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This Puerto Rican Drink Puts The Feliz In Your Navidad

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Dec 03, 2018

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player or iTunes/Podcasts app. (And please subscribe!)

"During [the Christmas holidays], you can talk to any Puerto Rican and ask them where's the coquito, and they will pull it out of somewhere in their house."

That's Debbie Quiñones, founder of Coquito Masters, a contest that crowns the best homemade coquito in the New York City area each December.

In Puerto Rico, coquito is at most parties and family gatherings -- from Christmas caroling (called parranda, or parading) to Noche Buena, New Year's parties, and Three Kings Day.

If you don't know -- coquito is a coconut milk-based drink that's spiked with rum (or pitorro -- aka moonshine distilled from fruit) and lots of spices.

Filling tasting cups, Coquito Masters final, Taino Towers, East 123rd Street, Manhattan-001

This week on The Sporkful, we stop by Debbie's coquito contest to get some pointers from master coquito makers.

"It has a really nice creamy texture, and then the liquor hits you later," says Jean Scales, of her coquito recipe, which comes from her grandmother Celia.

Later in the episode, our friends Tania Lopez and George Torres join us in the studio to share their coquito-making secrets. (Get Tania's Coquito "Lite" recipe here!)

I think [coquito is] the centerpiece of our Christmas celebration," George says. "From Thanksgiving to Three Kings Day -- that's the coquito season."

And we discover a bold, new take on coquito -- a pitorro (below) infused with cinnamon, coconut, and sugar. It's a specialty of the Port Morris Distillery in New York's South Bronx.

CoquitoPitorroPouring

Plus, we learn how Hurricane Maria affected Christmas celebrations in Puerto Rico last year.

"The people who had a little bit of electricity...used a generator to turn on a little bit of lights," Tania says. "But...they didn't need lights, they didn't need a Christmas tree. They just needed to work as a community and help each other."

Listen in to the episode for the full conversation with Tania Lopez. Below is a photo of Christmas decorations in Puerto Rico last year.

(And if you want to learn how to make Tania's coquito, she's teaching cooking classes this year -- sign up here!)

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Today's sponsors:

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

- "Mellophone" by JT Bates

Photos: Anne Noyes Saini and D. Robert Wolcheck and Dave Cook/Eating in Translation

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