Coquito Goes Mainstream


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Giovanna Huyke, chef at Mio in Washington, D.C., mixes big batches of coquito for the Christmas season. AFR photo by Carol Guensburg
Many Spanish-speaking cultures have a holiday eggnog or milk punch. In Puerto Rico, it’s the coquito. “We make it with coconut milk because that’s so readily available,” says Giovanna Huyke, a native of that U.S. commonwealth and chef at Mio, a Latin American restaurant in Washington, D.C.
The drink also showcases rum, a key Puerto Rican product. The island produces more than 70 percent of the rum sold in the United States.
Huyke says the coquito has many variations. “Even though the island is only 100 miles by 35, every town has its own way of doing things,” she says. “Some make it with egg, some without, some with sugared coconut milk, some with coconut cream.”
Mio’s version begins with a dark rum Huyke personally “perfumes” with orange rind, pineapple, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla bean, just as she learned from her mother, a cooking instructor. Those ingredients steep in the rum for a month. By December, the rum is ready for straining and mixing with egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and cream of coconut. Rich and sweet, it’s typically served cold and sprinkled with cinnamon, at the end of a meal.
At home in Puerto Rico, coquitos often reward Christmas carolers who go door to door. “You’re supposed to open the door and offer them something to drink,” Huyke says. ” … Most families make a batch of coquito and keep it in their refrigerator through the holidays.”
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