I am an unabashed lover of good ‘nog, preferably ones creamy, rich, and soused with bourbon. For a drink that evokes a breezy holiday vacation on a Caribbean island, look to coquito. As with many food traditions in colonized places, the origins of coquito, or “little coconut” in Spanish, are murky. We do know that it’s eggnog’s tropical sibling: served in the Christmas season, uses Puerto Rican rum as its boozy base, and, in lieu of fresh cream, coconut is the crux of this lush drink.
Some old-school recipes suggest cracking ripe coconuts and scooping out the flesh. If you love doing everything by scratch, then God bless and have at it. This will be somewhat labor intensive, but every real coconut–infused batch of coquito I’ve ever made simply tastes fresher.
For me, a can of good coconut cream will certainly do the trick. And it’s faster. And easier. It will still taste delicious and feel like sunshine on a cold, crisp morning. There are a lot of pros to this version.
Also, coquito does not require egg yolks. You can add them, but if blending up yolks for a beverage doesn’t sit right with you, skip it! Lots of Puerto Ricans do, including myself. In the very over-generalizing words of my father: “Puerto Ricans don’t like eggs.” But they love coquito at Christmastime.
3 fresh egg yolks, extremely optional
1 to 1 ½ cups white Puerto Rican rum (I use Don Q)
15-ounce cream of coconut
14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
12-ounce can of evaporate milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, plus more for topping
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Cinnamon stick (optional)
Measure out and pour liquid ingredients and egg yolks (so, so optional) into a blender, starting with one cup of white rum; add up to two cups, or to taste. Blend at high speed until nice and frothy, about a minute. Add nutmeg and cinnamon, and just blitz into mixture. (If you like it boozy, don’t be shy! But know that the alcohol’s sharpness will mellow out over time.) Transfer to airtight bottle and add a cinnamon stick to steep in the coquito. Keep in the fridge until ready to drink (at least an hour); the longer it sits, the better the flavors meld together and soften rum’s boozy kick. (If you can, wait a few days or a week.) Best served cold and topped with fresh ground nutmeg.
For you braver souls making coquito with real coconuts: You’ll need at least two brown-shelled coconuts (I get mine from H Mart). Use the claw side of a hammer and firmly tap along the coconut’s equator until you hear a little pop and crack it open. Try to break into a few large shards. Place coconut shards on a sheet pan and bake at 350º for five to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, then separate meat from shell. Some thin brown skin on the coconut flesh may remain, and that’s fine, it will all be blended and strained.
Blend coconut flesh with rum, let steep for a moment. Go walk the dog, or check Instagram. Write the first paragraph of that novel you always wanted to start. Then come back and strain coconut from liquid with fine strainer or cheesecloth. From here, follow the directions above minus the cream of coconut. If you opt for this version, I raise a nutmeg-dusted glass of coquito to you.
Note: I prefer Coco Lopez brand cream of coconut because it gives a lot of coconut flavor. Other Asian brands that are more ubiquitous work too, but watch out for sizes—the wrong ratio of cream can mess with the balance of flavors. Aroy is a brand I’ve used and liked a lot (also can be found at H Mart and other Asian markets).
Tag me in any of your coquito adventures @rosink, and @dmagazine, too!