Coquito is the star of the party that Melissa Aguilera-Rober hosts just about every November at her Queens, N.Y. home to get ready for the holidays. Often called the Puerto Rican eggnog, coquito is the frothy, coconuty frozen punch beloved by Boricuas back home on the island and everywhere. Without coquito, it just wouldn’t be Christmas.
Which is why starting as early as Thanksgiving, definitely throughout December, and going all the way to Tres Reyes on January 6, Melissa and every Puerto Rican we know start pulling out their blenders and stocking up on quarts of rum and cans of coconut milk. If friends drop by unexpectedly or if you’re hosting the Noche buena party, coquito is pretty much expected.
And that was stressing out Melissa some years ago. As she was looking at their family calendar, Melissa realized she needed about a half-dozen bottles of homemade coquito for the season. “I said you know what? This Christmas, we’re going to fulana’s and fulana’s — and I am bringing them all freaking coquito,” she says. “So I was like: OK. The only way I am going to do this if I do it as a party. This was my selfish way to get out of cooking. So I said to everyone, ‘We’re having a sofrito-coquito party!’”
Melissa invited about 30 people: Her grandmother, mother, cousins, best friends, their mothers, favorite neighbors, and lots of kids. Melissa recommends hosting the party ahead of Thanksgiving because everyone has more free time and you’ll get more yes RSVPs. For more planning tips, check out Melissa’s step-by-step guide to planning her annual Coquito & Sofrito Party.
Both sofrito and coquito flow abundantly in Puerto Rican households over the holidays, so Melissa combined the two together into a holiday hack that was so legendary, it’s now an expected tradition in her family and friends circle. For the uninitiated, sofrito, is an essential cooking base in Puerto Rican cooking. It is a savory sauté made with chopped bell peppers, sweet peppers like ajies dulce or cubanelles, cilantro, culantro if you can find it, garlic and onion. Sofrito is used in classic Christmas dishes like roast-pork pernil and arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas).
Guests were asked to bring themselves and enough ingredients to make their own coquito. Melissa supplied all the makings for sofrito, the blenders, and made a few batches of the frozen drink (with rum for adults, and virgin for the kids) ahead of time to fuel the attendees. ”Everyone loves it,” reports Melissa, who’s getting ready to host her friend-and-family-famous coquito and sofrito party again this year.