You're either an eggnog person, or you're not. I'm convinced that most people who say they don't like it are holding a grudge not against its flavor, but against the fact that it has the potential to get you totally bombed and make your clothes no longer fit all in one go. For me, it's that slick layer of fat that builds on the roof of my mouth if the eggnog is too fatty.
Coquito, the Puerto Rican answer to eggnog, is no exception with its heavy cream, condensed milk, cream of coconut, and egg yolks, but the coconut appeals to my Latin-sensibility so I decided to experiment with a lightened-up coquito for an upcoming holiday gathering.
I spoke with Daisy Martinez, a Puerto Rican chef, cookbook author and television personality, who schooled me on the coquito spirit. Her advice was to keep it decadent and rich, but she charmed me with her holiday memories, so I tried to preserve the luscious coquito tradition with my adaptation.
Daisy told me that the very first time she had coquito, it was an alcohol-free version her mom made.
"I was sure that that was what heaven tasted like! I have always loved all things coconut, and that little glass of coquito was the closest thing to rapture my eight year old self had experienced. Of course it was extra-special because my mom involved me in the process of making it (I was usually on coconut grating detail)."
Most coquito recipes call for cream of coconut ("Coco Lopez") and sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream, which I just can't do. So I asked Daisy if regular coconut milk could be substituted for the Coco Lopez, but she said that it would compromise the body and the sweetness of the drink. To be honest, the body and sweetness of coquito are the two things that were potentially overpowering for me, so I tried it anyway — and liked it!
With these unorthodox changes in hand, I asked Daisy about what makes a truly traditional coquito recipe and she said that the way her family made it was with hand-grated coconut, rinsed and wrung out with a towel. Then they blended it with eggs, condensed milk, and evaporated milk, before adding a light cinnamon dusting. I wasn't feeling as guilty anymore about ditching the Coco Lopez.
The truth is, as with any recipe with specific cultural roots, there are many opinions about what makes a traditional coquito. While mine might not be rich enough for most Puerto Rican purists, I'm not shy with the rum, and I think my version still has the caloric content of a cheeseburger. Hopefully the coquito spirit is still alive and well.
(Check out Daisy's chocolate coquito, Choquito, below.)
makes about 6 cups
1 15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup white rum
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until frothy. Pour into a glass pitcher and refrigerate. Serve chilled with a pinch of cinnamon.
(If raw eggs are a concern, use this alternate method: whisk the egg yolks and evaporated milk in a small metal bowl fitted over a small pot of water. Bring the water to a simmer. Stir the mixture until it thickens enough to coat the spoon and the temperature is 160°F. Pour the mixture into a blender with the remaining ingredients and blend until frothy. Pour into a glass pitcher and refrigerate until well-chilled. Serve with a pinch of cinnamon.)
Daisy Martinez's Choquito
makes about 8 cups
2 jumbo eggs
3 jumbo egg yolks
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
One 15-ounce can cream of coconut (Coco López or other)
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
3/4 to 1 cup light rum
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
Ground cinnamon, for serving
Put the eggs and yolks in a blender jar. Blend at high speed until the eggs are pale yellow and very light. With the motor running, add the condensed milk, cream of coconut, and evaporated milk, one at a time and each in a very thin stream. Blend for a minute or so, then add 1 cup heavy cream in a slow, steady stream. Blend just until incorporated. If your blender jar becomes too full, simply pour some of the coquito-in-progress out into a serving pitcher and continue adding the milk/cream to what's left in the blender. When finished, pour what’s in the blender jar into the serving pitcher and stir all together. Stir in the rum.
Heat remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream in a medium saucepan until little bubbles form around the edges and the cream is steaming. Add 1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, let stand for a minute or two, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Whisk about 2 cups of the coquito into the chocolate cream, then whisk that mix into the coquito. Chill and serve as above.
Chill for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours. Serve in little coffee or tea cups and sprinkle a little cinnamon over the coquito before serving.
Thank you, Daisy! Daisy Martinez will be judging El Museo del Barrios' 9th Annual Coquito Tasting next Saturday, December 18th.
• Check out her book: Daisy's Holiday Cooking: Delicious Latin Recipes for Effortless Entertaining for more Latin holiday recipes.
(Coquito image: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan; Daisy Martinez image: Frances Janisch)