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Ponche de Crème

Nathan Congleton / TODAY
Yields:
8½ cups
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Chef notes

Ponche de crème is a popular Trinidadian Christmas drink that is a lot like eggnog (but better!). Its flavor is sweet and creamy with a hint of spice, some nuance from the lime zest and bitters and a serious kick of rum.

What's interesting about this recipe is how ubiquitous it is. It's definitely big in Trinidad and Tobago, but it's found throughout the Caribbean and even South America. Venezuela has a version called "ponche crema" and it's a traditional drink that's enjoyed during Christmastime. All versions have similar ingredients — milk, eggs, sugar, rum — much like traditional eggnog in the U.S., but the spices and aromatics differ regionally, and Venezuelans also have one that includes ground coffee or coffee liqueur.

Traditionally, eggs are added in raw, but this version tempers the eggs and cooks the mixture to kill off any bacteria. This recipe is best when it's "aged," served a minimum 24 hours after it's made, but it truly gets better with time.

Technique tip: To temper eggs means to bring them up to a higher temperature slowly to keep the eggs stable (and not scrambled!). Doing this allows the eggs to be used to thicken a liquid or set a casserole. Although tempering eggs may seem scary at first, the key is to take it slow, adding the hot liquid to the room temperature eggs a little bit at a time.

Swap option: You can use all milk here if you don't have cream or use a combination of milk and evaporated milk.

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Ingredients

  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 lime, zested
  • teaspoons Angostura bitters
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 3/4 cup dark rum
  • 3/4 cup brandy

Preparation

1.

Place milk, cream, condensed milk, lime zest, bitters, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and salt in a pot over medium heat. When the mixture comes up to a simmer, remove from heat.

2.

In a bowl, beat together egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Pour a little bit of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and whisk. You want to bring the egg yolks up to temperature without cooking and solidifying the yolks.

3.

Keep adding the milk mixture a little at a time until yolk mixture is up to the same temperature. Return it all to the same pot and place back on the stove over medium-low heat.

4.

Cook the mixture for about 2 to 3 minutes or until a thermometer registers 170 F, make sure to stir continuously. Pour into a heat-safe pitcher and add vanilla extract, rums and brandy. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.

5.

Serve over ice with a little grated nutmeg on top. Feel free to strain, if desired.