By Eliza Magro
A Caribbean Christmas with Guavaberry Wine
One of the most traditional West Indian Christmas specialities is guavaberry wine. People revere this Caribbean Christmas elixir as being one of the, if not the, most precious holiday treats to share with friends and family.
“You just keep sipping and sipping until you start singing,” said Lucia Henley, who makes and sells the holiday drink on St. Thomas.
It’s called guavaberry wine, however it is truly a liquor made with rum. Guavaberries usually fruit in the summer time. They are either orange or purple berries, and the only real difference between the two is the color. Some people use only the purple berries to make the liquor, giving it a darker color, while others like to mix the berries for a clearer drink.
This is not a fermented drink, it is simply a flavored liquor that develops over time. The alcohol in the rum extracts the distinct guavaberry flavor, creating this traditional Christmas drink that keeps people singing throughout the holidays.
To make the special liquor, start by de-seeding a quart of berries, which will make one gallon of liquor. Then, put the skin and juice from the berries in a gallon sized container and pour your desired rum over the fruit.
Now, everyone has their own techniques for flavoring their drink, but traditionally fresh vanilla beans are added, along with raisins or prunes, and maraschino cherries for sweetness and flavor. Sorrel is also used for flavor. Some people add a bit of sugar to taste at the end.
The mixture must sit and steep for at least two to three months, however often times it ends up steeping for about five or six, because after the fruit is harvested it is immediately made into the liquor mixture, and set aside until Christmas time. The mixture needs to be lightly shaken each month to keep the ingredients mixed. The longer it sits, the stronger the guavaberry flavor is. This aged liquor has a woody, fruity, bittersweet flavor.
This Caribbean Christmas drink is similar to the tradition of egg nog in the States, and is also enjoyed cold, or even over ice.
Christmas is a time to share with family and loved ones, enjoying special treats of the season. Guavaberry wine is a quintessential addition to the Christmas feast in the West Indies.