Along with the Pina Colada, the Coquito is Puerto Rico’s gift to the cocktail-loving world. Like the Pina Colada, the Coquito is rum-based, and Don Q distillery in Puerto Rico has successfully lobbied to have the first annual National Coquito Day declared on December 21, 2018.
Last month, I had dinner with Yisell Muxo of Don Q, the #1 selling rum in Puerto Rico, and the woman who helped spearhead the establishment of National Coquito Day. Muxo told me that “The Coquito is an integral and delicious part of Puerto Rican holiday traditions. We realized there wasn’t a national day devoted to celebrating this iconic drink, so we took the necessary steps to register the day and officially establish National Coquito Day.”
Successful cocktails have many fathers and mothers: there’s more than one Puerto Rican bar that claims to be the place where the Pina Colada was first served; for instance, both Hotel Caribe and Barrachina in San Juan claim the cocktail originated at their bar.
Although Muxo concedes that for the Coquito, “there aren’t official records of the original creator or the recipe, the base has to be Puerto Rican rum and coconut cream or milk, and from there, the ingredients usually vary. Most Puerto Ricans have their signature or “go-to” recipe, many of which have been passed down through generations. “
Yisell Muxo’s Coquito Recipe
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¾ can cream of coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup Don Q Cristal rum
Put all the ingredients a in blender; mix on a high setting until well incorporated,funnel into a glass bottle, mason jar or empty Don Q rum bottle and refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours. Serve chilled in a cordial or small glass with a dash of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick garnish.
Carmen Rivera of Oak Park Eats/Chicago Parent Magazine continues the Puerto Rican custom of preparing Coquitos with her family and then distributing the cocktails as a kind of Christmas gift and something to bring to holiday dinner. “We usually get together to make it during a family hangout, before Christmas,” explains Rivera, “and it becomes like an assembly line: someone brings bottles, someone else brings the rum and so on.”
Carmen Rivera’s Coquito Recipe
½ cup water
1 ¼ ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 egg yolks
1 cup Bacardi Rum
2 15-ounce cans coconut milk
1/3 cup Coco Lopez cream of coconut
½ tsp. vanilla
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch salt
Pour water, milk, egg yolks, rum, coconut milk and Coco Lopez into a blender. Add vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Blend until well combined. Refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle extra cinnamon on top and garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Makes 5-6 cups
In December, Puerto Ricans prepare Coquitos at home and then give away bottles of the cocktail as a gift to friends and neighbors. “Back in the day,” says Rivera, “we would save plastic two-liter bottles, or sometimes we would reuse other liquor bottles to store the coquito before we give it away. These days, thanks to the ole dollar stores, we use those resealable wine/water bottles. They look much prettier. We also put a few cinnamon sticks and coconut shreds in in a little mesh bag that we tie on the bottle so whoever we gift with it has a little of garnish for the drink.”
Think of the Coquito as a kind of eggnog from Puerto Rico…only we like it better than egg nog.