Words by Tishanna Williams—
Nothing says Christmas in the Caribbean like potent, creamy drinks made with hefty amounts of rum. In past years our Puerto Rican and Haitian contributors have given us coveted recipes for coquito and cremas, respectively. This holiday, we turn our attention to Trinidad with not one but two “Punch-a-Cremes” brought to us by resident Trini expert, Tishanna Williams.
Christmas is nothing without good company and great drinks. And the trademark Christmas drink in Trinidad is without a doubt Ponche-de-Creme. Also called Punch-a-Creme and Poncha Crema, this milk-based alcohol drink is often likened to eggnog, but any true Trini will tell you the comparison doesn’t hold up. The sweet, heavy cream texture and high alcohol content make Ponche-de-Creme a superb concoction that can stand on its own as a desert. But, whatever you do, designate a driver before pouring—this stuff is potent.
The “punch” in this decadent delight usually comes from puncheon, an 75% ABV liquor that’s not for the faint of heart. Today we see more recipes swapping the brew with lower-proof alcohols like Angostura Old Oak White Rum, which is only 43% ABV, but to the older generation this is pure sacrilege.
Ponche-de-Creme recipes are for the most part handed down through the generations with eyeball quantities rather than hard and fast measurements, and the making is generally a family affair done at Christmas as the sweet notes of parang music mix with some ole’ talk. Of course as much is drunk during the process as is bottled but that’s what makes the lime sweet!
We’ve included a simple standard recipe below that we’re sure you would love. These days, with many choosing to leave the preparation to the professionals, businesses marketing homemade Ponche-de-Creme are becoming more popular. And flavor variations such as peanut, banana and pumpkin are now appearing. After hearing about JT Brown Sugar Treats proprietor Janice Toby’s variation on the stuff, we though we’d include one of her “new generation” recipes—made with beetroot—as well. (And if you’d rather leave that one to the pros, Ms. Toby delivers and ships year round—contact her at 1-868-762-3876 or 1-868-317-7010 for prices).
Happy making! And remember, Ponche-de-Creme may taste great but if you are a first timer, pace yourself before you lose your ability to pace or carry out other simple motor functions.
(Makes about 3 750-ml bottles)
7 egg yolks
Peel of 1 lime (removes freshness of eggs)
4 tins condensed milk
2 tins evaporated milk
4 dashes Angostura aromatic bitters
1 bottle puncheon/white rum
1 tbsp grated nutmeg
1tsp grated cinnamon
Simmer water in a wide pot. Slightly neat eggs, lime peel and milk in a steel bown (if blending use the ‘pulse’ option so as not to over blend. Place bowl over the pot of simmering water and cook. stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened. This signals the egg has been slightly cooked. Allow to cool before mixing in the rum and bitters. Strain mixture and pour into 750ml bottles. Add some of the nutmeg and cinnamon to each bottle. Cover and store in a cool place until ready to serve. Always serve well shaken and over ice. Once opened, store in the refrigerator and consume within 1 year. Unopened, it will stay for much longer.
Janice Toby’s Beetroot Ponche-de-Creme
(Makes 6-8 bottles)
1 dozen eggs
1 bottle of Angostura Bitters
1 dozen cans of Carnation Milk
1 Bottle of Puncheon Rum
3 Full sized Beets
Crack and mix eggs with the complete skins of two limes, beat until fully mixed. Add dashes of Angostura Bitters (equivalent to half the bottle) and continue mixing. One by one, add each tin of milk while beating. When all the milk is incorporated, grate one full nutmeg into mixture. Pureed boiled beets (boiled in low heat and water) until smooth. Add pure to base mixture. To ensure smoothness, blend and strain complete mixture. Add rum to your heart’s content—3/4 of a bottle should do, but for the brave at heart, an entire bottle will suffice. Grate another nutmeg into mixture and bottle. Makes 6-8 bottles of Ponche-de-Crema. With proper storage, it lasts at least 2 years.