We’re used to seeing model Joan Smalls on high-fashion runways, luxury magazine covers and on red carpets at star-studded events. But these days, her life has been looking a lot more like ours. Instead, she’s spending most of her time relaxing and spending time in her native Puerto Rico, and now preparing for a holiday season that looks a lot different than those from years’ prior.

And while lots of things are changing for Smalls this year, as for everyone else, one thing is remaining the same: the need for lots of Coquito. The Puerto Rican coconut-based holiday beverage is a must-have for Smalls and her family, and that’s why she’s teamed up with Barcardí for the return of the liquor brand’s sought-after recipe.

Ahead, learn more about why Barcardí has long been a staple of her holiday rituals, and how she’s adjusting to these unprecedented times.

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Why is Barcardí a must have of yours during the holidays?

JOAN SMALLS: Having grown up in Puerto Rico, I’m no stranger to Coquito – we always say it’s not a holiday in Puerto Rico without Coquito. When I heard Barcardí brought back their own limited-edition recipe this season, I knew they’d do it right so I had to have it. I love that their Coquito combines quality with convenience, because it’s ready-to-serve, I just pour it over ice. It allows me to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with loved ones over the holidays. I also love that they follow the traditional recipe, combining signature Barcardí Superior white rum with toasted spices, coconut cream, vanilla, and cinnamon. It’s all the flavors synonymous with the holidays in Puerto Rico – so it instantly feels and tastes like home to me. 

It’s also the perfect gift for anyone who can’t make it home to celebrate with family. You can easily purchase and send online. I’ve already stocked up to gift some to all my neighbors this year!

What is it about Barcardí Coquito that makes it feel like home?

SMALLS: Barcardí is built on generations of Latin Caribbean history and heritage. The distillery is based in Puerto Rico and only 15 minutes from my home, it’s the local rum here on the island.

Most families throughout the Caribbean have their own secret Coquito recipe that’s passed down from generation to generation and gifted to friends and families during the holidays. But one of the main ingredients that’s a staple across all those recipes is Barcardí rum. To give it the ultimate authenticity test, I first tried Barcardí Coquito with my mom, who was impressed. My mom always says Coquito has to be made with love and rum. Oh, and make sure you taste it before serving it to others!

It’s been so fun to honor this decades-old holiday tradition with her in a new way this year! Since the Coquito is all pre-made and pre-packaged, we even had more time to experiment different ways of enjoying it – from adding a splash to our evening coffee to infusing it in some of our favorite holiday desserts like flan and tres leches. It definitely won’t disappoint Coquito lovers.

How are holiday traditions changing this year?

SMALLS: We usually exchange gifts early Christmas morning, but this year we’re going to eliminate all gifts, and simply celebrate the fact that we’re blessed to be healthy and together during a time that has been tough for many. That’s what matters these days.

What are some ways that you celebrate your Puerto Rican heritage during the holidays?

SMALLS: We celebrate 3 Kings as well, so we basically have an extended holiday, which means mas coquito!

How has your beauty and self-care routine changed in quarantine?

SMALLS: It hasn’t changed much other than the fact I get more Vitamin D than usual this time of year since I’m in Puerto Rico. I get to run and meditate outdoors and in nature, which has made it easy to maintain my daily self-care routine.