Okay, hermanos: it's taken me six Three Kings Days to get this recipe down. From the first time I tried a coquito at my Tia Georgina's in Guaynabo, I was hooked (that was also my first experience with a Puerto Rican Paranda, but that's a whole other column. If my friends showed up at my house at 6:00am playing musical instruments and expecting to party all day I could not be held responsible for any injuries I inflicted). But when I returned home determined to share this discovery with my family and friends, like the osito of fairy tale fame, none of the recipes I encountered were quite right. Most ended up too thick like a fast food milkshake (which, by the way, are thickened with cellulose. Once I found out I was drinking vanilla movie film, I swore off them for good). Others were just too light on the rum for the Caribbean half of my taste buds. There was something to this obsession of getting the recipe right that took on additional meaning. I was treating it as if arriving at the perfect coquito recipe was evidence of the sangre Boricua that runs beneath my skin that's the color of the very drinks I was so eagerly concocting. It was as if the alchemy of this traditional cocktail was a test.
So each year I changed it a bit—increasing the rum, tweaking the spices—getting just a little closer each time. This year I finally enlisted the help of my bartender extraordinaire husband, Doug (he's sober, but he's forgotten more about mixing drinks than most 25-year-old hotshots have ever known). After all, it was he who joined me on my journey to truly embrace my Puerto Rican roots after my mother's death. It was the son we had together who inspired us to begin our yearly sojourns to her island. And he was there when I tasted my first coquito. Therefore it made sense that it was Doug who helped find the final piece and suggested cutting the condensed milk with the lowfat, allowing the rich, sweet taste to remain while achieving the perfect consistency, the perfect balance of milk and cinnamon. When I took my first sip the other day, I knew we had done it: yes, Rizos de Oro, it was just right, my island pedigree was in evidence as the smooth milky taste of rum and coconut danced across my tongue.
And because I'm so dedicated and grateful to my La Bloga brethren, I've decided to share my super secret recipe with you today.
So as the sixth of January approaches, be sure to hit your supermercado for some Coco Lopez, and mix up a batch of Lupe's Killer Coquitos for you and yours. I think it's sad that most people have forgotten that the twelve days of Christmas are NOT the shopping days before. And I find it depressing to walk out on New Years Day to see the green, skeletal remains of Christmas trees sticking out from a pile of snow, banished before their time and negating the last five days of festivities. There are still many of us tuck our kids in at night with hay stuff-shoeboxes beneath their beds as they await the arrival of the three Magi on their camels (or in Puerto Rico, horses). It took me some time, but I have learned what you probably already know: that the party should continue for more than one day (we won't even touch on los octavos…that's too much even for me). So join me in a toast, gentle readers, y ¡Feliz Día de Reyes!
Lupe's Killer Coquito
1 cans cream of coconut
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
6 oz. 2% lowfat milk
10 oz white rum
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pour all the ingredients in a blender, and blend at high speed for at least a minute. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours. Shake well, and serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Serve in small glasses. ¡Qué rico!