Coquito Chronicles: Puerto Rico’s Creamy Holiday Tradition

Iza Montalvo
 | November 30, 2023

As far as I can tell, Puerto Ricans celebrate the longest holiday season in the world. And it’s already started.

The festivities begin in November and end with the “octavitas,” eight days after the Three Kings Day in January.

And there’s no better way to celebrate than with our traditional drinks and foods.

Every Christmas, my mom used to make her famous coquito to give away to friends and family  as a gift and, ever since, her recipe has become a tradition in our family.

And there is no Christmas without coquito in my home. That’s the one thing I can count on every year.

What is Coquito?

“Spanish invaders brought to the Caribbean a European penchant for possets — the brandy-, madeira- or sherry-fortified forebear of our nog — but it wasn’t long before the Spaniards’ recipe got cozy with local rum and began to pop up wherever they settled. Soon enough Mexico had rompope, Venezuela had ponche crema and Puerto Rico had what they call coquito,” the publication Punch explains.

And, ever since these colonial days, coquito has been the traditional Puerto Rican creamy coconut-based alcoholic beverage enjoyed during the holiday season, particularly around Christmas and New Year’s. 

“Culturally, this is Puerto Rico’s largest drink during the holiday season. It signifies the coming of Christmas. It is served to friends, family, and guests. Every family has their own unique recipe that’s usually a carefully guarded secret. It’s a signature to celebrate life, success, love and culture,”  Jessie Marrero, general manager of Qui Qui DC, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Washington, D.C. tells the Food Network.

Its name translates to “little coconut” in Spanish. Yes, it’s somewhat similar to eggnog but features a distinct tropical twist.

The primary ingredients of coquito include coconut milk or cream, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and often a mix of rum, typically white or spiced, adding a delightful kick to the concoction. 

To enhance its flavor profile, some recipes incorporate ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, vanilla extract, and nutmeg, lending it a warm and aromatic essence.

If you want to impress your friends or guests this Christmas, serve coquito. And, even though YouTube is full of recipes, I’m going to share my mom’s secret recipe with you. I think it’s the best recipe out there. You’ll thank me later.

I invite you to add this to your holiday season, and maybe you’ll feel the same way I do (happy and ready to celebrate).

Mami’s Coquito 


2 cans of coconut milk
1 can of condensed milk
2 cans of evaporated milk 
1 can Coco López coconut cream
1 cup of white rum (Palo Viejo, Don Q, or Bacardi)
1/4 cup of brandy (Felipe II)  
4 tsp vanilla extract  

3 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine all of the ingredients, place in a pitcher in the refrigerator, cool, and enjoy it in 2 hours. Garnish glass or cup with one or two cinnamon sticks.

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