There are certain beverages whose one sip is enough to transport you to your homeland however far away from it you are. Haitian Kremas is one such beverage. As per Saveurs Lakay, Haitian Kremas is made from a heavenly combination of condensed and evaporated milk, a concoction of cream of coconut, vanilla, lime and spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, Haitian Kremas are not like any other beverages. They are celebration drinks. Just like the diverse people that make it, there are several delicious variations to it: almond extracts and raisins. And speaking of the piece-de-resistance, clairin elevates the drink to the heights of ecstatic festivity. In this article we will look at each of these ingredients and how they come together to form the unbelievably rustic, distinct and full flavour notes of Haitian Kremas. Let’s dive right in.
While beverages are usually some function of spices and a base such as milk or water, the specialty of Haitian Krema is the Clairin. Clairin is prepared with raw sugarcane juice that is dehydrated over fire. In traditional and even some modern settings, the fire is made by burning bagasse or the waste remains of sugarcane which is known to give the Krema its characteristic smoky flavour and aroma. Clairin has about 55-58% alcohol by volume. And now you know the secret of the feistiness of Haitian Kremas.
Spices- Star Anise, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg
As per this Food Searches article, there are a variety of spices added to Haitian Kremas including cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise. The flavour of star anise is highly sweet and licorice-like, comparable to aniseed, and is found in both the seeds and the star itself (though the plants are not related). Star anise is a fundamental element in five-spice powder in China, where it has been used for millennia (with cloves, cinnamon, fennel and Sichuan peppercorns). Despite its sweetness, star anise has long been utilised in savoury dishes, particularly in Asian cuisine.
Cinnamon has a sweet and woody flavour with a subtle lemony touch, and its spicy flavour is often compared to cloves’ strong punch. Aside from texture, there’s no difference in flavour between ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks; it’s how they’re used that differs. Sticks are used in the same way that bay leaves are, but they aren’t meant to be eaten. Powder, on the other hand, is employed in a variety of applications.
Nutmeg is a popular spice that comes in both ground and whole form. It has a toasty, nutty flavour that goes well with sweet and savoury recipes. Nutmeg has a toasty, fragrant flavour with clove undertones when ground.
Coconut and its use in Cremas
Traditionally coconut is used in Cremas, however North of Haiti does not produce many coconuts and hence its use in Cremas is limited. Southern Haitians love coconut in their foods and their Cremas are amply evident of the fact. The smooth creamy texture that coconut lends to the drink is appealing to many tourists who take them as souvenirs to their respective countries. Regional styles have also evolved, and people are now experimenting a lot more with Cremas than they would traditionally. Just as is true for the food of any culture- food must evolve as do the people that consume it. Flavours such as hazelnut, coffee, creme brulee and cinnamon are being experimented with. Although most Haitians still prefer the authentic taste of Cremas, due to the influence of the American culture, they are being more open to these varieties of Haitian Cremas.
A Celebratory Drink
If you ask any Haitian, they don’t really need a special occasion to open their delicious bottles of Kremas, in fact it is the Kremas that turn around the most ordinary events in a special way. While Clairin, which is the crucial ingredient of the liquor, is an everyday drink for the Haitians, Kremas are slightly more special. There is also as per some local people, a proper way to drink Kremas- pour a little bit in a cup and savour it. You could use ice depending on your preference. The little alcoholic kick puts you in the right mood to celebrate with your loved ones.