Aguardiente, which loosely translates to “firewater” is a spirit made with anise and is not for the faint of heart. Locals sip it alongside a lager after a long day’s work, or stir a few pours into juice for a potent tropical punch. During the holidays, aguardiente is mixed with sweetened milk to make sabajón, eggnog’s Colombian cousin. Travelers can taste a decidedly upscale version at Cartagena’s Hotel Tcherassi, where the swish Aquabar serves an elegant Sabajón Gin Fizz. It combines feijoa sabajón with milk, gin and fresh lime. It comes chilled and topped with a spritz of soda, to combat the sultry Cartagena heat.
Like Colombian sabajón, aguardiente plays a starring role in Ecuadorian eggnog. The stiff spirit is mixed with sweetened condensed milk, orange peel, egg yolks and a dash of cream. It is usually served hot, and sometimes called rompope. Sample a classic version at Cafetería Modelo, an old-school café in Quito. One of the city’s oldest eateries, it first opened in 1950 and remains popular with visitors as well as local Quiteños, who stop in for strong coffee and savory snacks like plantain empanadas and humitas, or corn-on-corn tamales.
Invented in Taichung teashops, milk tea, also called boba and bubble tea, is a Taiwanese institution. Flavored with fruit or milk, the filling, frothy beverage is served both hot and cold, and typically involves some combination of Taiwanese black tea, condensed milk, small tapioca pearls and honey. This winter, the swanky Regent Taipei serves a crowd-pleasing Ginger Taro Milk Tea. Regent’s take turns milk tea into something of an Eastern eggnog, combining traditional milk tea with hearty, house-made taro mousse, a splash of ginger juice and a pinch of dark brown sugar. Hotel guests and locals alike sip the stuff throughout the holiday season, which here extends through January 31for Chinese New Year.
Coconuts figure prominently in Puerto Rican desserts, from tembleque, a creamy coconut pudding, to candied coconut rice. It comes as no surprise, then, that Puerto Rican eggnog, or coquito, uses coconuts to brilliant, boozy effect. Bar chefs combine coconut extract and cream of coconut with condensed milk, evaporated milk, white rum (such as la isla bonita’s own DonQ) plus a smattering of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Some swap out rum for brandy, some add coconut rum as well, and some use a combination of all three. Coquito is served on ice throughout the island; travelers in the beachfront Condado region of San Juan can sample it at the San Juan Marriot Resort & Stellaris Casino, or at the sleek bar of the design-centric La Concha Resort.
In the 1970s, the après-ski set on the chic slopes of northwestern Italy created the bombardino, a bold pairing of Dutch advocaat liqueur (or its marsala-infused Italian cousins, VOV or Zabov) with brandy or whiskey. Served warm and topped with whipped cream, it’s a hearty, heady way to beat the winter chill. At Valle d’Aosta’s sweeping Hermitage Hotel & Spa, Alpine skiers sip bombardini at the base of the Matterhorn. Those looking to put an extra spring in their step can add a shot of espresso by ordering a calimero, named for a hapless, hyper Italian cartoon character. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The island’s top seasonal drink is a sweet fruit juice made from sorrel, ginger, and wine. But, given the depth and range of Jamaica’s incredible rums, traditional rum nog is not forgotten. An island-centric cross between American eggnog and a White Russian cocktail, Jamaica’s version combines local spirits like white rum and Tia Maria liqueur with cream, egg yolks, and locally grown cinnamon. At Kingston’s sleek Spanish Court Hotel, chef Anthony Matthews uses Jamaican J. Wray and Nephew White Rum, plus a dash of Angostura bitters, to give his nog a kick that will last until the New Year.
While Christmas is celebrated throughout Scotland, the bigger holiday is New Year’s Eve’s epic Hogmanay. Late-night revelry includes everything from baking shortcake to drinking with neighbors, so the Jan.1 "morning cup" is suitably substantial. Named Auld Man’s Milk after native son Robert Burns’ seasonal anthem "Auld Lang Syne," the dram combines whisky and sweetened cream with whipped, separated eggs. Chef Michael Smith of the Highlands’ Three Chimneys serves his family-style, with a half-pint of whisky and a thin slice of lemon peel. Slainte!
Occasionally called "sake-nog" by Westerners, tamagozake is actually an uncommonly delicious Japanese home remedy for colds. A raw egg and pinch of sugar are continually whisked into warm sake until uniformly dissolved into a thick, creamy texture. Tamagozake can be served year-round but rarely appears on Japanese restaurant or bar menus, given its strong medicinal association.
Although their version is nonalcoholic, Emiratis can teach the world a thing or two about nog. Throughout the UAE, chilled camel’s milk is blended with pitted dates in a surprisingly healthy take on the hearty beverage. In keeping with Arab hospitality, the date drink is often offered as a welcome beverage to houseguests throughout the year. At Abu Dhabi’s luxe desert resort Qasr Al Sarab, it’s lightly sweetened with local honey and presented to guests upon arrival.
Holland’s holiday spirit is so strong that some versions have to be eaten with a spoon. Dutch advocaat combines brandy or cognac with sugar, fresh vanilla, and a sinfully large quantity of egg yolks. Bottled varieties by Bols or De Kuyper are widely distributed and available internationally, but the advocaat is made fresh, topped with whipped cream and cocoa, and enjoyed immediately. For a taste of Dutch decadence alongside the Amstel River, grab a glass at Freddy’s Bar at the chic Hotel De L’Europe in Amsterdam.
Named for former Chilean president Pedro "Monkey" Montt, Chile’s spirited holiday beverage combines coffee, milk, and pisco. Called cola de mono (translation: "monkey’s tail"), the festive drink is served chilled to combat warm December temperatures. Those heading to the Southern Hemisphere should hit Valparaíso’s new Palacio Astoreca, a national landmark-turned-boutique hotel with a restaurant by an elBulli alum. Chef Sergio Barroso serves a killer cola de mono made with local tonka beans, star anise, and an elegant, semi-frozen coffee "cloud."
Like blueberries and the NFL, eggnog is an utterly American affair. Its origins can potentially be traced to medieval English grog, but the modern egg-and-cream version is spiced and spiked to perfection across the U.S. The Victorian Ocean House resort in Rhode Island hosts an annual eggnog competition (this year’s is Dec. 19 and 20), and at the Montage Laguna Beach, sommelier Troy Smith and chef Casey Overton serve the Nog Grog cocktail with Southern Comfort and Godiva white chocolate liqueur. It’s a sweet, celebratory taste of American ingenuity.