It’s been a year and a half since our vacation to Puerto Rico, and just as I was finally getting around to blogging about it, the pandemic hit. Oof. I still plan to share all of those travel tips in good time, but until then, I figured I’d extend an olive branch: a virtual taste of Puerto Rico, by way of a recipe for coquito, the island’s version of egg nog, only creamier, rummier and more delicious if you ask me.
Traveling to Puerto Rico
Our trip to Puerto Rico last year was pure vacation. Nearly 15 years into working as a travel journalist—and longer than that in media—I’ve realized the necessity for actual vacation that has nothing to do with work, so when a Scott’s Cheap Flights email landed in my inbox with a $200 round-trip flight to San Juan, I texted my friend Matt, and within 24 hours, he, his husband Jason, SVV and I were booked on our first double-date trip together. Puerto Rico, we were ready!
The week to come was full-on indulgence. We visited Vieques, Luquillo and San Juan. We ate all the food, took all the naps and, most importantly, drank all the drinks. We all four became smitten with Puerto Rico: its people, its culinary attributes and, yes, its cocktails.
Those hesitant to travel to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria shouldn’t fear (though note, I haven’t traveled by air since the virus hit): While more rural parts of the main island may still be closed, a trip to Puerto Rico is well worth your time. It’s one of my favorite islands I’ve visited ever, and I’ve been to my share of islands off the Atlantic coast and down into the Caribbean.
History of Coquito
Iterations of coconut dishes and beverages are everywhere on Puerto Rico, so it makes sense that the signature cocktail we fell in love with quite literally translates to “little coconut.” Coquito is the Puerto Rican equivalent of eggnog, and while it’s traditionally served at Christmas time, I can vouch that it’s a drink that’s delicious and refreshing no matter the month of the year.
This is one of the few cocktails I’ve been unable to track down the origins, though it’s rumored to have been brought over by the Spaniards during the colonial period, only for Puerto Ricans to add local rum to the recipe and make it their own.
Coquito is typically served following dinner due to its sweetness, but because SVV and I are rebels, we had a couple rounds with a cheeseboard prior to our meal and regret nothing. If you like egg nog, boiled custard or horchata, I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll like coquito, too.
But, ever the journalist, I wanted to fact-check my cocktail information. Is this one of those cocktails they make to cater to tourists, yet something locals don’t actually consume? I texted our dear friends Leila, who is from Puerto Rico and was the big motivator for us going there on vacation last year, sending her a photo of our beach-side coquito, and inquiring if she actually grew up drinking it. I didn’t want to be disappointed, like when I went to Cuba and expected plantains to be on the menu everywhere, only to find the complete opposite the reality.
She confirmed that yes, coquito is a dessert cocktail that’s primarily served during the Christmas holidays and one she’s a huge fan of, saying “once I start drinking it, I just can’t stop.” She also noted that some Puerto Ricans make it in different flavors, like cheesecake and pistachio.
Recipe for Coquito
On SVV’s and my recent vacation to Dauphin Island, we brought in all of our own food and alcohol so as to observe social-distancing protocol. This gave us the chance to get more inventive with our cocktails, depending what was already in our home pantry, and as we’re both huge fans of horchata, we thought we’d give its alcoholic sister—the coquito cocktail—a shot. After all, we were on an island, and what’s more island-like than a rum punch that originated on the island of Puerto Rico?
- 1 cup white rum
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can cream of coconut*
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
*we subbed canned coconut milk for coconut cream because it’s what we had in the pantry
Blend rum, condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream of coconut and spices in a blender until creamy. Chill the pitcher in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours. Once ready to serve, pour over ice (optional) and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon and a cinnamon stick.
Some versions of coquito call for egg yolks, but we went egg-less, and it was still delicious without (and perhaps easier on our stomachs). It’s also dangerous because the strong coconut flavor masks the rum, so proceed with caution!
The great thing about coquito is that you can batch it out or double/triple the recipe and serve it in mass quantities at a party. This recipe yielded a full blender of coquito, which could safely serve 4 to 6 guests depending on your pours, and I thought there was no way SVV and I would polish it off given the drink is heavier and sweeter than we’re used to. But fear not, we succeeded!
Have you ever traveled to Puerto Rico or tasted the famed coquito cocktail?
For more cocktails around the world, check out these recipes:
- How to Make a French 75
- How to Make a Blood Orange Margarita
- How to Make a White and Black Russian
- How to Make a Proper Gin and Tonic