Recently, while shopping at my local Stop & Shop, I couldn’t believe my ears…
I heard an ad for Coquito playing over the intercom. I looked around to see if anyone else was as shocked as I was to hear that this staple of Puerto Rican holiday festivities was being marketed to the everyday shopper in this everyday Queens supermarket. Could it possibly be that the drink was trendy? How? To me, it feels like our best kept secret, but I was ecstatic that non-Puerto Ricans were discovering it.
If you’ve never had Coquito before, I like to describe it as a tropical eggnog. (Except Coquito actually tastes good. Sorry, eggnog lovers!) The secret to the best tasting one is fat in the form of egg yolks. Traditional recipes like in A Taste of Puerto Rico by Yvonne Ortiz (a must-have Puerto Rican cooking bible) incorporates raw egg yolks; however, I like to incorporate granulated sugar with the egg yolks over indirect heat to give the Coquito an almost custard-like texture and to eliminate any bacteria.
Growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn, I remember Coquito was served at all the Christmas and New Year’s parties while we opened gifts and played games, the adults dancing and mingling to the music of Héctor Lavoe and Celia Cruz. The children were offered virgin batches while the adults drank theirs spiked with white rum.
Every year, a few days before Christmas, my mom and I make large batches of Coquito to give to our family and friends. She has me crack eggs and save their yolks, while she takes care of the cans of milk stacked to the ceiling. We are constantly asked for the recipe — I think that’s because ours isn’t overly sweet, just rich and indulgent, and most important, spiced to perfection. Lucky you, here it is.
As mentioned above, the virgin version is delicious, too. If you go this route, substitute the rum with one extra cup of coconut milk, totaling two cups of coconut milk. (Coquito is Spanish for “little coconut.”)
Makes 5 servings
1 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup white rum (optional, see note above)
3 cinnamon sticks
4 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar + 2 tablespoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Pour coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and white rum (if using) into a blender. The coconut milk may appear curdled but that’s completely normal. Blend the milk mixture for 30 seconds on low. The mixture should be smooth and slightly frothy. Pour into a large bowl, cover loosely, and place in the fridge.
In a small saucepan, boil 1 cup of water with the cinnamon sticks. Once the water comes to a rapid boil turn off immediately and set aside until cool to the touch.
In a separate large saucepan, add water to come two inches up the sides, and bring to a simmer. Combine egg yolks, ½ cup granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the saucepan and reduce heat to low so the water is at a light simmer. Using an electric mixer (or a large whisk and a strong arm), beat mixture on medium-high until the eggs triple in volume, are extremely pale yellow, and register at a temperature of 150F-155F, 7 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove the bowl from the heat.
Whisk the egg mixture into the bowl with the slightly chilled milk mixture. The mixture should be eggshell in color. Place back in the fridge.
Once the cinnamon stick water is cool add to the milk mixture along with the vanilla, kosher salt, and ginger. Whisk well. Add the Coquito to a large pitcher and place in the fridge to chill for at least 4-6 hours.
Serve once completely chilled, or bottle it up and give to family and friends.
Bianca Cruz is an editorial assistant at Clarkson Potter. She graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts with a minor in German. Following her internship at Oxford University Press, Bianca attended the Columbia Publishing Course and now attends the Institute of Culinary Education where she is currently pursuing a Culinary Arts degree.
P.S. Teste test of non-alcoholic beer, and holiday cookie showstoppers.
(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo.)