A sip of ron ponche — Latin America’s version of eggnog — tastes like Christmas to me. The Panamanian custard-style beverage is creamy, spiced perfection, and is usually sipped during los Tiempos de Navidad (the Christmas holidays) and particularly during Año Nuevo (New Year).
Ron ponche requires patience — not only in preparation, but also consumption. It’s cooked low and slow until it thickens to an almost gravy-like or yogurt consistency, then refrigerated overnight to develop its flavors. It’s served chilled and sipped slowly, like Irish cream. And it’s absolutely delightful.
What’s the Difference Between Ron Ponche and Eggnog?
Ron ponche has many of the same components as eggnog, but rum is a requirement of ron ponche — not a choice.
There are many styles of this custard beverage across Latin America that may seem similar, but have notable distinctions. For example, Puerto Rico’s coquito is a fruity eggnog (though there’s debate about whether it should include eggs at all) that uses coconut milk rather than cream or dairy milk. The Mexican rompope is strongly flavored with cinnamon and served warm rather than chilled. Ponche crema from Venezuela is made sans evaporated milk and served chilled over ice. Peru’s caspiroleta is made with pisco instead of rum.
The Creamiest Ron Ponche
Constantly stirring the custard over low heat keeps the proteins in motion, and encourages a gentle, smooth thickening. If the heat is too high or you step away for too long, the drink can take on a grainy texture. Using a double boiler also helps keep the beverage smooth, since the custard isn’t cooking directly over the flame.
Variations of Ron Ponche
The types of milks used in ron ponche can vary greatly. We love evaporated milk in Panama for its long shelf life, but standard whole dairy milk can be used in its place (and its how ron ponche was originally made).
Some recipes call for just evaporated milk and eggs as the primary base, while others use evaporated milk and cream or regular milk. Then, there are those like mine, which use evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and cream. If those ingredients sound familiar to you, they’re the key elements of the classic tres leches cake.
Serving Ron Ponche
Serve ron ponche in individual cocktail glasses garnished with a dusting of ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick or a star anise pod. It’s very important to keep it cold; it shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than one hour. If serving out of a punch bowl, you can place the bowl in a container of ice to help keep it chilled.
The Panamanian custard-style beverage is a creamy, eggy delight.
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes to 45 minutes
- 2 cups
whole milk or half-and-half
- 1 (12-ounce) can
- 1 cup
sweetened condensed milk
large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup
- 1 teaspoon
freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/2 cup
1 to 1 1/2 cups spiced rum
Serving options: ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, or star anise pods
Fill a large saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, place the following in a heatproof large bowl that fits over the saucepan without the bottom touching the water: 2 cups whole milk or half-and-half, 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk, 1 cup sweetened condensed milk, 6 large egg yolks, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.
Fit the bowl onto the saucepan and cook over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened to the consistency of gravy or yogurt, 30 to 45 minutes (do not let it come to a simmer).
Remove the bowl from the heat. Add 1/2 cup water and whisk to combine. Transfer to an airtight container, cover, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
When ready to serve, pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a 1 1/2-quart or larger pitcher (if serving out of a pitcher) or small punch bowl and discard the contents of the strainer. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups spiced rum and whisk to combine. Serve in individual glasses, garnished with a dusting of ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick or star anise pod if desired.
Make ahead: Ron Ponche can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated overnight. Strain before serving.
Storage: Refrigerate the Ron Ponche in an airtight container in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to 2 days.