DISCOVER THE COLOURFUL HISTORY OF PUERTO RICO’S NATIONAL DRINK AS THE ISLAND CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL PIÑA COLADA DAY ON 10TH JULY
With DIY cocktails becoming a key staple of life in lockdown, there is even more reason to celebrate International Piña Colada Day on 10th July.
True fans of the famous tropical drink will know it was invented in Puerto Rico where, according to island sources, Hollywood legend Joan Crawford famously declared the piña colada as “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face!”
The sweet mix of coconut cream, pineapple juice, white rum, and ice was born in the island’s capital, San Juan, but the identity of its creator has caused much controversy over the years. Three different bartenders claim the invention as their own and the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan is the setting for two of the original stories dating back to 1954.
Meanwhile, a mixologist at Barrachina in Old San Juan also claims he invented the piña colada in 1963, and today there lies a plaque at the entrance to commemorate the famous cocktail’s birthplace. Other islanders believe it dates back even further to the 1800s, and credit the fruity cocktail to Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí, who allegedly served piña coladas to his crew to boost morale.
As its origins continue to be contested, today the iconic piña colada takes on many forms in Puerto Rico with local mixologists experimenting with the flavours and ingredients. Visitors can try a Piña Colada Popsicle at Señor Paleta bar in San Juan, a fun and light ice cream pop that blends fresh pineapple with coconut cream, or sample a Coco Pirata (Coconut Pirate) at the Villa Cofresí Hotel in Rincón, a unique twist on the piña colada which combines four different rums and includes a dash of cinnamon which the hotel has been serving for over half a century.
Mixologists at the JungleBird cocktail bar in San Juan have also created the Tepache Colada, made from fermented pineapple rinds that are baked with spices and piloncillo (sugar cane). The Tepache Colada is also notably mixed with Don Q Gold Rum as featured in one of the original piña colada recipes.
Further drinks and dishes that celebrate the piña colada as Puerto Rico’s national drink include Cheff Dennys Rosario Brignoni’s ‘Dessert Colada’, which comprises of a pineapple compote and vanilla cake topped with coconut moose and is served at AC Marriott’s rooftop in San Juan. Seafood lovers will enjoy the shrimp ceviche and piña colada custard served at San Juan Water and Beach Club Hotel in Carolina while those looking for a fruity twist on the cocktail can enjoy a Mango Colada at the Copamarina Beach Resort in Guánica.
For those who prefer a more traditional piña colada, here is a trusty recipe to try at home:
- 60ml of coconut cream
- 120ml pineapple juice
- 4 cubes of ice
- 60ml white rum
- Cherries, pineapple wedges and whipped cream for toppings
In a blender, mix the coconut cream, pineapple juice, ice and rum until all the ingredients are blended smoothly. Pour the drink into a glass and top with whipped cream before garnishing with the cherries and pineapple wedges.
No matter where the piña colada is enjoyed, its distinctive taste can transport the mind to the stunning beaches, colourful cities and stylish hotel bars of Puerto Rico where food and drink is at the very heart of the island’s rich culture.