There is nothing quite like having a cold glass of thick, creamy coquito after a holiday meal with friends and family. The right balance of coconut, vanilla, smooth rum, and “un chin-chin” of cinnamon. I’m blessed enough to have been taught by many family members how to make coquito, and I can’t imagine a holiday season without it. Even as a kid, I had the “baby” version of coquito, which is all of the ingredients except the rum. But it was always there, and luckily, it’s still there for all of my nostalgic holiday needs.
I’m not alone in my coquito obsession. For many New York neighborhoods, it’s become a staple of the holiday season, even for community members who aren’t Caribbean. A new co-worker recently asked me advice for where to find coquito in New York. He grew up in and around the city and said that he knew the season was coming up. I gave him a few references, including my tía who also sells pasteles and helps organize the Three Kings Day celebration in East Williamsburg.
I know that there may be other New Yorkers who are just as excited and as obsessed about coquito as I am, so here are a few suggestions for getting ahold of a decent glass of coquito:
Find a Puerto Rican. Outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, New York City is one of the urban locations where a high concentration of people of Puerto Rican descent live and work. That means finding someone of Puerto Rican descent or who knows someone of Puerto Rican descent won’t be super hard to do. In my case, my dad’s side of the family is from the island. There are several second cousins who live in the same borough as me, and luckily several of them actually make and sell coquito on the side during the holiday season. A longtime friend lives next door to a Puerto Rican family that sells coquito in mini bottles decorated with little labels that they also make themselves. Some small vendors work off of references so just asking around could lead to snagging a few bottles for pre-Christmas, noche buena, post-Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Reyes.
Put out the call on social media. I’ve gotten ahold of a lot of food items by simply asking around online. Friends and online acquaintances have helped me find so many different food items, small specialty markets or supermarkets that I wouldn’t have found on my own. Some New Yorkers have turned to making Instagram accounts to sell their coquito during the holiday season. One of them is Brooklyn Coquito. They sell bottles of coquito and “Got Coquito?” apparel.
Buy yourself a “coquito kit” online. The website Coquito NYC sells ready-made bottles AND an a kit for coquito newbies to figure out their own golden ratio for the holiday drink. The site also has a mug that says coquito on it, which is perfect to drink the actual drink out of. They also seem like the perfect gift for a friend or family member who is a coquito fiend.
If all fails, there’s always my tía in Queens who makes gallons of very cinnamon-ey coquito every single year alongside selling amazing pasteles en hoja by the dozen out of her basement fridge. She won’t tell me what makes her batch especially good, but I don’t mind as long as I get to drink it. Onward and enjoy the holiday season the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed, with a belly full of great food, near loved ones and with cold glass of boozy coquito in hand.