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.