When I was a little girl growing up in Puerto Rico, my grandmother always made coquito for Christmas. I remember getting a taste of it as a child and *loving* it! A few years after I moved to New York, I looked up a coquito recipe online and tinkered with it until it tasted exactly like my grandma's. I used to make a few bottles and give it to my friends at Christmas. My family in Puerto Rico acknowledged it was perfection and were impressed that I could replicate it, since I can't cook to save my life. In 2015 I heard about Coquito Masters and jokingly told my husband I would totally win if I entered. With a lot of help and support from my husband and kids, I ended up entering and winning the Lower East Side round that year! I lost out on the last round, but the experience was fabulous. Ever since then, my friends get "award winning" coquito and my kids know that coquito is part of our family's Christmas, along with pernil, arroz con gandules, Santa Claus, stockings by the fireplace and los Tres Reyes Magos (the kids and I take off on January 6th as our own private holiday!). The kids demand alcohol-free coquito and offer it to all their friends. I look forward to passing on my recipe, along with my secret ingredient, to my kids!
– Laura Melendez