Haitian kremas is the best part of the holidays, but here’s how to get it year round

·3 min read

A pair of customers have been inside Little Haiti’s Libreri Mapou for fewer than 30 seconds before Jan Mapou has offered them a taste of his Haitian kremas.

“Sorry, I have customers,” he says, excusing himself.

They won’t leave the pastel pink Miami bookstore without buying a bottle.

Kremas is the Haitian variety of the sweet, creamy holiday drink you can find throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Think of it as eggnog with a twist — many times without eggs.

Kremas, coquito, crema de vie, ponche de crema: What’s your favorite holiday drink, Miami?

Puerto Rican coquito, Venezuelan ponche crema and Cuban crema de vie (after the French crème de vie) are just some of the endless varieties of these homemade boozy beverages. Each country has its own traditions for the kinds of alcohol to use (sometimes down to a particular brand) and the kinds of spices, from cinnamon and nutmeg to coconut cream and star anise. And every household has its secret family recipe.

Libreri Mapou founder Jean-Marie “Jan Mapou” Denis sells the popular holiday beverage Haitian kremas at his bookstore year round.
Libreri Mapou founder Jean-Marie “Jan Mapou” Denis sells the popular holiday beverage Haitian kremas at his bookstore year round.

The kremas at Libreri Mapou has had such a cult following for more than 20 years that Mapou sells it year-round with a custom label hailing it as “the best homemade Haitian drink.”

“Why? Because it’s good! It’s the best,” says Mapou, whose actual name is Jean-Marie Denis.

Mapou’s bright and cheerful Little Haitian bookstore had been open for about 10 years when he realized it could use another income stream. So around the holidays — when granmè in Haiti usually serve tiny cups of kremas with bonbon to visiting family and friends — Mapou’s wife, Rita Denis, made a batch of her late mother’s kremas to sell at the store from December through New Year’s.

Jean-Marie ‘Jan Mapou’ Denis, owner of Libreri Mapou, is photographed inside his Little Haiti bookstore on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.
Jean-Marie ‘Jan Mapou’ Denis, owner of Libreri Mapou, is photographed inside his Little Haiti bookstore on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

Customers kept asking for it after Jan. 1. Mapou found himself selling his wife’s kremas well into the New Year, and these days, the couple makes and sells more than 1,000 bottles of kremas year-round for $30 apiece. For Christmas, they sell it in cheerful holiday bags.

(During the pandemic, when the store was closed for 14 months, it was the major source of income, though they only managed a fraction of their usual sales.)

“Ours is good when people need a quick gift,” he said.

Jean-Marie “Jan Mapou” Denis owns Libreri Mapou in Little Haiti.
Jean-Marie “Jan Mapou” Denis owns Libreri Mapou in Little Haiti.

Libreri Mapou’s kremas is made for sipping. Whereas coquito and crema de vie are lighter and thinner, kremas is thicker and naturally curbs over-indulging. Mapou’s wife of 50 years makes it with Haitian Barbancourt rum — a requirement — coconut cream, condensed milk and “Haitian spices,” Jan Mapou says with a wink. He also uses an imported 95-proof alcohol to help stabilize the mixture, he says.

The best way to drink it is chilled, straight out of the refrigerator. Resist the urge to add ice unless you want it watered down, he says. (You do not want it watered down.)

And no one is stopping you from adding Barbancourt floater to boost the holiday effect.

Libreri Mapou

Address: 5919 NE 2nd Ave., Little Haiti

More info: Kremas is an alcoholic beverage similar to eggnog. The homemade version can be purchased year round at Libreri Mapou for $30 a bottle. 305-757-9922

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