How Cindy’s Coquito Became My Go-To Holiday Drink

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We teamed up with LG Studio to share the holiday-ready drink we’ll be sipping throughout the season: Puerto Rican coquito. Creamy and dreamy, this classic Christmas beverage stars rum, condensed milk, and of course, coconut. For added presentation points, serve it with a sphere of Craft Ice™ from the LG Studio InstaView refrigerator, along with a sprinkle of grated cinnamon.


Having been born and raised in South Florida, a frosty, snow-filled Christmas was never really in the books for me. Swap out crackling fireplaces and sledding for breezy palm trees, not to mention tons of humidity, and you’ve got yourself a Miami winter. So it’s not changing leaves or chilly temps that mark the beginning of a typical holiday season in my mind—it’s the parties.

My older sister and I are a whopping 14 years apart, which meant that I grew up attending her then-boyfriend, now-husband’s family holiday parties from a young age. His family hails from a city called Mayagüez on “la Isla del Encanto” (the island of enchantment), also known as Puerto Rico.

During Christmas, my brother-in-law’s home always turned into a big, festive gathering filled with the intoxicating aromas of pernil (slow-roasted marinated pork) and arroz con gandules, a comforting dish of rice and peas. And you definitely couldn’t forget the Puerto Rican shortbread cookies, called mantecaditos, fresh from the oven.

But my all-time favorite Puerto Rican holiday recipe was the coquito from my sister’s mother-in-law, Cindy.

Photo by TY MECHAM. PROP STYLIST: SOPHIE STRANGIO. FOOD STYLIST: SAMANTHA SENEVIRATNE.

Coquito, which translates to “little coconut,” is a drink made with three must-have ingredients: coconut, rum, and condensed milk. The exact origin of coquito is a debated subject: One theory is that the drink is the result of Spanish colonization, while others believe it to be “the younger cousin of American eggnog,” according to this piece from mitú.

While its origin may be a mystery, one thing is certain: No two coquito recipes are the same—each family adds a signature touch to make it their own. These additions can range from spices, like cinnamon, clove, and star anise, to using eggs for a more eggnog-like flavor and consistency.

Cindy’s version includes coconut rum, brandy, cinnamon, and coconut milk to achieve a well-balanced, yet spirited beverage that’s known for getting the party started every year. “This recipe has been handed down from generation to generation,” she says, “with some minor adaptations along the way.” The alcohol is balanced by the creamy sweetness of three different types of milks: sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and of course, the coconut milk. For the finishing touch, she uses cinnamon to brighten things up (feel free to add more or less to your liking).

Though I wish we could all be together as a family this year, our plans won’t be filled with the typical large gatherings we’re used to. Instead, I’ll be staying put in California and Cindy will be spreading the joy of the holidays from afar. But, she says, “I hope to share these family traditions with my grandchildren one day soon again.”

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Cindy’s family would have large parrandas (parties) filled with music, food, and coquito. As part of the annual holiday tradition, relatives would also go caroling from household to household at night, playing their drums and guitars loudly to notify the family of their arrival.

She fondly remembers that as a child, her father would go outside and climb the palm trees to cut down the coconuts used for the coquito and tembleque, a coconut dessert pudding. “We didn’t have access to canned coconut products on the farm and would rely on the ones grown in our backyard instead,” Cindy explains. Because the parrandas can start without any prior notice, she says that everyone would always have to be ready to go with plenty of food and coquito for the spur-of-the-moment festivities.

For the best results, serve the coquito chilled over your favorite type of ice, from crushed to cubed to big, craft-style spheres. If you’re making it ahead of time, re-shake the mixture before pouring, as natural separation may occur. Coquito (made without eggs) will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about four to five days. I like to garnish the glass with a whole cinnamon stick and a sprinkle of cinnamon for an extra-festive presentation—but trust me, it’s excellent all on its own.




What’s your favorite holiday tradition? Tell us in the comments below!

We teamed up with LG Studio to share smart tips and delicious recipes for all your favorite appliances—from the oven to the fridge. Looking to upgrade your kitchen space? LG Studio’s InstaView Refrigerator lets you keep an eye on what you’ve got stocked, and comes with nifty bonuses like the Craft Ice™ feature (it makes slow-melting round ice for all your favorite bevs) and a Measured Fill water dispenser that lets you select the exact amount of filtered water in ounces (no measuring cup needed!).



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