Crema de vie is a Cuban eggnog recipe and great way to spice things up at Christmas.
I’ve never spent Christmas in Cuba.
This year I’m staying in Havana until December 19th then heading home to the Maritimes for Christmas for traditional goodies like my Nanny’s Christmas cherry balls.
But I’m hoping to catch some of the festivities and I’ve been told it’s possible to find crema de vie well in advance.
The crema de vie cocktail was one of the things I was looking forward to most.
There are so many Cuban cocktails, but this is one is most common at Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
I couldn’t wait so I asked my friend for a crema de vie recipe in hopes I could master it in advance!
What is Crema de Vie
Also known as Creme de Vie. Although it literally translates to cream of life – it’s a bit of a peculiar name because crema is Spanish and vie is French.
But Cubans pronounce it crem-a deh vee-eh. How this happened I have no idea.
The best way to describe it is Cuban eggnog. It is served as an aperitif after dinner, in either shot glasses or small stemmed glasses.
Eggnog first appeared in England in the late 1800s when it was common to drink warm milk and eggs during cold weather, although often with brandy or sherry.
It’s most likely that the Cuban drink emerged from the Spanish invaders adding Cuban rum to their local nog drink.
It is also likely why similar drinks exist in other Caribbean countries like the cremasse in Haiti, coquito in Puerto Rico and rompope in Mexico as well as Christmas in Ecuador.
While each one varies slightly they all have a base of egg, dairy, spirit and sugar.
Christmas in Cuba
Crema de vie is a type of eggnog that is made during Christmas.
Although you may see it at some Havana restaurants, it’s more often something made at home.
It is often given as a present in a decorative bottle.
Interestingly, Christmas was once banned in Cuba. It existed before the revolution but then disappeared when Cuba became an atheist country.
Christmas only became an official holiday again in Cuba in 1995 just before the Pope visited.
So for a younger generation the holiday is completely new.
My friends still do not celebrate. They will have dinner with their family but no turkey, Christmas tree or presents.
Even at New Years, many tourists are confused as to why there’s no big party and that’s because most Cubans will stay at home instead of going out.
Cubans approach drinking in a way that I haven’t really experienced in other countries.
Although they make some of the best cocktails in the world, it’s much more common to go out and order a bottle to share.
And if you have a bottle of rum at your house it’s only polite to ask friends dropping in (and they do drop in often) if they’d like a drink.
That’s what made me so curious about this Cuban eggnog, not so much the actual recipe but how it’s shared during the holidays.
How to Make Crema de Vie
If you’ve ever been to Cuba you know that Cubans have a sweeeeeeeeeeeeet tooth.
Everything from Cuba Libres to Cuban coffee has far more sugar than you were expecting.
Crema de vie is no different as its ingredients include a substantial amount of sugar AND sweetened condensed milk.
It also includes rum, which I think is much needed to cut the sugar – even though ironically rum is made from sugarcane.
Cuban Crema de Vie Recipe
You can use whatever brand of rum you like white or dark. I think a spiced rum adds a nice touch.
In Miami, the exiled Cubans are loyal to Bacardi rum, which was also exiled after the revolution.
But for my crema de vie I’m using Havana Club as that’s what I often have at my apartment in Havana.
While this recipe can be easily made as a virgin cocktail it does contains raw eggs.
It is not recommended that young children or pregnant women consume raw eggs and you should always use the freshest eggs you can find.
How to Make a Simple Syrup
Simple syrup sounds intimidating but really it’s quite easy…or rather simple.
Over medium-low heat put equal parts of water and white sugar into a saucepan and stir.
Once the sugar has dissolved into the water remove from the heat and let cool. Easy peasy!
The key to this recipe is low and slow with the blender. You want to mix it thoroughly but it’s not necessary to beat the ingredients.
ALSO READ: The Best Christmas Cookies Around the World
Crema de Vie tastes better after a few days of making. Shake bottle vigorously before serving so it’s a bit frothy.
Some people swear it lasts months as the rum acts as a preservative for the eggs.
While people have been drinking crema de vie Cubana for generations I haven’t and I don’t want to risk it.
This makes a large enough batch to take to a party but leave with an empty bottle.
Crema de Vie
Crema de vie is a Cuban eggnog recipe and great way to spice things up at Christmas.
- Simple syrup
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 cup water
- Crema de Vie
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 6 egg yolks from pasteurized eggs
- 1 cup dark rum or less if you would like a lighter drink
- 1 tsp Pure vanilla extract not artificial
- cinnamon, ground and/or sticks for garnish
Over medium-low heat put equal parts of water and white sugar into a saucepan and stir.Once the sugar has dissolved into the water remove from the heat and let cool.
Crema de Vie Cocktail
In a blender, gently mix eggs.Add evaporated milk and condensed milk and gently blend until smooth.
Add simple syrup, vanilla and rum and gently blend until mixed through. Garnish with ground cinnamon and/or a cinnamon stick. (optional)
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 239Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 120mgSodium: 61mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 0gSugar: 34gProtein: 4g
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although BaconisMagic.ca attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
Have you had Cuban eggnog before? If so let me know if my crema de vie recipe is similar to yours!
I can’t find the recipe for the creme de vie any where on this page.
Just under “how to make a simple syrup” you can find the full recipe.
Just a small correction, Christmas was an official holiday before The Communist regime of the Castro’s. You can find pictures on historical websites all over the internet of Havana and outlying towns all decorated for the holidays. The Castro did away with it as they did away with God while they pushed their will on the people. It is possible that they probably brought it back after the Pope’s visit. But it is not a newer thing in Cuba
Absolutely you are right it did exist at one point. I meant it was newer for the younger generation who had never celebrated it before. I just revised the copy to make it clearer. Thanks so much for pointing it out!
I was talking to my friend about it last week and he said in Havana about 4 years ago there was a big push to celebrate it. But each year it seems to be less and less important. He still doesn’t celebrate and neither do my friends.
It’s sad to think that noche buena is not celebrated in Cuba anymore. I grew up with it. Of course, most of my family are Miami Cubans and I traveled there every year to celebrate. I grew up in NYC.
It’s still celebrated, especially in Remedios. Elsewhere it’s a family dinner. But in many ways I prefer how Cuba celebrates because it’s about spending time with family and friends rather than spending money buying presents.
But yes I would imagine it’s quite different for Miami Cubans who have a much different experience after the revolution.
This is such a heartwarming thread!
As a Miami Cuban, our family actively pushed to preserve traditions to keep the Spirit if Christmas alive. It’s also a way to send a big “eff you” to the Castro regime…
De todas maneras, ¡Feliz Navidad! Y que disfruten su Noche Buena. ❤️
I hear you Amzee. Noche Buena was always about spending time with family and friends, as well as, exchanging gifts. We went to church and came to home to a big family dinner. The entire event was a family project managed by the oldest female member of the family, in my case. In Miami the men roasted the pig. In NYC, I roast pork loin.
We always begin the meal with a toast using Crema de vie.
Thank you, Angylina, for responding and providing new information for me.
Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo to all on this thread.
My mother is very old school Cuban she was raised there was before the revolution and she says her and her family who by the way were one of the wealthy families celebrated the coming of the three wise men more than they celebrated Santa Clause as we do in America which brought about celebrating more friends and families but she also said some friends and families would bring gifts in three’s as some importance of celebrating the three wise men but usually it was some type of food or liquor drink including cream de vie and that they would dance all night long right outside of there home as that was the way Cubans celebrated Christmas at least she said the ones she knew and at midnight they all took time to go to the cathedral and they all prayed the rosary as their belief in god was very strong so over all Cubans who were raised and born there were raised catholic and to honor their families and friends during the holidays and that’s why gifts were not as important as the true meaning of Christmas which was celebrating the actual birth of Christ and the fact that Christ blessed them with family and friends, at least that’s how my mother says it was before the revolution and the only difference my mother says they added nutmeg to their crème de vie as a topper!
Oh thank you so much for sharing all of this. It sounds like your mother has wonderful memories.
As a kid in Cuba I remember noche buena as a family dinner. The entire family got together and roasted a pig. On Christmas Day we went to church for a service and the family was together but no gifts were exchanged. As it is tradition in Latin America countries the exchanges of gifts happens on January 6, “Día de Los Reyes” or Epifany to coincide with the visit of the Thee Wise Men to baby Jesus
You are do right my mother said January 6 was the day of exchange of gifts to show of the 3 wise men bringing gifts to Christ she said when the gifts did come during Christmas she said they were placed aside to open on January 6th and the only thing they did during Christmas was go to the church, eat and cook the pork outside and she said they danced and sang with families and friends all night thank you for remembering what a true Cuban Christmas was like before the revolution! And that Cubans did and do believe in God and the birth of Christ!
I want to try this! Looks amazing!
I’ve always made the sugar syrup with two cups of water, one cup of sugar and a cinnamon stick. You bring it to a boil then lower heat and simmer until syrup slightly thickens. Let cool and remove cinnamon stick before adding to milk mixture. Otherwise my recipe is pretty similar. My Cuban mother in law gave me this recipe shortly after my husband I married, over fifty years ago, and I’ve been using it ever since.
Comments are closed.