Gather around children and let me tell you a story. It starts not that long ago but in a time when people could travel further than to the end of their block.
They would travel by plane, they would travel by train, they would travel by boat but no matter how they travelled they did so to get to destinations that were beautiful and warm.
At these destinations, there would be stunning, white sandy beaches, clear azure blue skies and warm, crystal waters. But most importantly, and really the point of this story, is that there would also be drinks with fruit and little umbrellas.
Oh yes, gentle reader, I talk of beach holidays in tropical locations and the Piña Colada that would invariably be firmly planted in your hand.
Now while those experiences may all seem like a distant memory and the hope of once again feeling the sensation of sand between your toes a far off dream, the Piña Colada is something we can make, no matter where you are.
And what better day to make one then on Piña Colada Day. So grab a bottle of rum, some Coconut Cream and Pineapple juice and let’s go (even if only in our minds) to the tropics.
Now, of course, the first question you are going to ask is for a little history on the Piña Colada, after all, who makes a drink without knowing where it comes from? (Well, we all do but we’ll tell you a little history anyway ..)
Like so many drinks, the story behind this drink is nowhere as clear as the waters on our mythical tropical beach. The one thing that is known is it originated in Puerto Rico (which is lucky as they have claimed it as their national drink).
Most of the stories derive from San Juan. The year was 1954 and the place was The Caribe Hilton, one of the premier luxury hotels in the Puerto Rican capital. Two different bartenders from that era have come forward to claim the drink as their own.
The first is bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrero, who says he was asked by hotel management to create a signature drink that captured the flavours of the island. Marrero reportedly spent three months experimenting with hundreds of combinations before perfecting his sweet, frothy concoction of rum, cream of coconut and pineapple juice.
The second is Ricardo Gracia, who has said that the drink was created due to a strike by a coconut-cutters union in 1954 prevented him from serving up the popular mixed drink of rum, cream of coconut and crushed ice in its traditional sliced coconut.
Forced to improvise, Gracia poured the drink into a hollowed-out pineapple instead. When the fruit’s added flavour proved popular, Gracia said he added freshly pressed and strained pineapple juice to the rum and cream of coconut mixture to create the piña colada, which means “strained pineapple” in Spanish.
Either way, after tasting one of the hotel’s Piña Colada, Hollywood legend Joan Crawford reportedly declared it was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.”
Another story has the drink created by the 19th-century Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresi, who was said to have boosted the morale of his men by giving them a pick-me-up drink of white rum, pineapple juice and coconut milk.
Now while romantic, in a Pirates of The Caribbean. kind-of-way, the problem with this story is that the drink we know today would not be possible without the 1954 invention of Coco Lopez, a pre-made cream of coconut. Developed by University of Puerto Rico agriculture professor Ramon Lopez-Irizarry, the blended cream is formed from the hearts of Caribbean coconuts with natural cane sugar.
According to the “Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America,” Coco Lopez even supplied the Caribe Hilton with blenders and hired a piano player to perform while bartenders served up complimentary piña coladas to hotel guests.
‘The history is fine,’ I hear you say, ‘but how do you actually make this exotic temptation?’
Well for a look at the two variations of the drink, blended and shaken, we might turn to our friend Steve the Bartender
‘Are there variations?’, I hear you ask. Well, what about an Angostura Colada from the Educated Barfly.
So now you know a little about it and you know how to make it, I think it’s time you whipped one up, sat on your couch with photos of faraway beaches, dreaming of a time when we can all go to the tropics again.