’Tis the season for coquito! The delicious coconut drink is a treasured tradition for Puerto Ricans at this time of year. For this week’s Sabor Latino Chicago, we share a coquito toast with comedian and events producer Mike Oquendo, learn how La Isla del Encanto celebrates Christmas, and find out how to whip up your own batch at home.
“Some may call it the Puerto Rican eggnog,” Oquendo said. “Most of the ingredients can be found at your local store. It’s really simple, it’s fun to make, you can make it with and without alcohol, and it’s just something that is in every home right around from the beginning of Thanksgiving all the way through Noche Buena.”
The recipe Oquendo uses is his mother’s. “My mother recalls the time before she came here from Puerto Rico to the United States where they would actually grate the coco to make it in its original form,” he said. “When she came here, it was just much easier to get a can of this and a can of that and can of this and then put it together.”
He says one of the best parts about coquito (besides the rum) is that once you have the base recipe nailed down, the possibilities for customization are endless.
“There’s strawberry coquito, pumpkin spice coquito, Nutella coquito,” Oquendo said. “My favorite way to drink coquito is I use it as my half-and-half. It is the best iced coffee ever. That is simply magic in the mornings.”
This year, instead of holding his annual in-person fundraising event to raise money for homeless advocates La Casa Norte, Oquendo sold bottles of homemade coquito to thirsty Puerto Rican Chicagoans.
“We were able to make 100 bottles, sell them, and we were able to help them with their program, which houses homeless teens,” he said. “La Casa Norte has been doing wonderful work in the city with the homeless for years, so we were really happy that the coquito was able to contribute to help them this year.”
Oquendo says that another essential ingredient for a Puerto Rican Christmas is parrandas played on el cuatro, the national instrument of Puerto Rico.
“The parranda music that is often heard in our homes, it gets the whole mood going. The coquito, the cuatro, the awesome food and the aromas, it just makes all the best for a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas,” he said.
Below, Oquendo’s coquito recipe:
—1 14-ounce can condensed milk
—1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
—1 15-ounce can of crema de coco
—1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk
—1 tsp nutmeg
—1 tsp cinnamon
—1 cup of light rum
Blend for 2 minutes, refrigerate one hour or pour over ice.