Get to Know Coquito

Coquito
Photography by Ali Redmond

Few holiday drinks satisfy quite like coquito, the silky libation embedded in the holiday repertoire of Puerto Rican families. But like so many traditional dishes and drinks, its platonic ideal varies from home to home. Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger and cloves are common, less controversial additions. But while some makers swear by the inclusion of eggs, others would never do so.

What’s the right way to make coquito? There isn’t one. But there’s plenty to learn about this festive holiday favorite.

The History of Coquito

As with much of history in cultures that pass down traditions orally, it’s hard to track down the origins of coquito, Puerto Rico’s rum punch that’s served during the holidays.

The most common story goes that the first coquito was created with pitorro, a moonshine rum made from sugarcane and buried underground to ferment. Makers would combine that with fresh coconut water and, later, grated coconut. They might also customize their pitorro with tropical fruits. (This author’s grandmother, for instance, used tamarind!)

How Is Coquito Different from Eggnog?

Coquito and eggnog are certainly spiritual cousins. Both are creamy, rich libations consumed during the holiday season. But the drinks differ in several ways.

For one, the drinks usually contain different types of milk. Eggnog is usually made with heavy cream or milk, while coquito—which translates to “little coconut” in Spanish—leans on some combination of coconut milk, cream of coconut and condensed milk. Sometimes, sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk can make appearances, as well.

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Meanwhile, although rum looms large in many recipes for eggnog and coquito, eggnog sometimes swaps out the spirit for brandy or whiskey.

What Does Coquito Taste Like?

Coconut is the prevailing flavor of any good coquito. Warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and clove lend depth and complexity. The version below is alcohol-free, but many aficionados add a glug of rum, which, depending on the chosen spirit, can add notes of vanilla and spice.

If you want to go super old-school with your coquito, you might stick a piece of cheese, typically Edam, or what locals call queso de bola, in the finished bottle. The rum infuses into the cheese, which you can remove and serve when it’s time to cheers.


How to Make Coquito

Recipe by Jacy Topps

Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups (1 15 oz can) cream of coconut
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cup white rum or spiced rum*
  • cinnamon sticks for garnish

*Traditionally, it’s made with white rum. But some prefer spiced rum for a richer coquito.

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a blender at high speed.

Making of a Coquito
Photography by Ali Redmond

Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. Shake well before serving. Serve cold in a glass mug.

Making of a Coquito
Photography by Ali Redmond

Garnish with cinnamon sticks. Serves 6-8.

Making of a Coquito
Photography by Ali Redmond
Published on December 21, 2019