It’s not Christmas in Santiago without a frosty glass of Cola de Mono and a slice of pan de pascua Christmas bread.
Usa la herramienta de traducción para español…
It’s Christmas in Santiago. And even though the Muzak blares “let it snow” at the mall, it’s the height of summer in the southern hemisphere. That means bright sunny skies and 90º-weather. Santa has been known to wear shorts and sandals, and bikinis often appear under the tree. It all leaves this gringa dreaming of a white Christmas and pining for boots and mittens and a roaring fire to come home to and the smell of fresh-baked cookies wafting from the kitchen… But nobody’s got the oven running in this heat!
But not to fret (too much) there are a few culinary traditions that can perk up the spirits and drive the Scrooge out of me, such as the Christmas favorite, Cola de Mono, literally translated as “Monkey’s Tail.” This milk-based punch is made with sugar, spices, coffee, and spiked with a hearty dose of aguardiente (a distilled grape spirit, putting it in the category of brandy). It’s lighter than egg-nog and served cold, but not to be underestimated. It can really pack a wallop, and I’m sure there are plenty of families with stories about the time Tía Lucía got a little too happy after a nip or two beyond her limit of the ole “colemono,” as it is often shortened.
There are a number of theories about the origin of the drink, although I can’t help but find it curious that a milk-based drink would come to be associated with the summer heat of a Chilean Christmas. Could it be in association with the egg nog tradition of the north?
The most commonly cited origin of the name involves a former president and his pistol. I kid you not. The short version goes that President Pedro Montt’s Colt revolver went missing at a fiesta and to calm everyone’s nerves in the meantime, a pitcher of cold café con leche was doctored with spices and booze and named in honor of the missing weapon, “colt de Montt.” The punch gained popularity and the name gradually morphed to the current “cola de mono.”
Commercially made cola de mono is available, but it’s easy to make and the homemade version is so much better that it’s hard to imagine why anyone would bother with inferior store-bought imitations. See Tasting Chile for a recipe.
There are also a few bars around town that are famous for their own homemade colemono’s. Two that come highly recommended are the Bar Nacional, downtown (Bandera 317) and Liguria (there are three in Providencia).
For a most extensive version of the history of this traditional drink (in Spanish), see: El “Cola de Mono”: la tradicional y republicana ambrosía de don Pedro Montt.