Instead of serving the traditional eggnog this year why not try a Mexican classic with a similar flavor profile. Horchata is typically served at family gatherings and festivals, so we wanted to continue in that tradition. Some might mistake this creamy cocktail for a milkshake, but this version of the Mexican comfort drink is not as rich and filling. The rice is soaked, then pureed to make the horchata creamy and give it its unique taste. The evaporated milk gives the drink its sweetness and the rum cuts the thickness and marries all the flavors perfectly.
[SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: blender, fine-mesh strainer, cooler-style serving vessel]
4 cups white rice
1/2 gallon (2 quarts; 8 cups) whole milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pour the rice into a large bowl and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Soak the rice for 4 hours.
Drain the rice and puree with the milk, evaporated milk, cinnamon, and vanilla in a blender until smooth.
Strain the horchata through a fine-mesh strainer and chill.
ASSEMBLE AND SERVE
24 fl. oz. (3 cups) amber rum
12 cinnamon sticks
12 vanilla beans
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Stir 48 fl. oz. (1 1/2 quarts; 6 cups) of horchata with the amber rum in a cooler-style serving vessel or 3-quart pitcher.
Garnish each glass with a cinnamon stick and a whole vanilla bean, or let your guests add a dash of cinnamon.
YIELD: 12 servings