By Margaret Snook, December 22, 2008
It just wouldn’t be Christmas in Chile without a nice cold glass of Cola de Mono and some Pan de Pascua Christmas bread.
Chilean Christmas comes in the height of summer, with searing heat (90º and up is the norm), so nobody’s thinking about eggnog by the fireplace or spending the day baking cookies, but one Christmas treat that can’t be beat is “Cola de Mono” (Monkey’s Tail), served as cold as possible with the ubiquitous Pan de Pascua (Christmas bread). This milk-based punch is lighter than egg nog and easily made at home (don’t waste your time or money on the far inferior store-bought version!). Use the recipe below to make up a batch of your own, and check out Cachando Chile for an explanation of its history while you wait for it to chill. There are no great scientific principles at work here; all measurements are to taste.
Start with a liter of milk. Yes, Chilean milk comes in boxes with a shelflife of about 6 months! (but that’s another story).
Add about 1/4 cup sugar (more or less, depending on your sweet tooth).
Add a cinnamon stick, 3 or 4 whole cloves, some fresh-grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp), a vanilla bean or a couple tsps vanilla extract, fresh lemon or orange peel, and 2-3 tbls ground coffee.
(Yes, I know that most Chilean recipes call for instant Nescafé powder, but have you heard the old expression “Nescafé no es café“ ?? Right… use the real stuff).
Yes, it looks like a mess at this point!
Bring it to a simmer over gentle heat. Don’t let it boil. You don’t want the milk to scald. Be patient, and stir often.
Once it approaches a boil, turn off the heat, stir well, cover, and let it steep and cool. It should be a nice café con leche color.
Drain it carefully and add aguardiente to taste. Don’t use pisco. I’ve tried it; it was dreadful. Rum would work if you don’t have aguardiente brandy. Use at least a cup, more if you like. The alcohol will be less noticeable when cold.
Voila! Christmas a la Chilena!