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This Bell Gardens Couple Is Making Legit Puerto Rican Coquito and It’s Only Available Through IG

[dropcap size=big]W[/dropcap]hen the holidays hit in Puerto Rico, a bonafide tropical paradise on earth, the entire island turns to one drink to celebrate the end of yet another year: Coquito

It’s a silky, coconut milk and cinnamon drink with rum, that goes down dangerously easy. It usually is sipped on during holiday feasts or family get-togethers, not unlike atole or ponche in Mexico. And like those festive drinks, coquito undoubtedly pairs nicely with tamales, buñuelos, turkey, ham, any other food that is associated with the holidays in Latino households.

In New York, Chicago, and anywhere else many Boricuas roam, it is relatively easy to find. But in Los Angeles, it is not as easy to score a bottle. This issue was of concern to the Puerto Rican founders of Sabor Borincano, Glorimar Rivera Mercado and Ricky Soto-Valerio. According to them, finding authentic coquito and its true Taino flavor was nearly impossible. 

“In Puerto Rico, there weren’t a lot of opportunities,” says Glorimar when asked how she found herself in southern California. “I came out here to go to college and to work, and just look for a better life for myself.” Both Glorimar and her partner Ricky grew up and were raised in the city of Quebradillas, PR. They moved to Southeast L.A., to the city of Bell Gardens, about 12 years ago for job opportunities. 

Coquito directly translates to “tiny coconut.” It is a drink that was created on the island of Puerto Rico. Most compare this beverage to eggnog—as it’s made up of coconut milk, condensed milk, egg yolks, rum, cinnamon, and vanilla for flavor.

“Our inspiration is from the love and culture of our island. We keep it old school and true to our roots.”

Just before Thanksgiving this year, they decided to turn their passion for Coquito into a business, taking a page from the hundreds of other Instagram-direct street and pop-up food vendors of Los Angeles. “We wanted to share the food and taste that we love so much because in all our time living out here, all the Puerto Rican spots never tasted like back home,” says Glorimar.

Their menu items feature coquito, Alcapurrias de Abuela (fried yucca and green banana stuffed with beef filling), Pasteles de Cerdo (similar to pork tamales but made with a masa made from yucca and green banana instead of corn), Tembleque (a popular coconut dessert pudding in Puerto Rico), and different types of arroz (rice-based dishes). All their traditional goods are made with the recipes of their family’s past generations. 

“Our inspiration is from the love and culture of our island. We keep it old school and true to our roots.”

Vegan options are also available at Sabor Borincano and made with plant-based, gluten-free, soy-free, lactose-free, and even carrageenan-free ingredients. 

“I wanted vegans to be able to enjoy coquito as well for those who always wanted to try it but can’t have dairy,” says Glorimar, who recently started to practice a plant-based diet herself. 

She said the idea started off as making these culturally beloved dishes for her family and friends. 

“I decided to do vegan because my mom nor sister can eat dairy or gluten, and then a friend asked if I could make her a vegan [version] and I did. And I loved it. I started getting a lot of requests for the vegan Coquito since then,” says Glory.

Sabor Borincano is located in Bell Gardens and currently only taking orders through their Instagram account.

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