Rich, creamy Coquito is a classic Puerto Rican treat made with coconut cream, coconut milk, baking spices and, most importantly, rum. “My mother would make Coquito every year for the holidays,” says New York-based bartender Darnell Holguin, co-founder of The Silver Sun Group. “She would make a variation that is very similar to eggnog, called Ponche, which [includes] egg and condensed milk added for nutrition during difficult economic times in Puerto Rico in the 1940s.” Aside from its nostalgic value, Holguin is a die-hard fan of Ponche for its texture and balance—in fact, the recipe is a template he’s used countless times over the course of his career behind the bar.
Coquito, which translates to “little coconut” in Spanish, has deep roots in Puerto Rican history (or Spain’s colonization thereof, rather). Holguin elaborates: “It is said that the Spanish brought [Coquito] over by introducing the island to their version of an eggnog. Utilizing the abundant resource of coconuts, a version was created unlike a traditional eggnog and unique to Puerto Rican culture.” Today, there are countless family recipes unique to Puerto Rican households across the world, but there’s one key element that’s non-negotiable, according to Holguin. “There is always one important ingredient that must be in Coquito, and that is Puerto Rican rum. The addition of any other spirit makes something else entirely.”
While there’s plenty of room for interpretation and experimentation in making Coquito at home, you’ll want to follow a few general guidelines from an expert like Holguin. “When making your Coquito, it’s important to get a good coconut milk—read the labels on the cans you purchase and make sure you get one that has a lot of coconut fat. This is what gives this drink great texture and body. Also, sourcing quality spices like good vanilla extract and cinnamon makes a world of difference. This balance of fatty texture and a dry finish from spices and the rum makes it irresistible and impossible to just have one!” This recipe by legendary bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez is an excellent place to start.
- 56 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 48 ounces evaporated milk
- 24 ounces cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
- 4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 750 milliliters (1 bottle) white, añejo or spiced Puerto Rican rum
- Garnish: cinnamon sticks
Serves at least 16.
Add all ingredients except rum into a saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and let cool.
Add the rum and stir to combine.
Transfer to sealable bottles and add 1 cinnamon stick to each bottle. Seal and store in the refrigerator.
Serve over ice in rocks glasses, garnishing each glass with two cinnamon sticks.
Ponche de Coquito
If eggs are included in the mixture, it's called Ponche de Coquito. To make it, add the yolks of four large eggs to the mixture.