Days are long and nights are warm. August is definitely the time for frozen tropical drinks — the colder, the better.
Once celebrated as the drink of the day in San Juan; now known as the bane of a bartender’s existence, slandered as the poster child of the “blender boom” and as a staple of booze cruises and poolside day-drunks, the piña colada has had a rough ride. But there’s a reason this cocktail is so enduringly popular: it’s delicious. Joan Crawford is said to have loved the drink, calling it “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.”
Piña coladas are traditionally made with rum, cream of coconut or coconut milk, and pineapple juice. For those weary of the blender, a variation can be made with pebble ice and a good shaking.
In 1978, the piña colada became Puerto Rico’s official drink. Its exact origin is still a subject of barroom debate.
One early tale credits the Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí with its invention in the early 19th century. It’s said that Cofresí gave his crew a beverage that contained coconut, pineapple and white rum to boost their morale, but that the recipe was lost after the pirate’s death in 1825.
The Caribe Hilton Hotel, in San Juan, presents a different origin story, claiming that in 1954, their bartender at the Beachcomber Bar, Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, spent a rigorous three months creating the cocktail to capture the “true nature and essence of Puerto Rico.” Fifty years later, Puerto Rico Governor Sila María Calderón presented the hotel with a plaque to honor Monchito’s achievement. It doesn’t get more official than that.
Classic Piña Colada
- 1 oz white rum
- 1 oz coconut cream (alternatively, ½ oz coconut cream and ½ oz heavy cream)
- 3 oz pineapple juice (or fresh pineapple, blended)
Combine the three ingredients in a blender with ice or just pour over ice and stir — my preference depends entirely on the level of energy I am willing to expend. Either way, you can’t go wrong with this tropical classic cocktail! I like to add a little lime juice and garnish with a pineapple and cherry.