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Piña Colada: Secrets and recipes of the most iconic Caribbean cocktail


Enjoying this drink goes beyond savoring the delicious mix of pineapple juice, coconut, and rum

A waitress making a cocktail in a New York bar

This tropical, refreshing, and colorful drink is the embodiment of the island of Puerto Rico. Over the years, it has become a symbol of tropical life and has gained popularity worldwide, becoming one of the most requested cocktails in bars and restaurants. So much so that, in 1978, the government of Puerto Rico declared it their national drink, and every July 10, International Piña Colada Day is celebrated.

Its exact origin generates much controversy, as many legends claim its invention. What is clear is that it was in sunny San Juan where it was first tasted.

The official story tells that it was bartender Ramón "Monchito" Romero who signed in 1954 a certificate accrediting him as the inventor of the piña colada. His boss, at the Caribe Hilton hotel in San Juan, asked him to create a drink that no one had ever tasted to attract customers.

For three months, 'Monchito' experimented with all kinds of rums, liqueurs, fruits, and mixers with one goal in mind: to capture the true essence of Puerto Rico in a glass. This hard work resulted in one of the most popular and omnipresent tropical cocktails on the planet, the piña colada.

Another version attributes the creation of this drink to Ramón Portas Mingot, a Spanish bartender at the well-known Barrachina restaurant in San Juan. It is said that in 1963, Pepe Barrachina met Ramón during his trip through South America, creating a good friendship. Ramón, who later started working at the Barrachina restaurant, began mixing flavors until he managed to create a rich combination of ice, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and condensed milk.

But the oldest and most extravagant legend traces its origin to a 19th-century pirate, Roberto Cofresí, who distributed to his ship's crew a curious brew containing coconut, pineapple, and white rum to lift their spirits. This mixture gave rise to the recipe for what would later become the famous piña colada. However, it is not verifiable, so it may be more of a myth than a real fact.

The world may never know the truth about its origin, but we can explore the wide range of styles in which we can enjoy it. Here are some ways to start getting to know Puerto Rico's piña colada.

Is there anything more refreshing than a tropical popsicle? Inspired by the cocktail, ice cream makers created a fun and light popsicle that mixes fresh pineapple with coconut cream. The white and yellow tones evoke that Caribbean shine, and the alternation between flavors stimulates the palate for a sweet and refreshing delight.

The perfect ending to a tropical meal is this dessert that captures the essence of the island with a sweet rooted in tradition. A bed of fresh pineapple compote sits beneath a fluffy vanilla cake topped with a refreshing coconut mousse. All these ingredients are served in a cocktail glass and garnished with toasted coconut shavings and a cherry.

It is an easy-to-make drink that you can easily prepare at home. Here is a basic recipe to make a traditional piña colada:

White rum: 60 ml, coconut milk: 60 ml, pineapple juice: 60 ml, lime juice: 15 ml, sugar syrup (optional): 22 ml

In a blender, mix one part white rum, one part coconut cream or milk, and one part pineapple juice, preferably fresh. Add lime juice (15 ml) and 22 ml of sugar syrup. Mix everything with about 180 ml of crushed ice until it reaches the consistency of a milkshake and serve in a tall, narrow glass. The classic cocktail decoration calls for serving it with a piece of fresh pineapple, an umbrella, and a straw.