A History of the Piña Colada
Today is National Piña Colada Day, so it’s time to break out the rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream and celebrate the official drink of Puerto Rico (since 1978).
In Spanish, Piña Colada, simply means “strained pineapple”. Even though the current recipe dates from the 1950’s, there are some allegations that the name didn’t officially materialize until almost ten years later.
Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Corfresi is rumored to have served his crew a moral improving concoction of rum, pineapple juice and coconut. Upon his capture and execution in 1825, the recipe for this “proto-colada” conveniently disappeared into the lore of history.
Earliest written appearance:
The term Piña Fria, aka “Cold Pineapple”, is a refreshment made from the juice of the pineapple” and begins to turn up in United States newspapers at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is sometimes described as a pineapple-ade and an actual recipe appears in the New York Herald-Tribune in 1952:
Piña Fria has music in its name; two fingers of cold fresh pineapple juice are blended with one and one-half ounces of white Puerto Rican rum and a half teaspoon of sugar. Shake with fine ice; strain into a champagne glass.
The first actual written instance of Piña Colada attached to the name of a cocktail was seen in a 1922 edition TRAVEL magazine:
But best of all is a piña colada, the juice of a perfectly ripe pineapple — a delicious drink in itself — rapidly shaken up with ice, sugar, lime and Bacardi rum in delicate proportions. What could be more luscious, more mellow and more fragrant?
This daiquiri-style drink is now generally refered as a Piña Colada served “Cuban Style”. References continued through the next two decades, but generally dealt literally with strained pineapple juice.
Who created it?
The “modern” Piña Colada depends on “coconut cream” as an ingredient and that doesn’t appear on the scene until 1948 when Don Ramon Lopez Irizarry, looking for an easier way to extract the cream from the pulp of the coconut, wound up creating the well known Coco Lopez product. In actuality, Coco Lopez is a mix of coconut cream and cane syrup.
This is where, like most cocktails, the trail gets a bit muddy. As with the Martini and a litany of other drinks, the Piña Colada, has had it’s share of claimants and, as stated before, accounts of similar drinks date back to the late 17th century.
- The strongest case for the modern Piña Colada comes out of the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where long-serving bartender, Ramón “Monchito” Marrero Perez claims to have created the drink on August 16, 1954, (though some accounts give any time between 1952 and 1957) utilizing the recently released Coco López cream of coconut.
- Ricardo García, another bartender at the Caribe, who claims to have come up with the recipe as a work-around during the coconut cutters’ union strike of 1954
- Ramón Portas Mingot’s 1963 story stating that he came up with the drink while working at the Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan.
While I have sympathy for Ricardo García — who hasn’t had a co-worker take credit for you work — like the Puerto Rican government, who issued several declarations on the subject, I’m going to have to give this one to Ramón “Monchito” Marrero Perez.
- 2 oz. White Rum
- 1 oz. Coconut Cream
- 1 oz. Heavy Cream
- 6 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice
- ½ cup Crushed Ice
- Garnish: fresh pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry
- Add the rum, coconut cream, 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. Garnish with a fresh pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.
The Piña Colada was officially named Puerto Rico’s national beverage on July 10, 1978. Piña Colada Day is celebrated annually in Puerto Rico and the United States on July 1oth.
For more information:
Check out the fancy-schmancy infographic included with this article to learn more about all sorts of Piña Colada history, lore and trivia, it’s bound to make you the hit of the summer vacation scene!