Thursday, August 23, 2012
Below is my Q&A with Cynthia Sepulveda the Founder and President of Flaco Coquito.
I truly hope you feel inspired by her desire to develop a healthier alternative to a drink that is so dear to her Puerto Rican roots and heritage.
Why is coquito so important to you?
Coquito is a part of my culture and takes me back to when times were simpler, fun and more interactive with my family and friends. The taste of food and coquito and the sounds of music reminds me of my childhood in my grandmother's house celebrating with family.
What does it mean to you and your family?
It means "nuestra familia" (our family). Which I learned from my grandmother, who was the pillar of ours. She would make non-alcoholic coquito for the kids, so to include us in celebration during family events.
Coquito can be a very time consuming drink to make, especially when made following the original recipe and that's the main reason it's made a few times a year. It's important to me and my family to keep tradition alive, and keep our culture thriving.
What got you thinking about a healthier alternative to coquito?
My husband made it every year, but less and less family members were drinking it due to illnesses that affect many Hispanics; such as diabetes, cancer and lupus. I decided last holiday season to take over the coquito making and alter his recipe. My motivation was to attempt to make a lighter, healthier coquito while staying true to the taste. I recently went to Puerto Rico to visit my family and made some for my 90 year old aunt Carmen. She took one sip and told me to keep pouring because it tasted just like my grandmother's coquito. She was so taken by Flaco Coquito, I had to make her a large batch before leaving back to NY lol.
How hard is it being a start up business?
It is very difficult. Starting a business is not an easy undertaking. Branding to me is the most important part of any business. The girl with the coconut was my vision who was brought to life by an artist by the name of Anya Levkovich. Anya did an incredible job. I also decided in the middle of July to add Sonia Pena to the company who is now VP of Marketing for Flaco Coquito. Sonia has a wealth of knowledge in Hispanic media, and with my business sense and "Flaco Coquito" making skills we make a great duo!
How do you see your brand expanding?
My ultimate goal is to have Flaco Coquito distilled and sold in liquor stores. Right now we are marketing our name, concept and taste to create a demand. We have RED 58 Bar in Manhattan serving Flaco Coquito whose owner was taken by our concept and flavors. The owner of RED 58 will serve Flaco Coquito Mango and Tropical Blend flavors all year round while serving our Original in the fall and winter.
What do you hope to accomplish with this new drink?
We hope to accomplish CHANGE and people's perception of coquito. I want them to know that coquito can be consumed and enjoyed without feeling guilty all year around. I'm fortunate that I have community leaders who live a healthier life style and enjoy Flaco Coquito such as Mia Roman (Artist/Activist), Edwin Vazquez (Artist,singer,songwriter), Carmelina Vargas (Singer/Songwriter/breast cancer survivor) and George Torres (sofritoforyoursoul.com). Flaco Coquito recently came out in Carmelina's new video for her song "Alegria".
My family also helps me and they are simply amazing, especially my sister Monique & Cousin Gloria who believe in our product and work for Flaco Coquito. We also have so many other fans who help by spreading the concept of Flaco Coquito.
How would you like it to change or impact the way Latino's and others think about what they drink?
The evolution of all our traditional foods and drinks are inevitable especially with so many different illnesses that affect our community; particularly cancer. Flaco Coquito wants to be a part of that change providing low sugar, low fat and vegan options, it was born from tradition but enjoyed in a lighter and healthier way. Flaco Coquito can be enjoyed all year round now, not just during the Holidays. We offer 25 flavors which include our spring and summer flavors such as mango and tropical that are light, dairy-free and refreshing coconut goodness.
To contact Cynthia and/or to order some coquito visit www.flacocoquito.com
About This Blog
I started this blog because I want to introduce new and healthy ingredients into my everyday meals. Living in the NY, NJ, CT tri-state area you find a plethora of local grocery stores that service a number of diverse neighborhoods. Every time I visit one of these stores I find fruits, vegetables, and ingredients that I have never used, or that I am afraid to use. I want to incorporate these ingredients to create new and healthier ways to experience Latin food, as well as other types of cuisines. I think it's important to love and continue our cooking traditions while also testing and incorporating new and healthier ingredients and techniques.
One of the most distinct ingredients that I know is not widely used in Latin cuisine is tofu, and it’s a shame. I have had tofu at Chinese and Thai restaurants before, but I never gave the ingredient a second thought. Tofu is such an amazing alternative to meats and it’s super healthy and cheap! This one ingredient got me thinking about all of the other healthy and fresh ingredients I could be using to develop Latin infused dishes that everyone in my family will love. That’s why I decided to name this blog Tofu con Sazón!