Photograph by Isa Zapata, food styling by Thu Buser, prop styling by Marina Bevilacqua
I was introduced to coquito in true Nuyorican fashion, on my best friend’s stoop on Bushwick Avenue. I remember condensation dripping down my fingers after tapping the bottom of the repurposed Hennessy bottle, lore for good luck and prosperity. Eggnog has never been my thing. But it only took a swig to confirm that coquito, also coined Puerto Rican eggnog, reigns supreme.
Meaning “little coconut” in Spanish, coquito is a hallmark of the holiday season in Puerto Rico. It’s no surprise that New York City, home to the densest population of Puerto Rican people outside the island, keeps the tradition alive. While you’ll seldom find bottles of coquito stocking shelves at your liquor store, a lap around any proud Nuyorican neighborhood will likely do the trick.
The allure of any good coquito is in its layered, nutty coconut flavor. Unlike eggnog, it leans on coconut milk for its viscosity instead of eggs. Equally as important: the warmth from spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. My recipe blends both spices into the base. But if you want to go a step further, here’s a pro tip:
To further amplify the woodsy, cozy flavors in your coquito, soak whole cinnamon sticks in the rum beforehand. This simple step imbues the whole drink with the spice’s warmth. My favorite white rum to use here is Bacardí Superior—it’s light and aromatic, with floral and fruity notes. This infusion comes together in seconds and can be done the day before folks come to gather.
Spiced rum doesn’t end with coquito either. After you make a batch for coquito, go ahead and make another. You can use it in all sorts of ways: Soak raisins until they’re plump and soft. Add a splash to homemade caramel for added depth of flavor. Or put it toward a warm spiced chai, a bright Dark ’n’ Stormy, or in a tropical mai tai.
But I’ll forevermore be kicking off the nippy, brisk holiday season in New York by nestling up with a big batch of coquito.
Here’s how to make Cinnamon-Infused Rum
Add 1¼ cups white rum (such as Bacardí Superior) and 6–10 cinnamon sticks to a glass bottle or container with a lid. Cover and let infuse in the refrigerator for at least 1 day and up to 3 days. (Infusing at a low temperature encourages a more delicate integration of flavor.)
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit
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