For the holidays we’re mixing things up around here. Literally! We’re not “cooking” so much as we’re getting our holiday groove on, imbibing on one of the top selling spirits in the world . . . rum. First up is coquito. A deliciously creamy coconut elixir steeped in spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla. Coquito is standard during the Christmas season in Puerto Rican households, along with pasteles (savory pastries stuffed with meat), pernil (roasted pork shoulder), arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and tostones (fried plantains).
Much like eggnog, coquito is a rich holiday drink meant for sipping and savoring. A little goes a long way, especially because it’s loaded with several tasty ingredients like coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk. And, it contains a good dose of rum.
As customary with all things scrumptious, there are a plethora of ways to make coquito. Recipes are tweaked from generation to generation and person to person for a signature twist. More traditional versions require cracking coconuts and fresh eggs. My recipe, however, is much simpler using canned coconut milk and nixing the eggs (no need to drink raw eggs or deal with a double boiler). I’ve also added almond extract for another bold dimension.
Although there is talk of a coquito throwdown in these parts next year, my hermanas Puerto Rican and Boriqueñas were kind enough to let me in on a few tips: 1) cutting the eggs out is not sacrilege and 2) using Coco Lopez® cream of coconut makes for a much sweeter drink. Note, I’ve had plenty of versions of coquito that I found both too rich and sweet, so I use regular coconut milk instead of Coco Lopez®.
This coquito tastes like a tropical Christmas. If you can’t be on the island, taste it. For optimum flavor, make note to make this at least a day ahead.
Tidbits on Rum:
- Rum is derived from sugarcane. Essentially, when sugarcane is crushed, the juice that is extracted is boiled and separates into crystallized sugar and a remnant sugary liquid known as molasses. The molasses is further distilled and aged to make rum.
- Fermenting and distilling sugarcane to make beverages dates back thousands of years to China, Egypt, India, Syria, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.
- About 80 percent of the rum consumed in the United States is from Puerto Rico.
- Rums come in light (silver) and dark (gold). Most light rums are produced in Puerto Rico, while the darker versions come from Jamaica.
Sources: The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America; The Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.
Makes about 40 oz. (1 liter+)
The white rum by Don Q® worked nicely for me but you can use your favorite rum (light or dark) or experiment with the coconut flavored or spiced versions. I got my coconut milk at the Asian grocery store and found (but decided not to use) the Coco Lopez® cream of coconut at the liquor store.
For a more authentic Puerto Rican presentation, refrigerate the coquito in clean spirit bottles (recycling old wine and liquer bottles is common) and give them as gifts to your host/hostess during the holidays.
1 1/4 cup water
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (15 oz.) coconut milk
1 cup white Puerto Rican rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Bring water, cinnamon and cloves to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn off heat when the water turns reddish brown and begins to taste of cinnamon. The water will have evaporated somewhat and there should be about 1/2 cup liquid remaining. Let cool to room temperature for at least 15 minutes, allowing spices to steep.
- In a pitcher, add evaporated milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, rum, vanilla, almond and nutmeg. Stir well. Remove and discard cloves from cooled cinnamon water. Add cinnamon water to rum/milk mixture and stir.
- Refrigerate coquito in glass containers overnight with steeped cinnamon sticks. Shake well and serve cold in 4 oz. glasses. Sprinkle with nutmeg (fresh or ground) or cinnamon before serving.
Rum: White or dark, coconut flavored or spiced rum
Spices: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, star de anise and fresh ginger. Note: Substitute 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves to skip step 1 entirely.
Coconut: Fresh, coconut cream or milk
Eggs: Whole eggs, egg whites only, yokes only – raw or cooked