Celebrating the ongoing festive season in Mumbai—where I’ve lived most of my life—has been one where a vivid imagination have always played major roles. Try conjuring up images of snow-covered roofs, while envisioning the trill of riding on a sleigh through a blizzard in the midst of an actually balmy 32°C weather and you’ll get my drift.
My entire month of December pivots around food, drink and festivities. To fuel this passion, I make sure to have my quota of all three is in full supply, especially a few seasonal alcoholic drinks. Each different from the other, yet all linked together.
Ever the fan of both creamy and warm alcoholic drinks, I always find great comfort in a cup of ‘eggnog’. But with a twist. As someone who can’t bear the idea of ingesting anything made with runny, or worse, raw eggs, I’ve come up with my own recipe for a nog that’s reassuringly eggless. But one that does not skimp on the taste and texture of the original version.
While a generous splash of brandy, a few drops of vanilla extract and dustings of nutmeg and cinnamon powders along with a bit of condensed milk stay true to the original recipe, I replace the creaminess that comes from egg yolks by using a vanilla flavoured instant custard mix.
I first make a thin, pouring consistency custard slurry by cooking the mix the usual way with milk. Once cooled, I add the other ingredients and serve it either warm or at room temperature. And voila! An absolutely delicious egg(less) nog.
On a winter trip to Germany, at one of Munich’s many Christmas markets, I discovered a wine-spiked version of eggnog. Called eierpunsch or “egg punch”, this German iteration is had warm and is traditionally made with egg yolks, sugar, white wine and vanilla. The cups of eierpunsch are then topped with a cloud of whipped cream or vanilla custard.
I, of course, had the vegan version made with almond milk and aquafaba. The latter being the water that chickpeas are boiled in, which is another egg substitute as far as consistency is concerned.
Giving yet another spin to the classic eggnog, this time a tropical one is the Puerto Rican festive drink with a cutesy name of ‘coquito’ that I first tried at a Puerto Rican restaurant in Miami a few years ago. It was so delicious, that I literally begged the bartender for its recipe. One that is as easy to make as it is authentic.
Literally meaning “little coconut”, that’s exactly what replaces the pouring cream in this iteration. Both coconut milk and coconut cream along with an optional egg yolk, dark rum, condensed milk for sweetness and vanilla extract, cinnamon and nutmeg for flavour are the parts of this scrumptious sum. Served cold and thus perfect for tropical Christmas celebrations, coquito is the ultimate faux nog.
Truth be told, I’ve never really tried country liquor or desi daaru in its neat form. You know, the kind made by fermenting naarangi-mausambi juices along an entire ‘Aunty’s Bar’ worth of assorted weird ingredients (accordingly to sources, even the core of pencil batteries!) thrown in for good measure and a punchy kick.
But speaking of punch, there is one hyper-regional Christmas and wedding season drink from the vast culinary repertoire of Mumbai’s indigenous East Indian community that has the aforementioned country liquor as its base. I’m talking about the very unique fruit punch-meets-hot toddy drink called khimad. This clove-cinnamon-cardamom enhanced, orange-hued alcoholic drink made from country liquor occupies prime position at almost every East Indian celebration.
Never mind the muggy weather, khimad is always served warm, out of traditional 45ml shot glasses called chauvnees. Eschewing the country liquor base—that can be also made from a variety of things from tadgola (palm fruit), black jamun (Malabar plum), to sugarcane stalks and good old coconut—many these days prefer the more neutral brandy, gin or vodka to give it its boozy hit.
Interestingly, khimad is said to have its underpinnings in queimada, a boozy punch that originated in Spain’s autonomous Galician community found in the country’s north-western region. Literally meaning que mada (or “what mead?”), it is made from orujo, a grape-based spirit distilled from the residue collected after clarifying wine. Queimada is then flavoured with coffee beans, lemon peel and cinnamon for an additional fruity-spicy taste profile.
Recipe: Puerto Rican Coquito
Half tin Condensed milk
200 ml Rum (dark)
1 Egg yolk (optional)
600 ml Coconut milk
150 ml Coconut cream
One-fourth tsp Vanilla extract
Dusting of grated nutmeg
Place ingredients into blender, blend until well mixed. Pour into a bottle and refrigerate until cold. Serve in small glasses or a couple of brandy snifters and sprinkle top lightly with grated nutmeg with a cinnamon quill as garnish.
Raul Dias is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer.