Story and photos by Debralee Santos
As requested by many a reader, this article on the exquisite homemade drink known as coquito or ponche originally ran on Dec. 29th, 2010 and has proven a perennial favorite of the season. Enjoy!
If your preference in holiday drink does not involve a thick concoction poured out of a dusty round canister from the supermarket that your uncle waves under your nose at Christmas dinner, who can blame you?
But step into the next aisle of the same supermarket, where you can stock up on cans of evaporated, condensed and coconut milk, and you might be on your way to making an altogether new holiday drink, one likely to become a favorite.
Coquito, or ponche, is a traditional holiday drink, much like eggnog, that makes its annual appearance this time of year in many Caribbean Latin kitchens, in which amateur “mixologists” with expert hands prepare mammoth batches of the creamy, white elixir and distribute them widely as gifts, and on occasion, for sale. Many fortunate souls with a Puerto Rican or Dominican colleague in the workplace have been pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of the frothy stuff on their desks, awaiting dispensation.
And as is to be expected when there are so many variations, everyone has a recipe, their special, secret method or ingredient, that distinguishes their particular coquito as the very best. People will argue, loudly, about proper consistency, smooth finish, the right spices, the coconut quotient, and of course, the alcohol, usually rum.
María Magdalena Pichardo is one such expert on the topic, as she grew up, from a very early age, making ponche, as she calls it, with her extended family in Santiago, in the Dominican Republic.
Read more: A touch of home, bottled | Manhattan Times