Before we go any further with this Coquito post, I want to remind you that I’m a married woman. I’m won’t tolerate any disrespect to the Soldier. So, that means no marriage proposals, no sending flowers (especially orchids or lilies), and no diamond rings in size seven. I won’t stand for it. Pontificate on how much of a blessing I am to you, though. Oh! And make sure tell me I’m pretty throughout your speech.
What is Coquito?
Coquito translates to “little coconut” in English. So, basically, it’s a drink with a lil’ bit of coconut and a whole lotta rum, LOL!!! No…well, yes…it is. Especially when it comes to my coquito. Puerto Ricans serve this creamy libation during the holiday season. Technically, you can make it whenever you want to; but, traditionally, it’s served beginning at Thanksgiving through to Three King’s Day on January sixth.
Of course, with the migration of Puerto Ricans to the mainland, coquito was brought to the cities where they settled. My mami (my mother, Luisa) had her first taste of traditional eggnog and gagged. She enjoyed how creamy it was compared to coquito, but hated the bourbon and nutmeg. Mami began adding eggs to her coquito and that’s how I was raised making it. I consulted the Soldier (a born and bred Puerto Rican), but since he was raised in a family of teetotalers, he was worthless to my research. His Tia (aunt) Ada, though, she confirmed that traditional coquito is, in fact, NOT made with eggs. Adding eggs turns it into ponche. We like it with or without, so I’m giving you that recipe, too.
The OG recipe for coquito called for fresh coconut milk and pitorro (cane sugar moonshine or rum), sweetened with something to make that pitorro burn a little less going down. Originally, the cocktail had no dairy so it was vegan. I have gone back to the olden days and now make mine with freshly pressed coconut milk. You don’t have to though since it is laborious.
How many different ways can I make Coquito?
Besides all of those new fandangled recipes people are creating (which I haven’t allowed myself to embrace), there’s about 6 different ways to make coquito:
- Old School Coquito: fresh coconut milk with pitorro (or moonshine) and some sweetener
- Quick Coquito: canned coconut milk, evaporated, condensed milk and cream of coconut, rum, vanilla, and ground cinnamon
- Quick Vegan Coquito: canned coconut milk, canned condensed coconut milk, and cream of coconut, rum, vanilla, and ground cinnamon
- Vegan Coquito: same as old-school vegan but without the pitorro. It has fresh coconut milk, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed coconut milk, rum, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a spiced tea
- Vegan-Virgin Coquito: fresh coconut milk, cream of coconut, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and a spice tea
- Virgin Coquito: coconut milk, cream of coconut, evaporated milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Clearly, there’s a coquito for everyone. And, with the exception of the vegan recipes, all of these can be made with (or without) eggs to make a creamier, richer coquito.
Do I have to use fresh coconut for Coquito?
Traditionally, coquito contains freshly-squeezed coconut milk, made from grated and soaked coconut flesh. It tastes tons better than the canned stuff and makes for a smoother coquito. But, well, even I have to admit that it’s a chore. Thankfully, advancement in the field of culinary arts has made life a lot easier for me than it was for my grandmother. Cream of coconut from a can it is! Cream of coconut, or crema de coco, is similar to heavy cream. The grated coconut separates with the heavier cream rising to the top of the can, and you’re left with a very concentrated coconut cream. But! Since I LOOOOVE my coquito to be very coconutty, I also add coconut milk to my Quick Coquito Recipe.
I think by now, you know that I’m extra- in my recipes, in my writing, and in my life. Following protocol, instead of adding just one type of rum- the commonly used white Barcardí- I add three. Don’t get excited. I used to add Bacardí 151 rum, which was the closest thing to pitorro I could legally acquire; so, I basically made coconut moonshine. I’ve settled down a lot in my older years, though. Now, I just add a variety of “calmer” rums: white, spiced, and gold. You can use my three or just go with your favorite. Try to stick with a Puerto Rican rum, or a Caribbean one, at the very least. It’s just traditional.
In addition to the coconut, I add a spiced tea, ground spices, and vanilla to flavor the coquito. Each recipe has different ingredients, so we’ll take them one at a time.
How do I flavor my Coquito?
I flavor all of my coquito the same way: with a tea of spices. This spiced tea flavors the coquito without making it murky.
Start by combining star anise, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, whole cloves, and vanilla bean to pot with a 1/2 cup of water (or strained coconut water). Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Allow the water to boil for 2 minutes, then turn the heat off. Leave the spices to steep in the water for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, strain the tea into a blender. Press out the paste from the vanilla bean into the tea in the blender. Alternatively, you can just omit the vanilla bean and use vanilla extract in the coquito.
If you’re not feeling the tea, feel free to just skip this step and use the ground spices, instead. I will warn you, though, the coquito gets a lot of sediment at the bottom when you only flavor it with the ground spices. I cut down on the sediment by only adding a small amount of ground cinnamon and nutmeg to round out the flavors.
To Make Old-School Coquito
Old school coquito is inherently vegan, so it’s a two-fer. It’s so easy you don’t need a picture, too. The original recipe was coconut milk and pitorro. Again, me and pitorro (or moonshine) broke up, so I make mine with regular rum that doesn’t burn the hair off my head. Of course, you can make yours with 151 if you’re strong enough to handle it.
If you want to make it with 151 you’re going to add 1 1/2 cups of it to a blender with the spices and tea. In addition to the 151, add 6 cups of freshly pressed coconut milk and 1/4 cup of maple syrup or honey. Remember, this is the old-school way that didn’t use the canned stuff. After blending the mixture until smooth, transfer it to clean wine bottles. Add a stick or two of cinnamon and allow the coquito to cure in the fridge for at least 3 days.
I don’t know many people who can handle (or actually enjoy) the old-school coquito. Many just aren’t built that way any more. That’s okay. We have plenty more to choose from.
How to Make Quick Coquito
Quick Coquito is probably the most popular of versions. It requires no grating of coconut and most of the ingredients can be stored in the pantry. You’ll need a large blender for this recipe. My KitchenAid has a sixty ounce carafe, which is perfect for this egg-free version.
Not pictured is a can of evaporated milk, which we’ll also use. You could replace the evaporated milk with more coconut milk if you prefer a more pronounced coconut flavor.
Add the Milk(s)
Cream of coconut is a sweetened, pureed coconut that has a big ol’ chunk of solidified coconut at the top of the can. That fat cap is something you can just poke with a rubber spatula to break apart. You can also shake the can like crazy to break it up. When the coquito has been mixed (and settles) you may, or may not, you may also have a thin layer of the cream on top of your coquito. That’s just some of that heavier cream rising to the top of the drink. I help cut down on that by straining my coquito before bottling it.
Add the cream of coconut to the blender.
Now, please, promise me two things: first, that you will use full-fat coconut milk. Second, that you won’t bother with trying to find out the calorie count of this drink. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s the holiday season and we’re all bound to put on a little weight. Embrace it. Add this to the blender. If you want more coconut flavor double the coconut milk to 2 cans.
Follow the cream of coco with the sweetened condensed milk. This not only makes it creamy, but sweetens the coquito as well.
The last type of milk you’re going to add is evaporated milk. This creamy milk makes the coquito really decadent and gives great mouthfeel to the drink. Again, if you are going for more coconut flavor, omit this milk and add 2 cans of coconut milk instead.
Cap the blender and blend for 30 seconds to combine the milk with the spices and tea. Since the alcohol steps for the other recipes are the same across the board, with the exception of the virgin recipes, we’ll talk about the rums later.
How to Make Quick Vegan (Dairy-Free) Coquito
Making your coquito vegan (or dairy free) isn’t difficult. Replace the sweetened condensed milk with sweetened condensed coconut milk. The evaporated milk will be replaced with more coconut milk. That’s it! Praise the heavens, alcohol is vegan and dairy free, so long as you don’t use one that is creamy.
Those milks get added to the spices and tea in the blender and blended for 30 seconds to combine.
How to Make Vegan Coquito
Unlike the old-school version, this vegan coquito doesn’t use pitorro. It’s also not a “quick” version because this one uses freshly pressed coconut milk. This is the closest thing to the original coquito without the burning sensation that makes you regret drinking it.
Add 6 cups of fresh coconut milk to the blender with the spices and tea. A can of cream of coconut and a can of sweetened condensed milk (back in the day they added cane sugar, but the ancestors will forgive us this) sweetens the coquito. Blend these for 30 seconds to combine.
What kind of rum do I use to make Coquito?
I’m extra, so instead of using one kind of rum- usually a white- that most people do, I use a blend of three different types of rum. You don’t have to use three different ones, and be extra like me, but I find it tastes more sophisticated when I do. And no one’s ever complained about drinking my liquor.
But, if you only have one type of rum, just use that. I keep a fully-stocked bar, so I have a few to choose from. As I mentioned before, I used to use 151, which is rum that is SEVENTY-FIVE POINT FIVE percent alcohol by volume. Most rum falls between thirty-five and forty percent. Soooooo…yeah, you use to need a designated driver after sipping my coquito. It’s the way my mother taught me, and the rum mellowed out after we let it cure, and again, I never had a complaint. But, it turns out Bacardí discontinued 151. Maybe people were going blind? Even if they still made it (which some brands do) I can’t do it anymore.
Here’s what I recommend:
Añejo or Gold Rum
Add 1/2 cup of Barcardí Añejo or Gold rum to the blender. All rums are aged for more than one year. Gold is a style of rum that’s been aged in toasted oak barrels which mellows it out and darkens the color, whereas añejo has been aged the same for longer. You can buy a fifth or two mini bottles if you don’t keep it on hand normally. Either or- gold or añejo- can be used here.
Add 1/2 cup of Spiced Rum. I like to stick with the same brand, but any spiced rum will do. Spiced rum has a caramel-y flavor that adds a note to my coquito that reminds me of winter. As with the añejo rum, buy two minis or a fifth and you’ll have just enough for this recipe.
Aged (or regular) White Rum
The final rum is a white or a double-aged Barcardí Maestro, which I prefer over their Superior rum because it’s been aged longer. Unfortunately, I can’t get my hands on a bottle of Maestro these days. The longer white rum ages, the more mellow it tastes; Maestro has a honey note to it. Like the aging of the rum, the coquito (when aged or cured), mellows out and all of this rum you’re adding is barely detectable. The jury’s still out on whether that’s a good thing or a bad one.
The littles need something to toast with, too!
Fortunately, making a virgin coquito is just a matter of blending together the milks, cream of coconut, spices, and tea in a blender for 1 minute.
Vegan & Virgin Coquito
Same goes for a vegan virgin version (say that five times fast). You do have the added task of making the coconut milk, but if you do that a day ahead, it’s pretty simple.
Just blend together 6 cups of freshly squeezed coconut milk, cream of coconut, sweetened condensed milk, the spices and the tea in a blender for 1 minute.
Are there eggs in Coquito?
Anytime you add eggs to a Puerto Rican drink, it becomes ponche. But, no one is going to call the coquito police on you if you want to add them to yours to make it richer and more eggnog-y.
So, now is the point, if you want to make an eggnog-type of coquito, to add four large egg yolks. Use the freshest eggs you have access to in order to avoid any illnesses. As with any recipe that includes raw eggs, the chance of contracting a foodborne illness is higher, especially if you don’t allow the coquito to cure long enough.
If you’re not adding eggs, just keep it moving.
Blend, Strain, then Bottle
Blend the mixture for a minute, stop the blender and scrape down any spices that have stuck to the sides of the carafe. Hit it again for another thirty seconds to a minute. I tend to blend longer to break down that cream of coco.
Add two, or three, cinnamon sticks to two one-liter swing-top bottles. Again, cinnamon is a prominent flavor in coquito, so in addition to the ground cinnamon, I cure the coquito with two or three cinnamon sticks. You can omit them if you don’t keep cinnamon sticks on hand.
Grab a funnel and put a fine-mesh sieve over it. If you have cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel, line the sieve with that. In order to reduce the amount of clumping in the coquito it’s a good idea to strain it as you bottle it.
Place the funnel over a large pitcher. Pour the blended coquito into the cheesecloth to strain it. See all of that foam you’ve collected? Just get rid of that.
This recipe makes just under one gallon of coquito. Now you can easily pour the strained coquito into the bottles. Leave a headspace of at least one inch at the top of each bottle for shaking later. Cap the bottles and refrigerate.
You need to let the coquito cure for at least forty-eight hours to achieve that mellow, unsuspectingly-dangerous flavor. As the coquito mellows, that alcohol smooths out and is almost unnoticeable.
How do I serve Coquito?
After sitting in the fridge to cure, the fats in all the milks will solidify. Before serving you need to pull it out of the fridge and allow it to warm up on the counter for 10-15 minutes.
After your coquito has warmed a little, just give it a vigorous shake to mix the spices that will have settled, serve it, then sip. I mean, it’s a rich, dessert-like libation- and it’s potent- so, sipping seems like the right thing to do. The Soldier and I don’t, but you should do as I say, not as I do. I serve our coquito in old fashion glasses. They look classy, and you feel like you have a lot, which stops you from becoming the drunk aunt or uncle who embarasses the family at every holiday event.
A stick of cinnamon is the perfect garnish, but totally optional. I do like to freshly grate cinnamon over mine. With or without ice is up to you. I prefer not to water down my drinks.
Why does my Coquito have lumps in it?
Remember that fat cap from the cream of coconut? Well, that, plus the fat in the milks, likes to solidify as the coquito sits in the fridge. I call these edible clumps of love. They’re not harmful and they don’t mean your coquito is spoiled. They are unsightly, I’ll admit, which is why straining the coquito is important.
If they bother you a lot, just strain the coquito after shaking. That should get rid of them. If they don’t disturb your soul, just embrace them and enjoy the pockets of coconutty goodness.
How long does Coquito last?
The alcohol in this recipe will cure the coquito for a long time. Even with the addition of eggs, it’s good for at least a year. It may even be good for a longer period of time, I’ve just never had enough restraint to test the timeline. Last year’s batch, which contained eggs, lasted until last month. It tasted even smoother and more profound cured, as it was, for eleven months. But to be on the safe side, I suggest enjoying it within 6 months.
However, the virgin coquito will only be good for about a week, or so. I would make it when you know you’re going to be able to finish it within that time.
Can I freeze Coquito?
Yep! Coquito with alcohol won’t freeze solid, so you end up with this cool slushy thing. The virgin ones will freeze solid, so you’ll need to store them in a freezer safe container. Freeze the coquito for up to a year.
What else can I do with this Coquito?
I’m so glad you asked! I’m a whiz when it comes to coquito recipes, so here are some you definitely need to try. All of them are made with coquito!
Remember to share this recipe and shame the Puerto Rican friends who have withheld this from you. Pin this recipe to find it easily for your Christmas batch, too!
This recipe was originally published in 2018. I’ve updated it as of November 2020 to include more versions and better images.
Coquito (Puerto Rican Coconut-Rum Cocktail)
- Large capacity blender
- 3 one-liter swing-top bottles (or bottles with screw-on caps)
For the Spiced Tea
- 1/2 cup filtered water or coconut water
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 1 vanilla bean split
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
For the Coquito
- 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
- 15 ounce can cream of coconut
- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 12 ounce can evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt optional
- 1/2 cup gold rum
- 1/2 cup spiced Rum
- 1 cup white rum
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 6 sticks cinnamon (optional, used for bottling)
Optional Eggnog Version
- 4 large very fresh egg yolks
Make the Spiced Tea
- In a small saucepan combine the water, cinnamon sticks, star anise, vanilla bean, cloves, and allspice berries.Bring the water up to a boil over medium-heat heat. Boil the tea for 2 minutes. Turn the stove off an allow the tea to steep for 15 minutes.
- Strain the spices from the tea and press the paste from the vanilla into the strained tea. Set aside to flavor the coquito.
Blend the Coquito
- Add the tea, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg to a large capacity (60 ounce) blender.Add the coconut milk, cream of coconut, condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, salt, and all three rums to the spices and tea in the blender. If you're adding egg, do so now, then blend this mixture for one minute on low speed.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender, then blend for an additional 30 seconds- 1 minute on medium speed.
Strain and Cure the Coquito
- Add 2-3 cinnamon sticks to very clean glass bottles. Strain the coquito through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a large pitcher to remove excess foam from the liquid. Discard the foam.
- Pour the strained coquito into the bottles, leaving at least 1" of headspace in each bottle. Cap the bottles and refrigerate for at least 48 hours to age.
- Ten to 15 minutes minutes prior to serving, remove the bottle of coquito from the refrigerator to allow the fat in the coquito to warm up. Give the coquito a vigorous shake to mix the spices that will have settled. Serve cold.
Tea-less Coquito:Replace the whole spices with the following:
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (in addition to the cinnamon added to the coquito)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (in addition to the vanilla extract added to the coquito)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- pinch of ground allspice
- 6 cups freshly pressed coconut milk
- 1 1/2 cups 151 rum
- 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
"Updated" Old-School Coquito:
- 3 cups freshly pressed coconut milk
- 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk or condensed coconut milk
- 15 ounce can cream of coconut
- spices and spiced tea as listed above
- rum as listed above
Quick Vegan Coquito:
- 11.25 ounce can sweetened condensed coconut milk
- 12.2 ounce evaporated coconut milk
- 15 ounce can cream of coconut
- spices and spiced tea as listed above
- rum as listed above
- Use the freshest eggs you have access to to avoid any illnesses. As with any recipe that includes raw eggs, the chance of contracting a foodborne illness is higher. Consume any coquito made with eggs at your own risk.
- Add the egg yolks to the blender just after adding the spices. Continue as instructed above.
Virgin and/or Vegan Coquito:
- Substitute water or coconut milk for the rums. Make as instructed.