Skip to content

Travel Tuesday: Around the World in 13 Christmas Drinks

Sip something new with cocktails showcasing different festive drinking traditions from around the world

Bookmark article to read later

By Condé Nast Traveller Middle East | December 19, 2023 | Recipes

There’s no denying that the power of libations brings people together—and there’s simply nothing like toasting to the holiday season with Christmas drinks that are essentially crafted cocktails. This year is a perfect excuse to sip your way into one-of-a-kind Christmas traditions, celebrated around the globe.

From the frost-kissed charm of a Swedish glögg to the laid-back elegance of an Australian white Christmas mojito, each drink in and of itself is a celebration, capturing the essence of cultures and traditions everywhere. Venture into the spirited world of Icelandic winters with jólabland or bask in the warmth of Ecuador’s Dia de los Difuntos with a Cup of Colada morada. Tap into the rebellious spirit of Chile with a Cola de Mono or savor the sophistication of Italy’s Bombardino.

These global libations aren’t just Christmas drinks—they’re passports to cultural celebrations, inviting you to raise a glass and experience the world’s holiday traditions in every sip. (As ever, enjoy responsibly.)

Glögg from Sweden

Ingredients: red wine, vodka or white rum, cardamom, sugar, orange zest, ginger, cinnamon, whole cloves, raisins, almonds

Glögg from Sweden. Image via Pexels.

Meet Sweden’s spirited elixir and winter companion. Originating in the 16th century to mask the flavor of poor-tasting wine, the glögg is robust in history and flavor alike. Fittingly, the word glögg itself derives from the Swedish verb meaning “to mull.” The traditional holiday beverage, though, is not your average mulled wine. Along with cinnamon, ginger, orange zest, and cloves, the beverage is distinctively Scandinavian with added cardamom, widely used throughout Swedish cuisine. After it sits for one day with either the added vodka or white rum, serve your glögg with the perfect touch of a few almonds and raisins for crunch.

Punsch or punssi from Finland

Punsch or punssi from Finland. Image via Pexels.

Ingredients: arrack, dark rum, sugar, tea, water, orange or lemon peel, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, almond

Enter the world of Punsch, a Nordic concoction that’s as intriguing as its centuries-old tale. Born in the 18th century, this Swedish-Finnish libation blends strong arrack, brandy, or rum with tea, citrus, and a dash of sugar. The traditional Punsch is a taste of maritime history, favored by sailors when navigating the icy, freezing Baltic Sea. As you sip, envision the camaraderie of seafarers sharing stories, finding warmth in each other’s company and of course, the warmth of their commonwealth—booze. These days, it’s served both hot and cold, and oftentimes with the Nordic traditional pea soup.

Eierpunsch from Germany

Ingredients: egg yolks, white sugar, white wine, brandy or rum, cloves, cinnamon sticks, lemon zest, vanilla extract, hot milk (optional)

Eierpunsch from Germany. Image via Pexels.

Step into the German winter-warmer tradition with Eierpunsch. When making this at home, the key is said to be simplicity. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar until creamy, then slowly add hot milk, stirring continuously. Topped with, of course, a generous splash of rum or brandy. For an extra holiday touch, serve in mugs garnished with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon. Eierpunsch isn’t just a beverage, but a testament to Gemütlichkeit, the German concept of cozy conviviality, and a staple at Germany’s popular Christmas markets. Fair warning: Every sip is a glimpse of traditional German Christmas market magic—turning chilly evenings into heartwarming celebrations.

Hot buttered rum from colonial New England

Ingredients: dark rum, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, hot water or apple cider, vanilla extract

Hot buttered rum is no secret Christmas tradition in the United States. But did you know it was the OG rebel of the winter cold in colonial New England? The drink traces its origins back to the 18th century when colonists mixed rum with butter, brown sugar, and spices, for a comfy, cozy, and fortifying beverage for the winter season. When served in a warmed mug, garnished with a cinnamon stick or a dollop of whipped cream, it’s a delightful nod to keeping warm during the Christmas season.

Ponche Navideño from Mexico

Ingredients: tejocotes, guavas, apples, oranges, sugarcane, cinnamon, cloves, piloncillo, tamarind pods, water

Ponche Navideño speaks to the vibrant traditions of Mexico and this festive concoction embodies the warmth and flavors of the holiday season. Originating in Mexican households, this punch has deep cultural roots, and is often served during posadas and other Christmas celebrations. Ponche Navideño typically features a medley of seasonal fruits like tejocotes, guavas, and apples, simmered with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and tamarind. Sometimes, a touch of rum or tequila is added for an extra kick. The warm and spiced aroma coupled with the burst of fruity flavors makes Ponche Navideño a cherished and timeless holiday tradition in Mexico, a rich tie to bringing friends and family together during the festive season.

Coquito from Puerto Rico

Ingredients: Puerto Rican rum, coconut cream, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon (grounded and sticks), nutmeg, cloves, vanilla

Often hailed as the island’s answer to eggnog, coquito’s creamy and festive nature, coupled with the tropical flavors of coconut and the warmth of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, aligns in decadence with the celebratory atmosphere of Christmas in Puerto Rico. This creamy concoction combines coconut milk, condensed milk, evaporated milk, and a generous pour of Puerto Rican rum. As a festive staple, the drink is often shared among family and friends, and is a cherished and iconic element of the island’s traditions. Pour it over ice or enjoy it straight from the refrigerator in small glasses, garnished with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

Cola de Mono from Chile

Ingredients: aguardiente, milk, sugar, coffee, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, orange zest, nutmeg

Cola de Mono from Chile. Image via Pexels.

Chile’s festive heart lives inside of Cola de Monos, traditional Christmas libations that capture the spirit of celebration in South America. Originating in Chile, this “Monkey’s Tail” cocktail is a delightful fusion of aguardiente, coffee, milk, sugar, and a medley of spices like cloves and cinnamon. Served chilled or over ice, the name of the cocktail itself reflects a playful nod to the concoction’s versatility and the joy it brings during the festive season. To serve, present Cola de Mono in small glasses, so its rich flavors can be savored. Whether shared among friends or family, this Chilean classic embodies the conviviality and warmth of Christmas, making it an essential part of the holiday experience in Chile itself.

Bombardino from Italy

Ingredients: Advocaat, brandy or whiskey, whipped cream and cocoa powder (optional)

A Bombardino invites the winter wonderland of the Italian Alps to a Christmas celebration. Originating in the Italian Dolomites, Bombardino is a simple yet soul-toasting combination of equal parts Advocaat—a Dutch eggnog-like liqueur—and brandy. Served piping hot and often garnished with a dusting of cocoa or cinnamon, the components of the drink give it a velvety texture and rich flavor. Pour it into small glasses or ski resort-themed mugs, and the warmth of the drink will envelop you. Whether enjoyed après-ski or nestled by the fireside, Bombardino embodies the cozy elegance that comes with Italian winter festivities.

Chanmery from Japan

Ingredients: champagne, Mikan orange liqueur

To serve Chanmery is to embrace Japanese sophistication. The holiday drink captures the essence of festive celebrations in the Land of the Rising Sun, and is a unique concoction that blends Champagne and Mikan orange liqueur, creating a crisp and citrusy libation. Usually served chilled in delicate flutes, the effervescence of Champagne pairs seamlessly with the bright notes of orange. While Chanmery itself may not be a deeply rooted cultural tradition, it has become associated with the celebratory atmosphere of Christmas in Japan, and is a refreshing and elegant option for holiday toasts and festivities. For those who don’t drink alcohol, any spritz can replace the Champagne—of course, served in style.

Jólabland from Iceland

Ingredients: orange spritzer and brown ale (Guinness, for example)

With thirteen days of Christmas in Iceland, there’s plenty of time to celebrate and indulge. Best for quenching sweettooths, jólabland is a one-of-a-kind tradition that not only refreshes but also encapsulates the very essence of Christmas celebrations in the Land of Fire and Ice. Hailing from Iceland, jólabland is an ale that features a harmony of malt extract and orange soda—a fizzy, citrusy elixir that mirrors the lively spirit of the Icelandic winter. Pour it into tall glasses, where the bubbles dance like snowflakes, and sip on the citrusy aroma of this Christmas ale.

Jólabland from Iceland. Image via Pexels.

White Christmas mojito from Australia

Ingredients: fresh mint, lime juice, white and coconut rum, coconut milk, sparkling water, pomegranate arils

Embracing the laid-back Aussie Christmas vibe comes with a white Christmas mojito, the refreshing classic that captures the essence of festive and sun-kissed holiday celebrations. Born in Australia, this mojito offers a tropical twist, making it the go-to beverage for climate-fitting Christmas gatherings. It’s a drink to have fun with when serving or sipping—and like all mojitos, includes white sugar, fresh mint leaves, and lime juice, and garnish slices of juicy pineapple. It’s refreshing like a summer Down Under.

Colada Morada from Ecuador

Ingredients: purple corn flour, water, naranjilla, pineapple, strawberries, mortiños, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, citrus flavor, aguardiente or rum (optional)

With a Colada Morada comes Ecuador’s festive landscape. The rich and vibrant seasonal drink embodies the spirit of celebrations in the South American gem. Originating in Ecuador, Colada Morada is a unique blend of purple corn flour, fruits, and spices, creating a velvety, spiced concoction that has become an integral part of the country’s Dia de los Difuntos, or Day of the Dead, traditions. The ancestral beverage has deep roots in Indigenous Ecuadorian culture, dating back to the pre-Columbian era. This is a commonly non-alcoholic beverage, but is best complimented with aguardiente or rum.

To serve Colada Morada is to embrace Ecuadorian heritage. Pour it into traditional cups, allowing the aromatic steam to rise and infuse the air with the essence of spices and fruits. Whether enjoyed during the Dia de los Difuntos celebrations or as a toast to Ecuador’s rich cultural tapestry, Colada Morada is not just a drink; it's a sip into the historical and flavorful traditions of Ecuador, a warm embrace of both the past and the present to enjoy when celebrating Christmas.

Eggnog from medieval Britain

Ingredients: eggs, sugar, milk, heavy cream, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, rum, brandy, or bourbon

We would never forget you, eggnog! The holiday classic traces its roots back to medieval Britain’s custom of spicing and flavoring ale with beaten eggs, milk, and sherry. Through the ages, eggnog has evolved into the creamy and indulgent beverage we know today. For those who’ve taken part in eggnog-making, it’s pretty clear that the art lies in the balance. Whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, and a hint of nutmeg—and the cherry-on-top adult twist of a splash of brandy or rum. While a known classic, eggnog can also be cutting edge. For a fun twist on your holiday party, eggnog martinis are class. To warm up, add it as a top off in your post-dinner affogato.

This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.