Culture

A Beber! 20 Mouthwatering & Nostalgic Holiday Drinks Found Around Latinoamérica That’ll Take You to Your Motherland

Latinoamérica is known for hosting some of the best fiestas de Navidad around the globe, filled with trays of tamales, arroz con pollo, ensalada rusa and crispy lechón while Gilberto Santa Rosa or Celia Cruz play their unmistakable ritmos in the background.

There’s always una abuelita or una tía to talk to about generations past while snacking on meat-filled empanadas, a good merengue or bachata to dance to with your significant other on Nochevieja, and un chisme you just found out from your prima. There’s the hustle and bustle of all your family and friends buzzing around the asado, the caja china, or pan dulce-laden dessert table, and the chistes and awkward stories from your childhood you can’t stop laughing about. Las navidades for us are heaven on earth, but one thing is the absolute cherry on top: all our countries’ holiday drinks.

Yes, our different foods are absolutely mouthwatering, whether going for croquetas de bacalao or pasteles boricuas. But our festive drinks are just as delicious, derived from timeworn traditions that have evolved over centuries. Using spices like cinnamon and cloves, and local ingredients like coconut or coffee, each country’s drink brings something delicioso to the table — here are our favorites.  

1. Puerto Rico: Coquito

We couldn’t start this list without immediately thinking of the Boricua staple coquito, a creamy, eggnog-style concoction that traditionally blends dark rum, spicy cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, evaporated and condensed milk with straight-from-the-island coconut milk. Cream of coconut makes this drink even richer and more tropical, resulting in an egg-free drink with an alcoholic kick que te va a encantar. Drink this while listening to Bad Bunny or Marc Anthony to pay homage to la isla del encanto. 

2. Ecuador: Canelazo 

Ecuador’s answer to the colder winter months is their signature holiday drink canelazo, a spicy hot drink that brings together boiled water with cinnamon sticks, the unrefined sugar panela, and because why not, a good dose of aguardiente. This drink is both sweet and fiery, with a warm, inviting color and sometimes including orange juice for a citrusy kick. Straight from Ecuador’s mountains, this is one of the best spiced, alcohol-imbued teas in the world.

3. Perú: Coctel de Algarrobina

Let’s face it: cocktails are fun, especially when making a signature one for your holiday festivities. If you want to go all out estas navidades, may we present Perú’s unbeatable coctel de algarrobina? This drink resembles coquito or even a frappuccino, but is very different: it combines Peruvian pisco, egg yolks, evaporated milk, sugar, and algarrobina syrup, hailing from the Peru-found black carob tree. The molasses-like ingredient is thick, smoky, and sweet, giving even more creaminess to this blended, icy coctel. 

4. Dominican Republic: Té de Jengibre

Sure, Dominicans love a great alcoholic drink to spice up Nochebuena, and honestly, we’re on the same boat. Who doesn’t love un buen ron, famous licor de mandarina, or holiday-ready, anis-based cocktails? Still, when it comes to Christmastime, Dominicans can’t live without a warm, toasty té de jengibre. This gingery hot drink is made of raw ginger root, boiled in water with cinnamon sticks and sugar or honey. This drink is one of the most comforting Latin American holiday staples, and pairs perfectly with Dominican Republic’s classic turrones and pastelitos.

5. Chile: Cola de Mono

Eggnog-style drinks are a must-have all across Latinoamérica, but Chile’s response to the tradition is just a little different. The country’s cola de mono is made out of evaporated milk, spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and classic Chilean pisco for a boozy jolt. One ingredient you might not expect that gives cola de mono its telltale tan color? A few tablespoons of instant coffee, making it taste similar to a white russian cocktail. Esto prende cualquier fiesta in the best way possible.

6. Paraguay: Clericó

Paraguay’s natural beauty extends from forests to savannas, coining the country “the heart of South America,” and its natural products like vegetables and fruit are exceptional. It’s no wonder their most famous Christmas drink clericó is full of juicy fruit like pineapple, melon, apples, grapes, peaches, pears, and bananas, coming together with orange juice, lemon juice, and red wine. Paraguayans need a refresher from that south-of-the-equator, December summertime heat so this is shaken over lots of ice, and served in tall glasses on Nochebuena or Christmas day. 

7. El Salvador: Horchata de Morro

Horchata is a staple throughout many countries in Latinoamérica, but El Savador’s special horchata de morro is one of the best Navidad-ready offerings out there. This drink is served over ice so it’s super refreshing, yet spices like nutmeg and cinnamon make it cozy, too. Horchata de morro is prepared by roasting ingredients like morro seeds (from the jicaro tree), rice, sesame seeds, peanuts, cocoa and coriander seeds, blending them together in a food processor to make a powder. Stir into cold milk or water and ice once ready to drink, and enjoy this traditional, Salvadoreño holiday treat.

8. Panama: Ron ponche

Back to the eggnog-style fare that’s so often found throughout our countries: however, Panama’s version is very much its own. Similar to coquito and cola de mono, this recipe calls for evaporated and condensed milk, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon and a serving of dark rum (unless you prefer virgin drinks), also bringing in egg yolks and a dose of sugar for extra sweetness. But Panama’s version is even thicker thanks to some added cornstarch, so this drink is for lightly sipping toda la noche.

9. Nicaragua: El Macuá

While Nicaragua also has its own rompope, an egg and rum-based creamy concoction, many people prefer to go for the national drink of choice: the el macuá cocktail. This drink is festive and lujoso for any holiday event, recalling the Nicaraguan pajaro macuá for its bright colors that are tan tropicales como nosotros. This is fruit-based with a blend of guava, orange, and lemon juice (ya estamos salivando), simple syrup, orange slices, Maraschino cherries, and of course, some white rum. This is delicious, and will get you in the mood to bring out all your salsa steps while listening to Héctor Lavoe estas navidades.

10. Cuba: Crema de Vie

Cuban food is all about decadence, and we love it: crispy puercos in caja chinas on Nochevieja, trays and trays of moro rice and sugary-sweet maduros, and of course, croquetas and silky flan de queso. Yeah, Cuban food is where it’s at, and during the holidays, their own eggnog-style Crema de Vie is unbeatable. The island makes this classic festive drink even more creamy by upping the egg yolk content to six yolks per two cans of milk, which is a lot and we love it. Some recipes go so far as to only call for condensed milk instead of thinning out the mixture with evaporated or regular milk, making it even sweeter with simple syrup and sugar. Esto es una bomba — don’t forget the rum!

11. Colombia: Champús

Not to be mistaken with the kind you put on your hair in the shower, Colombian champús is a drink that’s completely unique, different from anything we’ve tried before. Champús combines cooked corn kernels, raw cane sugar panela, mashed lulos (a Colombian citrus fruit that’s zesty and so good que es para morirse), pineapple, cinnamon and cloves, stirring together in water and served over ice. This hails from Colombia’s southwest region, but is particularly popular in the south during Christmas, seen as a super-invigorating drink and festive after-dinner sweet treat all in one. 

12.  Bolivia: Chocolate Caliente

Another non-alcoholic option that is everything we need in a cozy Christmas drink, Bolivia’s traditional chocolate caliente is a foolproof way to get in the Navidad spirit. Hot chocolate is a classic staple around Bolivia during the holidays, served everywhere from local cafés to inside homes as an after-Christmas-dinner surprise. Chocolate caliente boliviano includes spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, uses evaporated milk for frothiness, and even sometimes calls for butter for extra creaminess. This is usually served around the holidays with buñuelos, or fried doughnuts with anis and panela that are every bit as increíbles as they sound.

13. Guatemala: Ponche de Frutas

Guatemala’s ponche de frutas is the country’s most famous Nochebuena drink, served traditionally at family gatherings with helpings of meat-stuffed tamales and turkey. Ponche de frutas is a warm fruit punch that’s truly a fruit extravaganza, combining locally-sourced, fresh pineapple, papaya, raisins, plantains, grapes, coconut, and apples with spices like cinnamon, pepper, and cloves. Sugar sweetens the deal, as the ingredients are boiled in water until just the right flavor. This can be served cold or hot, and you can add some ron if you want to make it just a bit more, ahem, picante!

14. Uruguay: Sidra Fría

Sidra, or cider, is Uruguay’s Christmas drink of choice while serving up an array of chorizo, vació, and provoleta over the barbecue during their famous asados. Uruguayos gather up family and friends and revel in their favorite cuts of meat, pairing their classic, gaucho-style meals with drinks that are just a bit more refreshing. Since las navidades mean warmer temperatures for this country, sidra fría is a great option, ranging from non-alcoholic apple cider over ice to hard cider, an alcoholic option que va perfecto with hearty, meat-based meals, potatoes, and choripanes.

15. Costa Rica: Cacique Guaro

Costa Rica is a land of beauty, the epitome of lush wildlife and pristine rainforests and beaches. While their fresh-from-the-vine fruits and vegetables are so flavorful you might rethink every single pineapple you’ve ever had here in the U.S., they know a thing or two about alcoholic beverages, too. Ticos are proud creators of cacique guaro, a pure sugar cane-based liquor that goes great in the country’s national drink, the guaro sour. This liquor is slightly sweet, and is consumed as a special beverage for festivities like las navidades and birthday parties. Some costarricenses even make it themselves, which is seriously impresionante.

16. Venezuela: Ponche Crema

It’s impossible not to include Venezuela’s ponche crema in an article about holiday drinks, even though we’ve already been through quite a few eggnog-style offerings. Still, just like each of the other countries listed made the recipe their own, Venezuela is no exception: Christmas favorite ponche crema is made different by bringing in acidic lemon peel and a bit of maizena or cornstarch, while some love adding flan mix for extra creaminess. All kinds of coconut milks are nixxed in favor of evaporated and condensed milk, and lots of egg yolks. Dark rum is always a yes, creating a distinctly Venezuelan flavor that’s perfect for Nochebuena, Nochevieja, and any festive night in between.

17. Honduras: Chilate 

Honduras is one of the most festive places to be during Christmas, bringing together world-famous nacatamales and slow-roasted pork legs while dining around the table with extended family, friends, and even neighbors. While their sweet, French toast-style torrejas are the perfect postre, their chilate drink has our hearts. Served around las navidades for warmth and all the cozy vibes, chilate blends maize flour, ginger, water, and whole allspice berries, sometimes also bringing in cloves and sugar to taste. This is served piping hot alongside those heavenly torrejas, creating the perfect spicy complement.

18. Argentina: Ananá Fizz

Similar to Uruguay, Argentina is all about its classic asados, whether serving up morcilla, bife de chorizo, lomo, or vegetables like eggplant and potatoes. That being said, when the climate is summer-hot and you have a barbecue going, you need something extra zesty and icy-cool: that’s where ananá fizz comes in. This is the classic Argentinian Christmas drink, an alcohol-tinged, pineapple cider that can be bought at local stores or made at home. For homemade versions, simply combine fresh pineapple, pineapple juice, and sparkling wine — serve in wine glasses or champagne flutes and you have the most refreshing drink for las navidades.

19. México: Champurrado

México lindo y querido is home to culinary favorites like cochinita pibil, barbacoa, quesos fundido con chorizo, and delicious pastel de elote — all absolute bangers in the gastronomic game. And while the country’s Christmas menu ranges from tamales, to turkey, to bacalao, to romeritos, its holiday drinks truly outdo themselves. Ponche navideño is always a classic, a hot fruit punch that brings in everything from tamarind to cinnamon, but we can’t get over their champurrado, a special hot chocolate that hails from the time of the Aztecs, thickened by cornmeal or masa fresca. Milk, Mexican chocolate, cinnamon and sugar round this recipe out, and it’s great served with churros or other sweet treats as one of the best postres navideños we can think of.

20. Brazil: Espanhola

While Brazil is known for rhythms like samba and bossa nova, being freakishly good at soccer, and for churning out complete goddesses like Anitta (we will always stan “Downtown”) and Gisele Bündchen, they’re also known for devising the best holiday festas ever. Brazilians know how to party, and combine festive foods like pernil and salpicão salads with fun-time drinks like batido de coco, which combines condensed milk with coconut  and a good dose of vodka. Still, our favorite Brazilian holiday drink has to be espanhola, a creamy creation that brings together red wine with condensed milk and pineapple, blending it over ice to make a wine-tinged milkshake. Truly genius.

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