No matter where you are in the world, there’s always that one drink you have to try. In Italy it’s the limoncello, in Spain it’s the sangria and in Puerto Rico it’s the chichaito. Simply put, rum is king and can be found in a bevy of cocktails, but none of them quite as authentic as chichaito.
Puerto Rico is the leading producer of rum in the world, making nearly 80% of the rum consumed in the U.S. (most from the Bacardi distillery in Cataño, PR). You can find it in different colors and in most cocktails. The lightest and driest rum is white and can easily replace vodka, which is exactly what bartenders do when they make a Bloody Mary, and what’s added to your sangria to give it a Puerto Rican twist.
Traditionally, the chichaito (or the quickie) is a shot that’s 1 part Anise (anisette liquor) and 1 part white rum (Palo Viejo, plis) mixed in a shaker with lots of ice and strained into a small shot glass. It’s a slightly sweet drink that tastes a bit like licorice with a serious kick to it.
Truthfully, you can find this at just about any bar or restaurant. During happy hour, it’s usually no more than a few dollars and sometimes served complimentary.
Most mixologists keep it simple with equal parts rum and anisette liquor; but if you’re not a fan of licorice, you can order it with a little lemon juice and honey to mask the licorice taste. If you need a bit of energy, ask to have a few coffee beans added. If you’re ready to experiment with variations of the shot, try ordering it with coconut milk and coconut cream (chichaito de coco), Nutella with evaporated milk (chichaito de Nutella) or any fruit puree.
Being on vacation, there’s really no wrong time for a drink. But if you really want to drink like a local, order it after your meal or in a canecas (a flask-sized bottles available at most liquor stores). Locals typically drink it as an après-diner to help with digestion after a large meal.
If you’re vacationing in Puerto Rico in December, make sure you try coquito. Sometimes given as a gift around Christmas, this creamy drink is sweet, strong, and it’s best when shared. Most often served chilled, coquito is a blend of egg yolks, cream of coconut or coconut milk, white rum, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, evaporated and condensed milk.
Another favorite, which might seem kitschy over traditional, is the Piña Colada. Believe it or not, the Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan invented the Piña Colada in 1963. Over the years, this drink has become wildly popular, not only in Puerto Rico, but also throughout the world. You can try it at just about every resort or restaurant you visit; but if you’re a Piña Colada connoisseur, you need to try it at the place where it was born. And they’ll tell you that there’s nothing unique about the ingredients they add: it’s all in the preparation.
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