As long as I can remember, I have been a fan of eggnog. I love homemade eggnog as well as store-bought eggnog. And my love of eggnog was the gateway to that New Orleans favorite, milk punch. I think it is the luxurious texture of the milk and the excuse to drink a cocktail spiced with nutmeg that makes me crave it.
But, I had never heard of Coquito, a.k.a Puerto Rican “eggnog” until I was introduced to Roberto Serralles, the 6th-generation Puerto Rican Rum Maker. His family has owned Don Q Rum since 1865. Roberto told me that during the holidays, every family in Puerto Rico makes this drink and each family has their own version of it.
As soon as I saw his recipe, it reminded me of tres leches cake because it calls for three types of milk and lots of rum. I wanted to try it for myself.
I made my first batch of Coquito based on the recipe that Roberto gave me, but I substituted coconut milk for the “coconut cream.” I did this because I imagined that whole coconut milk with a cream cap was what “coconut cream” had to be. I didn’t realize that Coco Lopez was made in Puerto Rico and called coconut cream there. Once I realized my mistake, I knew that I had to get Roberto to taste my ”much less sweet” version and get his seal of approval the next time we were both in the same city.
A few months later that day came and I packed up my mason jar of Coquito, and met him at a restaurant. As luck would have it, there were half a dozen Puerto Rican rum experts in the room and as soon as I broke out the Coquito, everyone wanted to taste it. I was a little unsure if I should let them taste my adapted—not authentic—version but they were eager. I held my breath as everyone sipped their drinks and the rum warmed the expressions on their faces. Happily, I got the thumbs up for my less sweet version Coquito—the coconut milk was a happy accident!
So instead of Puerto Rican eggnog, I think of this festive cocktail as a more nuanced, tropical version of milk punch. So much so, that I have added another twist—a floater of the delicious and spot-on passion fruit liqueur, Chinola. I have also tried it with other liqueurs and they are all great. The base is very welcoming.
My original recipe was adapted from Roberto Serralles and Don Q Rum. In speaking with him, I discovered that other families use egg yolks, aged golden rum, lime zest and fresh coconut in their recipes. The type of rum and strength varies as well. His preference is for crystal rum which is distilled 5 times making it light and bright, and doesn’t overwhelm the delicate coconut flavor.
I often make it with spiced rum to up the warm Christmas spices but it’s great with any rum, so add your favorite. However you customize it, make it now and make it often this holiday season.
It makes a unique homemade gift as well. It is delicious and easy to prepare and can be made up to a week ahead and refrigerated. You can use a mason jar as I did the first time I made it, or collect empty liquor bottles during the year, clean and re-use them to bottle my Coquito. I love that after I make my homemade gifts, and line them up, none of the bottles match, but you don’t like that look, can also buy empty bottles and use those instead.
This is a gift that is easier than baking cookies and it is so good that you will want to make a batch for yourself, and make a few more to give to your neighbors or bring to a party. Tie a bow on the neck of the bottle, and your last-minute holiday shopping is done!
Caribbean Holiday Coquito with Your Choice of Floaters
This Coquito is full of surprises! The sweetened condensed milk is lightly caramelized in the microwave to add more depth of flavor and complement the spiced rum. This is an optional step and not authentic at all. If you prefer, you can skip this step and add it straight from the can.
I use a moderate 1 ½ cups of spiced rum (or 25%) in my recipe but I was told that many Puerto Ricans use a 50% ratio of rum to milk. And, I recommend serving it with Chinola or your choice of a bold-flavored liqueur for a festive more-is-more twist!
Makes a little more that ( 2 ) 750ml glass bottles
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 13.5-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk
(or 2 15-ounce cans of Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut if you like it sweeter)
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1 generous teaspoon real vanilla bean puree
1½ cups favorite rum, such as crystal, spiced rum, or more, depending on taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks for the bottom of the bottles
Your choice of Floaters such as Chinola Passsion Fruit Liqueur or your favorite liqueur including Rivulet Pecan Liqueur, Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey, Grand Marnier
1. Pour sweetened condensed milk in a large glass bowl. [If you want to caramelize it slightly, microwave on 50% power—or reheat for 3 minutes. The sweetened condensed milk will bubble and rise in the bowl so make sure to use your largest glass bowl. Let it simmer done and microwave for 1 more minute.] Stir well and add all the other ingredients, stirring after each addition.
2. Mix all ingredients in the bowl. Use a whisk, a fork or an immersion blender to blend all ingredients until they are completely integrated.
3. Put a cinnamon stick in your glass bottles and transfer to the bottles. Store in the refrigerator.
4. Chill for a minimum of 5 hours before serving. It will last up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Shake well before serving.
5. Serve cold in small glasses or over ice in a “rocks” glass with a flavor floater of your choice.
6. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg if desired.