PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When Victor Regino, Travis Escobar and Luis Olmo first launched Island Coquito, they were nervous.
“We wanted to make sure what was in stores and was in restaurants matched what a lot of families consider to be coquito,” Escobar recalled.
“Coquito” is a rum-based cream liqueur with coconut and vanilla — often made at home in Puerto Rico during the Christmas season.
The Rhode Island-based company launched its own version of coquito back in April 2022, and now distributes the traditional drink to more than 70 liquor stores and restaurants in the state.
It all started with Regino, who was making his grandmother’s coquito recipe and selling it to other Puerto Rican and other Latin American families as “Papi’s Coquito.”
Regino decided to grow his team, adding Olmo and Escobar, and renamed the product to “Island Coquito.”
“When I heard about their idea and concept, I got so excited,” Escobar explained. “Coquito is something I grew up with in my family and it’s not something you can find in stores or restaurants a lot of times.”
Though the business is based in Rhode Island, Island Coquito is bottled out of state.
“That’s actually due to a gap within Rhode Island,” Escobar said. “We don’t have a lot of bottling companies, especially for cream liqueur.”
The trio said their business is more than just distributing cream liqueur. It’s all about bringing an island holiday tradition stateside.
“There’s not that many Latino-owned liquor brands, period,” Escobar said. “So, for us to be able to accomplish that with very little capital, we’re not coming from wealthy families, there’s a lot of sweat equity involved in it.”
While traditionally served on its own, local restaurants have experimented with Island Coquito in their cocktails.
Los Andes, a Peruvian restaurant in Providence, has added Island Coquito in some of their drinks. Cesin Curi, the executive chef at Los Andes, said the restaurant is proud to collaborate with another Latino-owned small business.
“To see smaller companies be prosperous and start growing — being in 70 locations now and hopefully they’re going to be in another 500 in the next couple of years — that is the goal,” Curi said. “For everybody to be successful.”
Escobar said Island Coquito hopes to eventually take the island life from Rhode Island to other states and across the country.