Wassail punch is a British tradition that dates back to Victorian times. This party favorite’s base can either be light beer or an alcoholic apple cider, which gets warmed up over low heat. The alcohol then gets infused with spices like cinnamon, cloves and grated nutmeg before adding slices of roasted apples to the concoction. Allow everything to slowly come together until foam begins to appear on the liquid’s surface. Afterward, strain out the cloves and cinnamon sticks, but serve with slices of lemon and the punch’s cooked apple. Wassail punch has a great balance of sweet and sour to it that is enhanced by its spices. This is a delicious and more tart option for those who love American apple cider.
Ingredients: 4 cups apple cider, 2 cinnamon sticks (citrus juice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, apples to taste)
Canelazo finds its origins in the highlands of Ecuador but can also be found across the Andean communities of Colombia and Peru. As its name implies, this beverage is flavored with canela—or as we call it in English, cinnamon. After boiling cinnamon sticks in hot water until it changes in color and flavor. The spicy mixture is then sweetened with panela, a solidified block of sugar cane juice that’s similar to Mexican piloncillo. Once the panela has fully dissolved into the cinnamon drink, add Ecuadorian aguardiente to finish it off. This traditional spirit is made from sugarcane and adds alcohol and some more sweetness to the drink. However, if you have difficulty finding Ecuadorian aguardiente, you can easily substitute it with Brazilian cachaça for the same sugar cane sweetness.
Ingredients: 3 cups water, 4 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 cup sugar, 1.5 oz. aguardiente
Sylvio Martins is a freelance writer and actor based in Los Angeles. He specializes in Latinx cuisine and food culture, and has been previously featured in Eater and The Infatuation.