A California Twist on the Classic Puerto Rican Coquito
In search for the perfect winter cocktail, we tapped our Managing Editor Luis Angel Cancel to learn about this rum-soaked, traditional Puerto Rican holiday staple.
My co-workers don’t know it, and the many faces I pass on the street certainly don't know it, but I am an alien. Or at least sometimes I feel like one. I crash-landed in San Francisco in 2013 after fleeing the distant land of Philadelphia. A lot of great things brought me here. Love, the prospect of fulfilling work, lots of time spent outdoors. I've got all that in spades, and frankly, I'm lucky as hell. But what’s been missing since my arrival out west is the comfort of seeing faces that look like mine. The Puerto Rican population in the Bay Area is ultra-thin. Back east, I’d taken for granted how effortlessly I could see, touch, hear, and most importantly taste (after all this is a recipe you’re reading) the touchstones of my family’s culture.
The absence of my brethren was always most deeply felt around the holidays. I have vivid memories of visiting family in New York as a kid and watching my dad buy homemade Coquito from bodegas (this is almost certainly illegal, so feds, if you’re watching, jk jk). My mother has whipped up a batch every year for as long as I can remember, and I start pining for it as soon as the weather cools. For the uninitiated, it’s basically a tropical take on eggnog. But to give you an idea about how seriously my people take this beverage, there are massive, dramatic Coquito competitions all over the tri-state area.
Maybe my feelings of displacement are more apparent than I’m aware, because last year my dear friend Kevin Dowell surprised me with a batch of Coquito around Christmas time. Kevin’s an absolute heavyweight in the California cocktail and hospitality world, and as a true San Francisco native, he’s a rare bird in his own right. In almost comically Californian fashion, his self-concocted recipe is plant-based and vegan. I’d give anything to see the face of a Bronx borough Coquito competition judge assessing a vegan version of this holiday staple. Nevertheless, take it from a real, true, homesick Boricua—this version of the drink is exceptionally good. For a transplant, the feeling of being seen and understood by a friend is particularly powerful around the holidays. And entering its second year in my fridge, this healthy, Californian take on my favorite holiday drink has become a brand-new tradition in its own right. All I’ve got to do is take a sip, and I’m transported home.
Kevin’s Californian Coquito
Total: 45 min.
Prep: 5 min.
Cook: 40 min.
Yield: 12-15 (4 oz.) servings
• 2 cans (13.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
• 1/2 tsp. sea salt
• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
• 1 tsp. cinnamon
• 1 tbsp. shredded coconut
• 3-5 whole cloves
• 1/4 cup maple syrup
• 3/4 cup cane sugar
• 1 cup whole raw cashews (pre-soaked for 2 hrs)
• 1 3/4 cup oat milk
• 1 chia “egg” (1 tbsp. chia seed mixed with 3 tbsp. water)
• 1 cup aged rum.
Pre-soak cashews in water for a minimum of two hours.
Add coconut milk to a pot and bring to a boil, then quickly reducing to a simmer. Slowly add salt, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut, maple syrup, and sugar and stir until dissolved. Cook on medium to low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring often to avoid clumping. Remove from heat and place in the fridge to cool.
In a blender, add soaked cashews, oat milk, 1 cup of water, and “chia egg” (1 tbsp chia seed mixed with 3 tbsp water). Blend until creamy, then slowly add the spiced coconut cream. Lastly, add 1 cup of Aged Rum (we used Cana Brava 7 year Reserva Aneja) and blend until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a glass bottle and store in the fridge. Batch will last at least one week. 10+ servings.
Can be served with a whole cinnamon stick and/or grated orange zest on top. Serve in small glasses, just a little portion is perfect.