This article about alcoholic drinks from Puerto Rico by Jared Romey was originally published in English on Matador Nights. An updated and translated version was also published in the Puerto Rico newspaper El Vocero de Puerto Rico.
10 Alcoholic Drinks From Puerto Rico
Probably best known for giving the world the piña colada, Puerto Rico offers a variety of other drinks as well. This list of drinks from Puerto Rico may be used as a checklist for you to try while visiting la Isla del Encanto.
Also known as ron caña (cane rum) or ron cañita, this is your basic illegal distilled moonshine, made from sugarcane. Straight pitorro is just as strong as any other moonshine you may have tasted, with alcohol levels into the 120 proof or more. This is not your average, by the numbers alcohol.
If you have the opportunity to try a “cured” or flavored pitorro, you are in for a treat. Typical fruit flavors include coconut, pineapple, tamarind, papaya, strawberry and mango. Other flavors include coffee and chocolate.
The curing process occurs when sugar and flavors are added to pitorro, diminishing the intensity of the pitorro alcohol flavor. Pitorro may be buried underground to accelerate the “curing” process to integrate the added flavors. Since it is almost all illegal, the best way to get your hands on some is to have local friends track it down.
A recent comer to the market is Destileria Coqui’s Pitorro which is one legal pitorro in Puerto Rico that follows all government regulations.
2. Medalla Light Beer
Until 2011, this was the only mass-produced beer in Puerto Rico and comes in one version only: Light. For this reason the lager-style beer, produced in the western city of Mayaguez, is simply known as Medalla. The creators of Medalla Light recently launch the premium beer Magna for those who like a full bodied beer.
3. Don Q Limon with Cranberry Juice
Don Q is the second rum brand of Puerto Rico, after the more famous Bacardi. While not well known outside of the island, Don Q is generally referred to as the favorite rum of locals. Mix cranberry juice with a lemon-lime flavored Don Q rum for a simple, delicious cocktail.
4. Whisky and Coconut Water
This surprising combination refreshes on a hot Caribbean day. The soft, quenching feel of the coconut water cuts the harshness of whiskey. Great for an early afternoon hangover helper.
A shot consisting of Palo Viejo brand white rum mixed with anise liqueur. The anise in this slightly sweet drink that masks the flavor of the rum – think licorice with a kick.
Closely related to eggnog, coquito is only available during the Christmas season. Egg yolks, cream of coconut or coconut milk, white rum, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, evaporated and condensed milk are combined to create this sweet drink, most often served chilled.
It is common for people to give this as a gift during the holidays. Pitorro may be used in coquito instead of rum, for a stronger kick.
If you want to know how to make Coquito, check out the recipe from Baking is my Zen here.
This is pitorro soaked with quenepa fruit. The tart fruit (green, leathery skin) is slightly larger than a grape. The quenepa only occupies a small portion of the total fruit, with most of the room being taken up by the seed. Bilí is especially popular on Vieques.
8. Rums of Puerto Rico
For an island only 100 by 30 miles in size, numerous rum brands fill store shelves. Besides the world-renowned Bacardi brand (originally from Cuba and now produced in Puerto Rico) many smaller brands compete for locals’ favor. Don Q, Barrilito, Palo Viejo, Ron Rico, Castillo and Llave are all locally produced and readily available. Most of these brands are available in white, spiced and reserve varieties.
9. Papa Jac
It is a drink made with passion fruit and sugar cane liquor that was created 20 years ago by a bar in Old San Juan called Don Pablo. This drink has become the official drink of the San Sebastian Festival (Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián) and now is a bottled version available for sale in supermarkets.
Many visitors are fascinated with the Gasolina drink in its particular pouch pack. You have to warn them because this drink, that looks like a juice for kids, has 11% alcohol (twice as strong as a beer) and contains a mix of passion fruit and other juices with rum and tequila. In addition to this original flavor, you can find other cocktails like: Tu Madras, Pink Martini, Mojito, Sea Breeze and Sangriiita.
Alcoholic Drinks Not Produced in Puerto Rico but Common on the Island
1. Pinch is a typical scotch whiskey well known in Puerto Rico.
2. Licor 43, a sweet liqueur made of 43 secret ingredients, is often mixed with milk for a White Russian type drink.
Did I skip any common Puerto Rican drinks?
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Check out these other Puerto Rican Culture articles.