Coquito: All You Need to Know About Puerto Rican Eggnog

Unique drink recipes are as much a part of the holiday season in most families as having turkey and dressing. People in the United States enjoy eggnog, as do the citizens of Puerto Rico. However, Puerto Rico has its unique take on this holiday favorite.

Puerto Rican eggnog is called Coquito, which means “little coconut” in English. Coquito may or may not include egg, but it always has either coconut milk, coconut cream, or both. Although most households drink Puerto Rican eggnog during the holiday season, many people enjoy drinking it year-round.

The remainder of this article will discuss the history of Puerto Rican eggnog, how to prepare it. Additionally, it will cover some of the variations you might consider to this classic recipe to make it your own.

The History of Puerto Rican Eggnog

While there is no doubt that Coquito originated in Puerto Rico, there is some dispute as to the recipe’s origins. A Google search returns a host of theories, some more likely than others.

The most likely theory attributes Puerto Rican eggnog origins to the period of the Spanish colonization of the island. However, the full development of Puerto Rican eggnog isn’t as simple as that. To fully grasp the unique cuisine of Puerto Rico, one must first consider its ethnic origins.

Contemporary Puerto Rican cuisine is a hybrid mixture of tastes from its indigenous Taíno population, the Spanish colonizers, the imported African slaves, and the later influence of the United States.

The development of Puerto Rican eggnog sits as the intersection of all four of these distinct cultures. For example, the Spanish invaders brought with them a taste for possets, a hot beverage made with warm milk curdled with brandy, wine, or sherry. It didn’t take very long for the Spanish invaders to begin using local rum in the recipe.

Next, came the addition of coconuts to the recipe. Coconuts were another colonial import incorporated into Puerto Rican cuisine by African slaves brought to Puerto Rico to labor in the sugar industry.

After the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, control of the island was transferred to the United States. And the final two ingredients were added to Puerto Rico’s eggnog recipe – evaporated milk and canned condensed milk.

As you can see, Puerto Rican eggnog is truly a hybrid of all four cultures that have permeated the island’s culture over the centuries.

Puerto Rican Eggnog Variations Throughout the Caribbean

Puerto Rican Eggnog Coquito and Panettone
Coquito and Panettone

Other Caribbean islands, Latin American countries, and Spain enjoy drinking Puerto Rican eggnog during the holidays. However, many of them have their twist on this holiday beverage. Likewise, some countries have other food items that are traditionally eaten alongside Coquito. 

For example, Cubans drink a version of Coquito, which is served with a scoop of coconut ice cream. Additionally, many of the Caribbean Islands add fresh coconut milk to the recipe along with the soft meat of young coconuts.

Coquito is also a holiday favorite in Spain where they typically serve it with turron, a nougat confection that is usually made using honey, toasted almonds, sugar, and egg whites.

Puerto Rican Eggnog is gaining a following in the United States and can be found pre-made and bottled in some grocery and specialty stores.

Puerto Rican Eggnog Competitions

There are a variety of competitions held in the United States to determine the year’s Coquito master. For example, the Newark, New Jersey, Public Library hosts an annual Coquito Master Competition.

In that competition, contestants enter their version of Puerto Rican eggnog into a blind-tasting competition that is open, free of charge, to the public. Then, event attendees sample the entries and vote for their favorite. The Coquito Master is announced later that day. This event is held in association with the International Coquito Federation.

A Coquito Master Tournament covering the Northeastern United States was founded in 2002. Participants enter their Coquito recipes in neighborhood semi-final competitions towards the end of the year. Then, a final match is held in early January on Three Kings Day, the official end of the Christmas season in Spain and Latin America.

Manhattan’s El Museo del Barrio hosts that event, and another participating museum hosts the final event. For instance, in 2019, the winner was crowned at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

As New York Public Radio reported, competitors and connoisseurs come from all over the country to vie for the title of Coquito Master. El Museo del Barrio’s director of public relations Gonzalo Casals related that competition is fierce, that “In every Puerto Rican family, there’s a recipe.” And of course, every family thinks their recipe is the very best, and they are eager to win the competition.

Reportedly, most recipes are similar, with the main difference being whether to include eggs or not. Some participants claim that excluding eggs distinguishes Coquito from regular eggnog.

On the other hand, others insist that eggs impart an essential creamier texture to the final product. However, everyone seems to agree that white Puerto Rican rum is the only liquor to include in a proper Coquito recipe.

According to Casals, when it comes to deciding the winner, the competition’s tasters adhere to strict guidelines. The tasters vote on each Coquito’s “consistency, flavor, kick, and color.” And as you might expect, most contestants claim that their recipe contains a “secret ingredient,” making their version the best in the competition.

How to Prepare Puerto Rican Eggnog

Coquito drink with cinnamon sticks
Puerto Rican Eggnog

There are as many recipes for Puerto Rican eggnog as there is for this holiday beverage in the United States. We developed the following recipe taking the best parts from Coquito recipes published by the University of Puget Sound University‘s publication The Trail, Penn State University, and the Latin Kitchen.

What You Need To Make Puerto Rican Eggnog

How You Make Puerto Rican Eggnog

  1. Using a medium-size saucepan, place two to three sticks of cinnamon into two cups of water. Using medium heat, bring the water to a boil. Then, lower the heat and simmer for about five or six minutes. Remove the cinnamon sticks and let the water cool to room temperature.
  2. While the water is cooling, whip the four egg yolks in a mixing bowl using an electric hand mixer or a wire whisk. Slowly drizzle about a cup of the hot water and cinnamon mixture into the egg yolks while whipping them.
  3. Add the whipped egg yolks to the remaining water and cinnamon mixture and simmer for two to three minutes. Then, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  4. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and cream of coconut into the room temperature egg, water, and cinnamon mixture.
  5. Store the mixture in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  6. Add the rum to the mixture when you are serving the beverage and serve in shot glasses or cocktail glasses and enjoy!

Notes

  • It is best to make Puerto Rican eggnog a day before you plan serving it to allow the flavors to blend.
  • You might want to add ground cinnamon or nutmeg to the top of each glass before serving.
  • Some people like to add a couple of tablespoons of vanilla extract to their recipe. Likewise, some people want to add a little bit of anise, ginger, nutmeg, or all-spice when boiling the water in step one.

What We Learned Today About Puerto Rican Eggnog

Coquito Puerto Rico Eggnog with christmas ornaments
Coquitos for the holidays

We covered a lot of information today regarding the history of Puerto Rican eggnog, its varied uses throughout the Caribbean Islands. And, we concluded with instructions on how to prepare Puerto Rican eggnog or Coquito. 

You might consider sharing this article and recipe with family and friends who enjoy eggnog. You also might consider bookmarking this article for future reference for the upcoming holiday season.

Visit our online store to shop for Puerto Rican products and recipes.

Sources

The Latin Kitchen: Puerto Rican Coconut Eggnog (Coquito)

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