This Woman Used The Health Issues Of Her Community To Make A Healthier Version Of A Holiday Staple

credit: @flacocoquito / Instagram

The first time Cynthia Sepulveda made her vegan coquito was six years ago. It began as a way to cope with her grandmother’s death. Her grandmother always made coquito, and Sepulveda decided she would carry on the tradition. Back then, the budding entrepreneur was just trying to find a way to make sure that her diabetic and lactose intolerant relatives could have a taste of the family’s coquito. Now, she is creating a cream rum empire.

Cynthia Sepulveda is offering up a health conscious taste of her Caribbean heritage by the glass.

Sepulveda, the founder and CEO of Flaco Coquito, says that her coquito might sound like a new take but it is actually more closely aligned to the original.

“Normally, the way my grandmother would make it, was that she would buy all of these coconuts and squeeze out the coconut milk fresh. Adding sweetened condensed milk and all that stuff is more modern,” Sepulveda says.

She doubts milk was used in the recipe 50 years ago, saying moonshine, sugarcane, and coconut was that was used to craft the drink in those days. Mainly, because that’s how most things are done back home.

“A lot of things that we have, especially on the island and where we come from, are very simple and simply made and unprocessed,” she says.

Sepulveda spent years getting the recipe just right so her family could be proud.

“I brought it to my grandmother’s sister in Puerto Rico and she loved it,” Sepulveda proudly says. “She was able to drink my coquito because, at her age, she couldn’t drink coquito anymore because of the sweetness and heaviness.”

But before she could make Flaco Coquito a business, Sepulveda’s mother grew very ill from cancer.

Sepulveda was deep into making her dreams of owning a company a reality. She had hired a local artist to make her logo and lined up her trademark, but had to shelf her idea to take care of her mother. After her mother’s death in 2015, Sepulveda went back to her idea to keep her family’s tradition alive, one bottle at a time.

“I think my grandmother would be happy that I did something bold and something different.”

"Coquito" meaning little coconut, is a traditional coconut rum beverage originating from the island of Puerto Rico. Flaco Coquito is made with Premium Caribbean Rum, organic coconut cream with natural vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks. Flaco Coquito was born from tradition, with an old world taste and a contemporary twist. My grandmother was the matriarch of our family, she kept our family traditions alive through her delicious Puerto Rican delicacies; "Coquito" being one of them. When she passed away from cancer in 2009, our family gatherings and celebrations just weren’t the same without her touch. To honor my grandmother, in 2011, Flaco Coquito® – Skinny Coquito® was born. I decided to take over my grandmother’s Coquito making, altering her recipe and incorporating a few changes of my own. As in many Latino families, many illnesses plague my family. I wanted to make it so that my family could once again enjoy this delicious Puerto Rican beverage. Flaco Coquito is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and made with natural ingredients. My grandmother was always so full of life, carefree and fun! The holidays will never be the same without my grandma, but every time I taste Flaco Coquito® – Skinny Coquito® I am transported to those precious moments! #famlia #abuelita #flacoCoquito #skinnycoquito #coconutliqueur #coquito #vegan #dairyfree #lifestory #lovemyfamilia #puertorican #boricua #glutenfree #organic #vegancoquito #puertoricanowned #keepingtraditionalive #keepingourrootsalive #latinaownedbusiness #womanowned #coconutliqueur ????❤️

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Even though Latinos can be very protective when it comes to recipes and traditions, Sepulveda says that people have fallen in love with her coquito. A major reason for the warm reception to it is its healthiness.

Sepulveda saw a need for a healthier option to a to cultural staple because of the health issues in her community, family, and friends.

Sepulveda noticed that many of the people around her were not able to drink coquito because of diabetes, cancer, lactose intolerance, and other illnesses. The health issues prevented people who once enjoyed one of Puerto Rico’s most traditional drinks from doing so later in life. That’s why she knew that she was on to something.

At first, Flaco Coquito was only for friends and family, but then she had her “a-ha” moment.

“I worked all of my life in finance but I never had the a-ha moment to do something that I wanted to do. When I first made the batch and everyone was loving the lightness,” Sepulveda says. “I had a Puerto Rican professor come up to me and thank me because he hadn’t had coquito in more than 20 years because he is diabetic and it was too sweet for him. That to me was that a-ha moment.”

Sepulveda’s inspiration in making her beverage a company came from Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel.

Sepulveda realized that if Frankel could make Skinny Girl Margarita a thing, then why can’t there be a Puerto Rican version. She put in years to hone the recipe. Now that the drink is good to go, Sepulveda wants to share it with as many people as possible, because there’s nothing better than sharing your culture with someone else and seeing them light up with joy.

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