The volume of names and adaptations for the sweet, milky drink that appears on dinner tables around Christmastime could fill an encyclopedia.
There are ponche crema in Venezuela, cola de mono in Chile, eggnog in North America and England, kogel mogel in Poland, advocaat in Holland, coquito in Puerto Rico and eierlikör in Germany. In Central America and Mexico, it’s called rompope.
Even within the tiny country of Costa Rica, regions have developed their own variations on rompope, sometimes adding coconut or cinnamon, sometimes adding a heaping cup of sugar and sometimes leaving the sweets out altogether.
How did rompope come to Costa Rica? Legend has it the beverage has its origins in the Santa Clara convent in Puebla, Mexico, where nuns played host to traveling dignitaries.
Adapted from Spain’s ponche de huevo, the egg- and milk-based drink made its way down the Central American isthmus, with families adding their own accents.
Today, rompope is manufactured by local dairy giant Dos Pinos, with some companies producing do-it-yourself kits, a takeoff on packaged brownie mixes.
In an effort to provide readers with the best-tasting rompope this holiday season, The Tico Times conducted a thorough taste test involving Ticos, North Americans and one Nicaraguan.
We scoured our archives for recipes, quizzed our friends and did a little Web searching to put three recipes on the table for our enthusiastic samplers.
After an evening of sipping the thick, creamy drink out of miniature medicine cups, our taste-testers chose a recipe taken off the Web site of Costa Rica’s NationalMuseum. We’ve provided that recipe and the runner-up here.
TT Taste Test Winner
3 boxes milk
1 small can condensed milk
1 box Romporika (mixture available at most supermarkets)
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
Rum to taste
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
Boil milk with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Blend in egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and Romporika. When mixture is fully blended, let cool and add vanilla and rum. Cover and let cool in the refrigerator overnight.
TT Taste Test Runner-up
3 cans evaporated milk
3 cans condensed milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups rum or guaro (Costa Rican sugarcane liquor)
5 cans water
Beat the evaporated milk, condensed milk, water and eggs for five minutes. Heat on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring constantly without letting the mixture boil. Add nutmeg and remove from heat. Cool and then add rum or guaro. Refrigerate until served.
Finding the right rum to complement your rompope doesn’t require travel beyond Central America.
Here, you’ll discover some of the top-ranking rums in the world, a product of ancient sugarcane plantations and a longstanding distilling tradition. Costa Rica has its Centenario, Guatemala has its Ron Botrán and higher-end Zacapa, and Nicaragua has its treasured Flor de Caña, which can be found in 40 countries. Flor de Caña has been making rum since 1890 from its distillery in Chichigalpa, just northwest of Managua.
Prices vary depending on the age of the rum – the older, the higher. A 750-millileter bottle of Centenario runs about ¢8,700 ($15), the same size of Flor de Caña ranges from approximately ¢7,700 ($13) for a four-year rum to ¢46,500 ($80) for a 21-year spirit, and a bottle of 15-year Zacapa goes for about ¢19,200 ($33).