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Coquito: The Puerto Rican Eggnog That's "Delicious but Lethal"

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The Puerto Rican holiday season is famously known for being one of the longest in the world. It begins with Thanksgiving and continues until the middle of January with the San Sebastián Festival. It's essentially a massive street party that's been a tradition since 1954 in Old San Juan. But what would the most wonderful time of the year be without some libations? And for Puerto Ricans, the holidays are synonymous with one alcoholic drink: coquito. 

Coquito is similar to eggnog but with a couple of differences, including the use of coconut cream. According to Miami publicist and coquito aficionado Natascha Otero, the beverage kicks off the holiday season for Puerto Ricans and is enjoyed postdinner at all celebrations, much like a dessert. There are myriad versions of the signature beverage; however, the fundamental ingredients are the same: rum, coconut cream, condensed milk, egg yolks, and cinnamon. Otero describes coquito as "delicious but lethal because of the sugar and the rum content." It's also why the drink is poured from a bottle into small shot glasses, she says. Cinnamon powder is sprinkled on top, and some people like to toss in a cinnamon stick for good measure. 

Even though Otero has lived in Miami for 21 years, she's adamant about maintaining her Puerto Rican traditions. This is why five years ago for her birthday (which falls around Thanksgiving), she asked her guests to skip the gifts and bring a homemade bottle of coquito instead. There would then be a coquito throw-down where partygoers would select a winner from the anonymous batch of bottles. She says that she gets about 20 bottles and that her foodie friends — Puerto Rican and otherwise — really get into the competition. In the past several years, the Puerto Rican population in South Florida has grown, she says, but even so, you won't find coquito at restaurants or bars. In the past, Otero has hosted her throw-down at Sugarcane, Wynwood Brewing Company, and Jimmy'z Kitchen, the last two of which are owned by Puerto Ricans. One of the years she was even crowned the coquito queen.

Generally, coquito is made using Puerto Rican rum, and Otero favors the Añejo variety of the brand Don Q. She says the eggnog-like libation is easy to make as long as you have the right ingredients and give yourself at least 24 hours to refrigerate the bottle of coquito prior to serving. A lot of it is also about finding the right balance between the coconut taste and the rum flavor. "It's not a rum drink with milk; that's not what you want." Below is her personal recipe (not her award-winning recipe, unfortunately), which includes a dash of cognac so that you too can add a little Puerto Rican flavor to your holiday season. We've also included Pubbelly chef/co-owner Jose Mendin's coquito recipe. 

Natascha Otero's Coquito Recipe:
Makes 1 bottle of coquito

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 2 eggs
  • Puerto Rican rum to taste (Otero favors Don Q Añejo)
  • Cognac
  • Cinnamon powder
  • Cinnamon sticks

In a blender, mix the condensed milk, the evaporated milk, the coconut cream and the eggs until you get a nice cream color. Start pouring the rum in to taste until you get a nice balance between the coconut flavor and the rum flavor. Add a splash of cognac. Sprinkle some cinnamon powder and pour everything into a glass bottle. Place cinnamon sticks into the bottle (optional) and refrigerate for at least 24 hours prior to serving. Pour into shot glasses to serve and sprinkle with cinnamon powder. Place a cinnamon stick into the glass (optional).

Pubbelly chef and co-owner Jose Mendin's Coquito Recipe:
Makes 1 bottle of coquito 

  • 12 ounces rum&
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 can coconut cream
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg

In a pot, bring the milk, coconut cream, añejo rum (or brandy) and all of the spices to a simmer for about ten minutes. As soon it's cooled, add ten ounces of rum or more, to taste. Pour into shot glasses to serve and sprinkle with cinnamon powder. Place a cinnamon stick into the glass (optional).

Follow Valeria Nekhim Lease on Twitter and Instagram.

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