Recipe: Puerto Rican Coconut Rum Punch (Coquito)

updated Feb 3, 2020
Puerto Rican Coconut Rum Punch (Coquito) Recipe

This Puerto Rican eggnog is made with coconut milk, cinnamon, and white rum for a rich, delicious holiday treat.


Makesabout 7 1/2 cups

Prep3 minutes

Cook5 minutes

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(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

When it comes to holiday drinking, eggnog is only the beginning. Many cultures and cuisines proudly claim a Christmas punch and this week we’re bringing you The Global Punch Bowl with five festive punches, each with a story of their own.

Some years back my mom, who I call Mami, threw a Christmas party at her home in Clarkston, Georgia. She made a pernil (traditional pork shoulder), arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas), and a rum cake — the standard ‘Rican holiday fare.

But she asked me to make the coquito.

What Is Coquito?

Coquito is Puerto Rican coconutty eggnog. We claim it as our own, but it’s beloved by Dominicans and Cubans alike. It’s frothy and rich like a traditional eggnog, but it’s lighter with coconut cream and vanilla, cinnamon instead of nutmeg, and rum instead of bourbon or brandy.

This cocktail is as varied as there are days in the year. So varied that, in New York City, there’s a competition (now in its 15th year) to find the ultimate Coquito Master. Across New York’s five boroughs, dozens of competitors ranging in age from young bucks to viejitos (wise elders) compete for the title, turning this traditional cocktail on its head by adding things like chocolate, strawberries, and pistachio.

Black Market Coquito & Where to Find it

But in less formal settings — private homes, office kitchens, delis, and bodegas —folks across the city run a modest underground coquito market. Just like Mexican cooks selling tamales out of black plastic bags and horchata from large coolers, Puerto Ricans make and sell coquito (in addition to pasteles and flans). Typically sold throughout the holidays in repurposed rum bottles or milk jugs, coquito bootleggers sell their wares across the country, particularly in cities with large Puerto Rican communities such as Orlando, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. The going price is about $25 a bottle (for a wine bottle or 750 milliliters).

If you’re in the market, the best way to find some coquito is to ask someone, but if you don’t know someone personally, you can find folks on Craigslist.

During the holidays coquito is perhaps more essential to the average Puerto Rican than a Christmas tree.

This underground coquito enterprise exists because during the holidays coquito is perhaps more essential to the average Puerto Rican than a Christmas tree. And like many Puerto Rican dishes, it also reflects that hybridity of the island’s cuisine — native coconut and fresh lime blended with colonial rum to create a distinctly 1950s-seeming creamy American boozy holiday drink.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

The Tradition of Coquito in My Family

It was certainly essential in my home. Mami isn’t much of a drinker, but she loves coquito. When they were still married, my dad was the coquito master. But after he and my mom split, I got his recipe. I have my adjustments (I’m moderately lactose-intolerant, so I use more coconut milk than dairy), but I otherwise stick to his recipe. And I always serve it on the rocks in a small glass with a dash of ground cinnamon.

So at that Christmas party some years ago at Mami’s house, I made my (some would say famous) coquito. Egg yolks, coconut cream, coconut milk, and lime zest. Just like my dad, I infuse boiling water with cinnamon sticks, then use the warm water to rinse out the milk cans, transferring the cinnamon sticks to the bottles at the end then chilling in the fridge.

Once cooled, my mother pulled the glass pitcher out of the refrigerator, smiling. “Feliz Navidad” (or some such festive tune) was playing in the background, and a crowd gathered, eyes shining in anticipation of starting the festivities off right. Mami turned, and in a moment of (not usual) clumsiness, the pitcher slipped out of her hand. It shattered, spraying glass and flooding the kitchen floor with coconutty creaminess. My mother looked up, her face frozen in a shocked “O.”

Good daughter that I am, I quickly started cleaning, assuring Mami it was fine, no big deal; I’d go to the store to get more ingredients and remake it. The onlookers weren’t quite so kind. Their once-happy, expectant faces had transformed into stern grimaces.

“Ay bueno, vamonos (we’re leaving)!” one of them said, jokingly. But really only half joking. Mami stood with tears in her eyes, feelings as if she’d ruined Christmas. Of course she hadn’t, and it was ridiculous to even suggest. Still, I rapidly made another batch (you’ll see from the recipe it’s quite simple) and stuck it in the freezer to flash cool. Meanwhile, someone led a parranda (Puerto Rican for Christmas caroling) through the house, playing instruments like guiros and tambores and nibbling on roast pork.

Like so many other holiday traditions, coquito is a beverage that is the centerpiece of parties and meals, a flavor that marks the beginning of an extended period of family and friend gatherings, of sharing time together, and of celebrating whatever is meaningful to you about the holidays. For many Puerto Ricans, when coquito appears, the holidays begin.

(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

Puerto Rican Coconut Rum Punch (Coquito) Recipe

This Puerto Rican eggnog is made with coconut milk, cinnamon, and white rum for a rich, delicious holiday treat.

Prep time 3 minutes

Cook time 5 minutes

Makesabout 7 1/2 cups


Nutritional Info


  • 1 1/4 cups


  • 3

    (3-inch) cinnamon sticks

  • 8

    large egg yolks

  • 1 (about 13.5-ounce) can

    coconut milk

  • 1 (14-ounce) can

    sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez

  • 1/2

    medium lime

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 1 pinch


  • 1 1/2 cups

    white rum, plus more as needed


  1. Place 1 1/2 cups water and 3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat as needed and simmer while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

  2. Place 8 large egg yolks in a blender and blend on high until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Add 1 (about 13.5-ounce) can coconut milk and blend for 1 minute. Add 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk and 1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut. Blend until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes.

  3. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the water and set aside. Pour the cinnamon water into the blender. Finely grate the zest of 1/2 medium lime into the blender. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, and pulse once to incorporate.

  4. Transfer to a pitcher or other airtight container. Add 1 1/2 cups white rum and the reserved cinnamon sticks, and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Stir well before serving, and serve with more white rum as desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The coquito can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

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