As long as I can remember, I have been a fan of eggnog. And I’m no snob about it. I’ll drink store-bought as readily as homemade. It’s all creamy and delicious. And I’m always game to try new variations.
Which explains how I recently fell in love with Puerto Rican coquito, a blend of rum, coconut milk, two different dairy milks, cinnamon and nutmeg. I was introduced to the drink by Roberto Serralles, a Puerto Rican rum maker whose family has owned Don Q rum for over a century. Once I started digging into coquito, I discovered Puerto Ricans are as passionate about the right way to make it as Southerners are about the right way to make fried chicken. And every family has its own recipe.
Serralles told me that during the holidays, every family in Puerto Rico makes coquito. His recipe is traditional and does not use egg yolks like some versions (including his mother’s!). He also insists that it is best with crystal rum, which is distilled multiple times to produce a light and bright liquor that won’t overwhelm the delicate coconut flavours.
When Serralles makes coquito, he uses sweetened coconut cream, which is sold as a cocktail mixer. But I wanted a slightly less sweet version, so I substituted canned coconut milk. I loved the result. And I later met up with Serralles so he could try my version and I’m pleased to say he loved it, too. Still, if you’d prefer a sweeter coquito, use coconut cream.
Regardless of the version you make, it is delicious and easy to prepare. Because it can be made up to a week ahead, make a batch just to have on hand and offer it to everyone who stops by during the holiday season.
PUERTO RICAN COQUITO
Coquito recipes vary widely. Some families add lime juice or fresh coconut. Others use aged golden rum. And many use far more rum than I do. I like the coquito to be made with a 1-to-4 ratio of rum to milks. But many recipes call for a 1-to-2 ratio. The good news is that it will be delicious either way.
Start to finish: 10 minutes, plus chilling
Two 13 1/2-ounce cans coconut milk
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
12-ounce can of evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups crystal or light rum
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend well, then refrigerate in the blender carafe for at least 5 hours (and up to 1 week). Just before serving, blend again to mix, then serve in chilled glasses. If desired, garnish with an addition sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg.
Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories; 100 calories from fat (40 per cent of total calories); 11 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 60 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 17 g sugar; 4 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”