Like most classic cocktails, the origin of the Pina Colada is shrouded in mystery, and there are many different versions of how it appeared on the scene. The most romantic story, and probably untrue, was that it was first concocted by a 19th century Puerto Rican pirate named Roberto Cofresi, who served a mixture of coconut, pineapple and white rum to his crew. However, his recipe (if there was one) died with him in 1852.
Another version, likely untrue as well, traces the cocktail to a restaurant in Old San Juan called La Barrachina, which specializes in paella and is still operating today. Supposedly the owner, Pepe Barraachina, was travelling in South America when he met a famous bartender named Ramon Portas Mingot, who was originally from Spain but was working in Buenos Aires. Mingot ended up moving to Puerto Rico, working as head bartender at Barrachina, and inventing the Pina Colada.
The most popular story places the creation of the drink at the Beachcomber Bar of San Juan’s Caribe Hilton in 1954—August 16. According to this tale, which has been carefully nurtured by Hilton management over the years, the drink was invented by Ramon “Monchito” Morrero, also a Spaniard, to please the resort’s high-rolling clientele. Morrero remained at the Caribe Hilton until his retirement in 1989. The Pina Colada became the official cocktail of Puerto Rico in 1978, and it’s almost impossible to get off the island without drinking a bunch of them.
Regardless of how it got here, Wednesday is National Pina Colada Day, and the drink remains a charm during the heat of the summer. Due to the cream of coconut, it’s not exactly a low-calorie libation, but it’s filling enough that you can make a meal of it if you so desire (who needs protein shakes, really?). The only essential piece of equipment is a blender, which you may have to remove from a box in the attic and dust off. The recipe below calls for white rum, but the choice of rum is really up to you:
THE ORIGINAL CARIBE HILTON PINA COLADA:
- 2 oz. white rum
- 1 oz. cream of coconut
- 1 oz. heavy cream
- 6 oz. fresh pineapple juice
- ½ cup crushed ice
Add the rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream and pineapple juice together in a blender. Add the ice, and blend for about 15 seconds or until smooth. Serve in a 12-ounce glass, garnished with a pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to amazon.com