Rich Report Recommends: An Island Vacation in a Glass, The Piña Colada

Rich Report Recommends: An Island Vacation in a Glass, The Piña Colada
Courtesy of The Washington Post

One of the most transporting drinks in the world may just be this one.

The slush might be turning liquid around the rim of one of these glasses right now, if you had one right now. A tall straw emerges from the top of the glass just above a few colorful garnishes. Taking a sip of the glass will give you a taste of sweet, creamy, and strong all at the same time. 

It is cold in your hand and you can feel the slush beginning to turn liquid around the rim. If you inquire about it, the answer is usually the same: it's not for a vacation, but rather, it's for a vacation. It does smell like sunscreen, or rather, sunscreen does smell like it: it transports you to another world. There may be times when you feel as though you are on a tropical island when you start drinking Pia Coladas, because as soon as you start drinking some, you will hear the waves lapping against the shore, and for those ten minutes you will feel as though you are in Winnipeg.

The restaurant, Barrachina, can be found on the western end of the Isleta de San Juan. The Isleta de San Juan is an island off the north coast of Puerto Rico that is tiny, colorful and home to a number of restaurants and bars.

It is marked with a marble plaque that reads, “The house where Don Ramon Portas Mingot created the Pina Colada in 1963.” The “original” Pina Colada draws crowds to this restaurant, and the story of its creation is repeated on the colorful menu, on the website, and by the bartenders who work there daily about a hundred times. It seems like a fairly straightforward process.

It is complicated, slightly, by the fact that if you were to walk out the front door of that restaurant and head about about two miles east to the other tip of this little island, you’d find the Caribe Hilton, “The Birthplace of the Piña Colada” they’ll tell you, with ample literature and black and white photographs asserting that it was Ramón “Monchito” Marrero who developed the recipe there, in fact, in 1954.

This, in turn, is complicated still by an article in the New York Times from April 16, 1950, four years before, in which the author talks about what to eat and drink in the Caribbean: “Drinks in the West Indies” she writes, “range from Martinique’s famous rum punch to Cuba’s piña colada (rum, pineapple and coconut milk).” Or perhaps it was the early 19th century pirate Roberto Cofresi, who, according to legend, wanted to “breathe courage” into his men by dosing them with a concoction of his own design, made of coconut, pineapple, and rum?


For the history not to be compelling, we ask for forgiveness. Who came up with the brilliant idea to combine rum, coconut, and pineapple? Probably all of them, along with many others. It is a fairly obvious combination of flavors when it comes to these gentlemen of history since both grow together and go together.

It is also worth mentioning, however, that the essence of a Pina Colada, if you have to choose one, is not just coconut, but sweetened Coconut Cream that was invented by Coco Lopez in the late 1940s in Puerto Rico, a time and place that lends credibility to Mr. "Monchito's" claim, as it was invented by Coco Lopez in the late 1940s in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that the Caribe Hilton's cocktail has governmental endorsement. In 2004 the Governor of Puerto Rico presented the hotel with a proclamation of the 50th anniversary of the cocktail, which endorsed it as a hotel.

As a matter of fact, everyone knows that the Pina Colada is not only an exceptionally charming drink, but it was made by the same person who made it. As a cocktail, it's almost like the guy at the bar that keeps trying to strike up a conversation with everyone, and you end up liking him even though he's not very good looking.

The Pina Colada does not have any pretension. If you try to take yourself very seriously while you make a Pina Colada, you will both laugh and be absurd. This is a crowd pleaser, practically a milkshake. Despite their bad reputation, the Pina Coladas are amazing. The only downside of them is that the bad ones are pretty good, but the good ones are legendary. Treating yourself to a beach, wherever you may be, is the best way to spend a vacation.

Piña Colada

  • 2oz Rum
  • 0.25oz Lime Juice
  • 1.5oz Pineapple Juice
  • 1.5oz Cream of Coconut

In the case that you want to use pebble ice: Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with a handful of pebble ice, and stir to mix everything together. Pour into a festive glass and fill the glass with as much ice as you can.

Blend the liquid ingredients and 6-8 ounces of ice in a blender for 10 seconds on high. Pour into a festive glass. Both options can be garnished with pineapple leaves, orange slices, and colorful umbrellas.

Notes on Ingredients

Courtesy of Walmart

If you want to make a Puerto Rican cocktail, you are going to need white rum, or occasionally you’re going to see someone insist on Puerto Rican rum, and both of those choices are fine — perhaps anodyne, but still quite good. There has never been a cocktail that has been so improved by a rich, deeply flavored aged rum in the English-style of age. If I had to pick one bottle, I would choose Hamilton's 86-proof Demerara Rum, which is made in Guyana.

In the event that you cannot find this kind of product, aged products from El Dorado, for example the 8 or 12 year in particular, would be a great alternative if you can't find it. A half ounce of funky Jamaican rum would also make a great addition to the Guyanese rum if you really want to go to the next level with it. In this case, you can substitute part of the Guyanese rum with the funky Jamaican rum or you can simply add it in addition to it, depending on the type of party you're throwing.

The classic recipe does not include lime juice, and many modern recipes do not include it either. The lime juice should be 0.25-0.5oz, depending on how tart you prefer. This is something I don't know how to explain. Maybe their pineapples are not as ripe as mine, or maybe they are more acidic. I don't know. Making this drink without lime juice is absurd to me. Lime not only goes beautifully with all these flavors but also helps to counteract what would otherwise be an overpowering sweetness.

The pineapple juice in the drink does not need to be fresh, but it is very important that you get fresh pineapple juice, as it will make it a lot better. In fact, I wouldn't drink a Daiquiri without fresh lime juice; however, you can make some really good pina coladas with canned pineapple juice, so while it's worth the effort, you shouldn't fret if you can't get the fresh stuff.

Aside from being the original cream of coconut, Coco Lopez is also the only cream of coconut that hasn't changed since the 1940s, basically nothing has changed except the label, which has stayed the same and the ingredients list that has been the same for about seven decades now. 

It is impossible for me not to believe that Coco Lopez is the best coconut syrup out there, regardless of how many mixological impulses I have to refrain from using it, and yet, regardless of how many mixological impulses one may have about not using it, Coco Lopez always wins when compared to a coconut syrup containing unsweetened organic coconut milk and organic evaporated cane sugar. There's something about it that is hard to resist when it comes to its persistent flavor.

Darcy O'Neil makes a DIY version of Coco Lopez with some coconut powder, which he claims enhances the coconut flavor. You can make it using Coco Lopez, which is a great drink. In my experience, bars add simple syrup and sweetened condensed milk to their drinks, which I find to be pretty awesome.

The thing about scraping and blending coconut meat from an actual coconut is that I hear great things about it, but it's not really something that most people can do. During my trials, I discovered that the best method for mixing Coco Lopez with unsweetened coconut cream was a trick I learned from Death & Co in the Cocktail Codex. I mixed 4 parts Coco Lopez to 1 part unsweetened coconut cream, and that was the winning recipe. A perfect combination of the signature sunscreen tropical intensity of the Coco Lopez, tempered by the natural midtones of the real coconut. Fantastic.

When you have crushed pebble ice, you can shake it if you have it. You can pulse it in a blender or food processor, wrap it in a dish towel and smash it with something, or purchase freezer ice from a local ice company or Sonic if you don't have it. Blend it instead if you do not have any—a good amount of dilution will help the cocktail perform its transporting magic better.

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