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New Yorkers Compete For Title Of 'Coquito Master'

It's that time of the year again when Puerto Rican New Yorkers dust off old family recipes and prepare tasty batches of coquito. Coquito is a holiday rum drink made with eggs, cream, coconut milk, and spices, and it’s akin to the Puerto Rican version of egg nog.

Every year, connoiseurs come from far and wide to Manhattan’s El Museo del Barrio to compete for the title of "Coquito Master." The last qualifying round will be held at the Queens Museum of Art on Saturday, and the 2010 king or queen of coquito will be crowned on December 18th at El Museo.

Gonzalo Casals, El Museo del Barrio's director of public programs, says it would be a big mistake to ask anyone for their coveted coquito recipe. “In every Puerto Rican family there's a recipe,” says Casals. “Every family claims to have the best recipe, and it’s a very big deal. Nobody wants to share their recipe. Everybody is very jealous and very protective of that. And, yes, there is a lot of competition.” 

It's not just the coquito makers who take the competition seriously—the coquito tasters are also very thorough in their analysis. “There are some guidelines on how to vote for the best recipe,” says Casals. “They vote on the basis of consistency, flavor, kick, and color, so people take their time to go around to each recipe and really taste it.”    

According to Casals, most coquito makers claim to have a “secret ingredient” that makes their coquito stand out. “I don’t know anything about that,” he says. “I just enjoy it!”