It's the official cocktail of Puerto Rico, the closest thing you'll get to a vacay in a glass and it will definitely already have put that song in your head. The Piña Colada is a tropical legend and the only thing we wanna be drinking when it's HOT HOT HOT. We've got the lowdown on its history, how to make one and a couple of spins to shake things up a lil bit.
Not too hot on your Spanish? No hay problema, chica. There are only two Spanish words you need to know in this history lesson: Piña & Colada, baby! The clue is in the translation: Pineapple. Strained. That's your base for this tropical cocktail. A foundation of fresh pineapple juice either shaken up or blended with rum, cream of coconut or coconut milk and garnished with a pineapple wedge, maraschino cherry or both.
As cocktails go, this one was a bit of a pioneer. There have been a few variations over the years, but if you're a purist, you'll be shaking it up one of these two ways:
The International Bartenders Association way:
Either mixed with crushed ice in a blender 'til smooth and poured into a chilled glass or poured over ice in a cocktail glass, unblended.
OR the San Juan Puerto Rico way:
All combined together in a blender with crushed ice for 15 seconds before serving in a glass with pineapple slice and cherry for garnish.
There are no doubts this cocktail was born in Puerto Rico, but working out who's the daddy is like something out of an episode of Jerry Springer. Everyone wants the glory, and we can't blame them. This smasher is popular around the world. If we could put our name to it, we would.
Image source: The Caribe Hilton
There's not one but two claims that come from The Caribe Hilton in 1954, one of the premier luxury hotels in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. The first belongs to bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrero. The story goes that he was tasked with creating a signature drink for the hotel that captured the flavours of the island. Refusing to settle for anything less than perfection (good man), he spent three months experimenting with hundreds of combinations before perfecting his sweet, frothy concoction of rum, cream of coconut and pineapple juice. This is the story people tend to accept the most.
The other Caribe Hilton claim comes from Spaniard Ricardo Gracia whose story goes that due to a strike by a coconut-cutters union (yep, that was a thing) in 1954 he was prevented from serving up the hotel's popular mixed drink of rum, cream of coconut and crushed ice in its traditional sliced coconut. Forced to improvise, he poured the drink into a hollowed-out pineapple instead. When the fruit’s added flavour proved popular, Gracia said he added freshly pressed and strained pineapple juice to the rum and cream of coconut combo to create the “strained pineapple” cocktail. Sounds plausible if you ask us.
Then, in swoops Barrachina, a restaurant in Puerto Rico two miles down the road from The Caribe Hilton, with their claim that their Spanish bartender Don Ramon Portas Mingot created the Pina Colada in 1963 (almost a decade after the first claim). They even have a plaque hanging on the wall. We're not sure about this one, but hey, we don't blame them for trying.
We'll probably never be 100% sure who created this iconic cocktail, but if we were writing the history books, we'd go with the 19th-century Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresi, who was said to have boosted the morale of his men by giving them a pick-me-up drink of white rum, pineapple juice and coconut milk. Pirates + rum = our kinda story, whether true or not.
Yeah, the Piña Colada might traditionally be a white rum cocktail, but there's nothing wrong with mixing things up a lil bit. Since it rocked up on our shores back in the 70's and pioneering bars like Trader Vics started serving it up to wanderlusting drinkers, bartenders have been experimenting with the classic and taking it from a cocktail reserved for swim-up bars and tiki dens to a refined cocktail for the people.
You can get experimental with proportions of the core ingredients, or riff with your rum choice if something darker or spiced is more your thing. Hell if you wanna switch up your spirit, go for it. See where it takes ya. Hopefully it's somewhere TROPICAL. These are our favourite twists...
Is this the most famous Piña Colada in London? We think so. This Champagne spiked Colada is the signature of Bethnal Green's award-winning Coupette. A lil bit party meets a little bit extravagant. That's a bit of us.
Blend all ingredients (including 15ml of the Brut Champagne) with a scoop of crushed ice and pour into a chilled glass waiting with the remaining 45ml of Brut Champagne. Garnish with coconut flakes.
This Virgin Piña Colada is dressed up for a night out in Bombay. It's fresh, cooling and if you wanna spike it, a glug of rum will work nicely, too. Just don't be alarmed when the lime curdles with the coconut cream. That's meant to happen.
Mix it all up together in a blender and pour into a highball glass before garnishing with toasted coconut flakes.
Banana and coconut are a classic flavour combo that we love, and this indulgent, naturally creamy cocktail packs a serious potassium punch!
Add all your ingredients to a blender and whizz up until creamy. Strain into a long glass and garnish with a banana slice.
If you wanna amp-up your Pina Colada, you know what you gotta do. Add tequila, baby! This Patron based spin is perfect if you wanna go get turned up in the summer rain.
Put all the ingredients in a shaker and give it all you've got for 10 seconds before straining it into a crushed ice-filled glass. Let the party begin!
This contemporary twist probably couldn't be any easier to shake up. The coconut comes from the charcoal-filtered Jamaican white rum flavoured with stuff so all ya need is pineapple juice and a pinch of nutmeg for a little somethin' somethin'. Easy.
Shake up all the ingredients in a shaker over ice and strain into a coupe. Less time making = more time sitting in the sun drinking. The dream.
Wanna get a bit spicier? The Duppy Share's Spiced Golden Rum is banging in a Piña Colada and gives it a bit of oomph. Bring it. Apparently Duppies are the little sprites that steal the evaporated rum from the casks during the distilling process (what they call Angel's Share in whisky production). Channel those mischievous island imps with this tropical treat.
Blend with ice or shake up ingredients and serve over crushed ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
Wanna make things easy breezy? Grab this Piña Colada kit, which comes with everything you need including The Duppy Share Spiced Rum. Seriously good.