©Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2015; All Rights Reserved.
In Latin America, the beverages of the holiday season are many: steamy ciders, alcoholic punches, and frothy egg drinks come to mind first.
Navidad is a time to prepare hot, fruit-laden ponches made with water, unrefined sugar (piloncillo, papelón, or panela), and sweet spices like nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. These punches are embellished with dried fruits, such as apples, prunes, pineapple, mango, mamey, and apricots. Of course, alcohol such as rum, whiskey, bourbon, or red wine, adds the fiesta to this libation.
Thickened milk-based drinks are also very popular. Some are enriched with eggs, such as Mexican rompope (or rompopo, if you find yourself in Central America) or the ponche crema of Venezuela. These frothy drinks are very similar to traditional eggnog but most often, they are spiked with rum or aguardiente (fermented alcohol, similar to moonshine), instead of the usual bourbon.
However, my favorite holiday drink is an egg-less, creamy, coconut cocktail laced with plenty of dark rum. It’s the favorite drink of Puerto Rico and it’s called coquito. There are many recipes for this sweet, velvety, and milky drink. Mine is as simple as it gets—the way my Boricua friends taught me to make in our college dorm and the only way I make it to this day. The only equipment you will need is a blender (the cheap kind that most college students can afford, so don’t go buying any fancy machine for this), and a glass bottle to store the drink in.
The list of ingredients may be short but this drink packs a punch (no pun intended). Best of all, you’re still on time to make it before Christmas. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare (eat your heart out Rachael Ray!).
Now, it is customary to drink it in small glasses—usually a couple of ounces only. It’s meant to be sipped slowly, savored delicately. Of course, if you refill such glass often please don’t blame it on me. Most of us in Latin America know to respect creamy cocktails—they hit you when you least expect it. Fair warning.
My favorite thing about coquito is that it develops even more flavor as it sits in the refrigerator maturing. This drink should be thick and creamy; do not serve it over ice or it will be watered down. You can make it today, have some for Christmas and savor the remainder for New Year’s Eve. By then, the flavors will have blended perfectly, producing a balanced mixture of sugar, coconut, and rum flavors that will have you screaming: Feliz Año Nuevo!
© Copyright, Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2015; All Rights Reserved.
Two (14-ounce) cans whole coconut milk (not coconut cream)
One (14-ounce) can of sweetened, condensed milk
1 cup dark rum (the darker, the better)
½ cup water
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
One (2-inch) piece of Mexican cinnamon (canela)*
Ground cinnamon (for sprinkling before serving)
Mix all ingredients in the blender until the mixture is smooth (the water will make it easier to blend together), about 1-2 minutes. Pour the coquito into a glass bottle or bowl; cover and chill well (at least 4 hours or up to 4 weeks). Serve it in very small glasses, sprinkled with a bit more cinnamon.
Makes 16 (3-ounce) servings
*Note: Canela is Ceylon cinnamon, with a very brittle, soft bark that blends perfectly; do not substitute this with cassia cinnamon, or you’ll break your blender. You can find it in Mexican tiendas (stores) and in many grocery and gourmet stores. If you can’t find it, substitute with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon.
©Copyright Sandra A. Gutierrez, 2015; All Rights Reserved. No part or whole or photograph of this site can be lifted, copied, disseminated, or shared without the express, written consent of the author.