Traditional holiday beverages from around the world

holiday beveragesAmericans aren’t very creative when it comes to traditional holiday beverages (do, however, look for my upcoming story on Boulder’s banging mixology scene, which includes some killer contemporary winter cocktails). Historically, though, we’re more of an eggnog/mulled cider/hot chocolate kind of society.

I’m not knocking our Christmas beverages of choice. Properly made, they’re delicious, and certainly festive. But some countries really know how to roll when it comes to holiday imbibing (especially Latin America. One word: rum.).

Below, a compilation of some of the more interesting boozy holiday beverages from around the world that can be easily recreated in your own kitchen. Online recipes abound, and all of these are (almost) as tasty sans alcohol.

Coquito: Puerto Ricans are great because they’re not afraid to embrace their love of saturated fats (lard, coconut milk, etc.) or rum. In case you’ve been living under a rock, coconut is the new fat du jour (read more about its health attributes here). Everything in moderation, including moderation, as I always say.

Coquito recipes vary, but in general, this rich, blended Christmas concoction is a froth of spiced rum, condensed milk, coconut milk or cream of coconut, vanilla, and spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Some versions may include ginger or ground nuts, but it’s always served chilled, in a small glass. Heavy, yes, but both sexy and satisfying. Add some eggs, and you’ll have ponche, the Venezuelan or Dominican version of eggnog.

Mulled wine: Variations on this warm, spiced, sugared, and otherwise enhanced wine (usually red) are served throughout Europe. There’s Nordic gløgg redolent of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and bitter orange (and perhaps a helping of aquavit). It’s very similar to German glühwein made with lemon, cinnamon sticks, cardamom or ginger, and cloves; in Alsace (the French region bordering Germany), they also add vanilla bean.

In Bulgaria, greyano vino contains honey, peppercorns, and often, apple or citrus. Polish grzane wino is more of a traditional mulled wine, but they also make grzane piwo, in which mulled beer (try a Hefeweizen or Belgian ale which are lighter and sweeter) is substituted for the wine. Na zdrowie (“To your health”)!

[Photo credit: Flicker user Akane86]holiday beveragesPonche Navideño: Not to be confused with those other luscious ponches, this Mexican version is made with sugar cane, apples and/or pears or citrus, raisins, prunes, and tejocotes–an indigenous fruit used by the Aztecs, who called them texocotl. Add tequila, brandy, or rum; heat, and instant fiesta. At Christmastime, ponche vendors can be found on the street, ladling out cupfuls of good cheer.

Another popular Mexican holiday beverage is champurrado, a version of atole (warmed cornmeal thinned to a pourable consistency) flavored with chocolate. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is delicious on a chilly day.

Sorrel Punch: This Jamaican Christmas drink is made from the petals of a species of hibiscus (jamaica in Latin America), locally known as sorrel. In Australia it’s known as rosella, and where it makes a lovely, delicate, fruity red jam. This isn’t the same plant Americans know as sorrel or French sorrel. That’s a bitter wild green, which would make for a truly revolting cocktail, unless you’re one of those people who find wheat grass juice “refreshing.”

Dried hibiscus buds can be purchased at Hispanic or Caribbean markets; the recipe varies, but it’s usually some combination of the flowers, sugar, smashed fresh ginger, water, lime juice, and rum (dark is more traditional than light). Mix, stir, turn on your light box (fellow Seattleites know what I’m talking about), and crank your fave reggae CD. It ain’t the islands but it’s a nice change of pace from all that mulled wine.
holiday beverages
Wassail: Did any American not grow up hearing about or actually going “wassailing,” aka carolling? This mulled British cider is synonymous with knocking on stranger’s doors and breaking into song. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to hit the wassail bowl after mandatory childhood post-carolling; parents should remember that singing in public is the worst possible form of torture for a geeky, tone-deaf pre-teen. Wassail has been a Christmas classic across the pond for centuries, so I’m sure generations of British children suffered the same fate.

Cola de mono: Although Chile is better known for its pisco sours (Peru also claims this libation as its own, but both countries produce it and they’re still duking it out over who actually invented this potent grape brandy) and wine, Christmastime means a glass of “monkey’s tail.” Combine aguardiente (sub pisco or a neutral firewater) with milk, coffee, vanilla bean, and cloves. I have no idea what this has to do with the tail of a monkey, but it’s a cute name. Uh, bottom’s up.

[Photo credit: eggnog, Flicker user elana's pantry; wassail, Flicker user jeremytarling]

Removing Red Wine Stains

Dominican resort offers ultra-luxe island adventure

Dominican ResortA new Dominican resort has plans to change the travel and tourism landscape in the Caribbean when completed in February 2012. Eden Roc at Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic consists of 34 freestanding suites and three opulent bungalows, each one fully equipped with it’s own private swimming pool, that offer jet-setting guests an unprecedented level of intimate luxury that personifies glamour.

Eden Roc promises to spoil guests further with extravagant amenities such as the resort’s full service spa, three Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses, tennis facilities, Caletón Beach Club, Eden Roc Kids Club, five diverse culinary selections and more.

Located in the uber-exclusive community of Capa Cana, Eden Roc at Cap Cana is a 20-minute drive from the Punta Cana International Airport and private jet landing strip. Home to white haute beaches and tropical rainforests, the Caletón Beach Club offers global luxury clientele everything they may desire.

Families with children will have access to the resort’s jungle-themed Kids Club, designed to resemble a massive tree house complete with video games, mini dining area and Mini Spa, where kids of all ages can enjoy manicures, pedicures and hair styling in style.

%Gallery-139850%

Prices start at $750 per night for an 824 sq ft Junior Suite with a garden view that includes a King bed, private swimming pool, private courtyard with pergola, marble bath with Jacuzzi tub, 2 separate vanities and bidet plus 1 touring cart .

Flickr photo by http2007


Bizarre baby names: banned in New Zealand

banned baby namesThe spawn of Hollywood celebrities will probably want to avoid giving birth in New Zealand in the future. The annoying trend of bequeathing ridiculous names to one’s offspring will no longer be tolerated in the island nation, according to CNN.

The country’s Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages is banning “weird” baby names: the current list includes Lucifer, Duke, Messiah, and 89 (let’s hope that’s not his/her birth order). Bishop, Baron, General, Judge, King, Knight, and Mr. were said to be too similar to titles. And letters such as C, D, I, and T and names involving punctuation marks? Nope.

In 2008, New Zealand’s names registrar approved non-traditional names (there’s a set of twins out there named Benson and Hedges). Apparently, circumstances or places of conception were also cool as namesakes. Hence, Violence and Number 16 Bus Shelter. But now there’s an end to the madness, and hopefully New Zealand will once again become a nation of Liam’s and Chloe’s.

Fortunately, Sweden (sorry, Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116, pronounced Albin) and the Dominican Republic are getting on board with banning idiotic baby names. In 2007, a Dominican judge banned “Tonton” (Dummy) Ruiz, but only because it was confusing and/or gave no indication of gender.

I’m all for foreign or original baby names (despite to this day being called “Laura/Lauren/Nora/Floral/Coral” on a daily basis). But doesn’t it constitute a form of child abuse when you stick your kid with a handle guaranteed to inspire butt-kicking on the playground? You’d better learn taekwando, Bronx Mowgli Wentz.

[Photo credit: Flickr user scherre]

[Via Global Post]

Captain Kidd’s pirate ship to become underwater museum

Captain Kidd, pirate, pirates, pirate ship
The submerged wreck of Captain Kidd’s pirate ship will become a “Living Museum of the Sea” reports Science Daily.

The Quedagh Merchant was found a couple of years ago just off the coast of the Dominican Republic. It’s only 70 feet from the shore of Catalina Island and rests in ten feet of water, so it’s a perfect destination for scuba divers or even snorkelers.

Underwater signs will guide divers around the wreck, and like in above-ground museums, there’s a strict “don’t touch the artifacts” policy. Often when shipwrecks are found the discoverers keep the location secret to protect them from looting. Hopefully this bold step of allowing visitors to swim around such an important wreck will help inform the public without any harm being done. One can only hope!

Captain Kidd is one of the most famous and most controversial of pirates. For much of his career he was a privateer, a legal pirate with permission from the King of England to loot enemy ships and hunt down other pirates. Privateers were one of the ways the big empires of the day harassed one another.

Lots of stories of his evil nature have come down to us. He was supposed to have been brutal to his crew and was even reported to have buried his Bible, as is shown in this public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons. He’s also supposed to have buried treasure all over the world. How much of this is true and how much is legend is still hotly debated by historians.

The Quedagh Merchant was an Armenian vessel carrying a rich treasure of gold, silver, and fine cloth that Kidd captured in 1698 off the coast of India. Although the ship was Armenian and was under the protection of the French Crown, it was captained by an Englishman. This got Kidd’s status changed from privateer to pirate and from then on he was wanted by the English authorities.

Kidd left the Quedagh Merchant in the Caribbean with a trusted crew as he sailed off on another ship to New York to clear his name, but his “trusted crew” looted the vessel and sunk it. His loss was posterity’s gain.

Kidd shouldn’t have gone to New York. He was lured to Boston by a supposed friend and then arrested and shipped to England to be put on trial for piracy. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to hang. His body was left hanging over the River Thames in an iron cage called a gibbet as a warning to others. The museum will be dedicated on May 23, the 310th anniversary of Kidd’s execution.

[Image of Captain Kidd rotting in the gibbet courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]

Caribbean Tsunami test hopes to save lives

Caribbean Tsunami test
It was planned long before the earthquake-turned-tsunami event in Japan to test the readiness of 33 Caribbean countries in the region’s first full-scale tsunami warning exercise. On Wednesday, March 23, a fictitious earthquake of 7.6 magnitude occurred off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bulletins were issued by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island and by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii for the rest of the area and the test was underway.

The Caribbean tsunami test, named Caribe Wave 11 did not involve communities but aimed to test the effectiveness of alert, monitoring and warning systems among all the emergency management organizations throughout the region. The test was designed to determine whether Caribbean countries are ready to respond in the event of a dangerous tsunami. Results will be reported in April.

“The earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan have shown how essential alert systems are,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director general.

The countries that attended the tsunami alert exercise are: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyane), Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Curacao and Sint Marteen), Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos), and the United States.

Over the past 500 years, there have been 75 tsunamis in the Caribbean, which is about 10 percent of the world total during that period, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Tsunamis caused by earthquakes, landslides or volcanoes have caused 3,5000 deaths in the region since the mid-1800s

.
Flickr photo by Axion23