Coquito, the Puerto Rican holiday drink, available in frozen form
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“They don’t know how good they are,” Christine Berrios said of her two children as she took her son Noah to the small prep kitchen at Torico, his family’s ice cream shop at the center. -City of Jersey City.
Noah, 5, was baking pancakes with his grandmother, Pura Berrios, upstairs and went downstairs to ask his mother for chocolate chips. She gave him a small plastic measuring cup, half full of milk chocolate chunks, and sent him back upstairs.
“Most of the time he’s going downstairs to get ice cream,” Christine said, watching him bounce down the stairs.
It’s a typical Saturday at Torico Ice Cream. It’s a business, but it also feels right at home, with photos in virtually every corner documenting the family’s over 50s there. In fact, Pura Berrios and her family have lived upstairs on and off since 1970 when she and her husband Peter bought the building.
In 1968, Peter and Pura Berrios had been running a small grocery store for a few years in the same block as a Woolworth department store, when Pura became pregnant with their first child, Denise. Ms. Berrios began to miss the flavors of her native Puerto Rico, especially the coquito, a vacation drink made with coconut, warming spices like cloves and allspice, and often a touch (or two) Puerto Rican rum.
Mr. Berrios, who also grew up in Puerto Rico, concocted a sort of coquito (alcohol-free) sorbet for him, breaking up fresh coconuts and grinding the meat before placing the mixture in a small hand-cranked ice cream maker. The result was smooth and creamy with a flavor reminiscent of the coquito she was dreaming of.
“I started giving people likes and they were asking to buy it, so we started selling it,” said Pura Berrios.
Lines started forming along Erie Street for 5, 10, or 15 cent balls for a small, medium, or large. Peter came up with a few more flavors, and ultimately the couple converted their deli into an ice cream shop. They called it Tropical Delight before finally shortening it to Torico, a play on “to do rico ” or “everything is delicious”.
“Once we started selling ice cream, there was no going back,” Ms. Berrios said.
Fifty-three years later, Torico sells about 15,000 gallons of ice cream a year in the same compact and sleek display case just blocks from the Hudson River, with flavors inspired by tropical fruits like mango and tamarind, and beloved classics like poundcake and banana. -Peanut Butter.
During the summer months, the line of patrons looking for after-dinner scoops or pints frequently stretches around the neighborhood. But even on this recent Saturday, with an autumn chill in the air, business in Torico was buzzing. As the hours passed and the afternoon turned into the evening, a constant stream of customers – including a father and son looking for a treat after karate practice and a couple picking up a cake. ice cream for a birthday party – entered the store.
Even Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is a fan. “We take great pride in being the birthplace of New Jersey’s best ice cream,” he wrote in an email, “and beyond product quality, the story of Pete and Pura talks about the values and hard work that Jersey City community has embodied for decades.
“It’s really lovely to see clients who grew up with you now bring their children to you,” said Christine Berrios. After graduating from Rutgers with a major in psychology and a minor in marketing, she joined the family business as COO in 2008, writing all of her father’s recipes and streamlining the business. “It’s the most rewarding thing to hand over the baton.”
Next year, Torico will open a second location in Jersey City’s Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood, with a larger production facility to help them grow their business to include shipping and sales to more retail and restaurant customers. “We have survived because we have always invested when we are ready,” said Pura Berrios.
Steven Edward Berrios, Pura’s grandson and Christine’s nephew, who now works as a production manager for the company after serving in the Marines, agreed. “The new space aims to develop the company and the team,” he said. “To be able to sell more and grow without losing the little details.”
But the family is still attached to the original inspiration of love and care. Each December, Torico’s star flavor is Pete’s Holiday Coquito, a nod to the flavor Mr. Berrios made for his wife in 1968. (While the Berrios prefer to keep the recipe within family, Krysten Chambrot, editor of New York Times Cooking, developed a version inspired by the one sold at Torico.) After all these years, the current version still has the same creamy texture, same round coconut flavor and the same spices as the original.
This will be the first year that the Patriarch of Torico and the namesake of the flavor is not here to taste it. Mr Barrios passed away in June, but the family still hung their stockings behind the counter like every year, a testament to his presence which still permeates the business. “We have so many memories,” Ms. Berrios said, looking around the store. “Even if he’s not here, he’s in everything.”
Recipe: Coquito Ice Cream
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