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Cheers to the Piña Colada!


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When a cocktail has been around for sixty years is that a birthday or an anniversary? Perhaps that’s something to ponder while sipping the cocktail in question, the Piña Colada.

There has been some debate about which one of three bartenders deserves credit as the inventor of this creamy, fruity tropical cocktail that first appeared in the San Juan, Puerto Rico resort area. Ramón Marrero Perez of the Caribe Hilton hotel’s Beachcomber Bar is said to have invented it in August 1954 (thus the 60th birthday/anniversary) using the then-newly available Coco López cream of coconut. Ricardo Garcia, who also worked at the Caribe said that it was he who had invented it. But, Ramón Portas Mingot had said he created it in 1963 at the Barrachina Bar in Old San Juan. It is, however, commonly accepted that the Piña Colada was adapted from an existing creation at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, according to the drink’s entry in Difford’s Encyclopedia of Cocktails.

Today, the Caribe Hilton Hotel promotes itself as the home of the drink and credits Ramón "Monchito" Marrero with its invention, which he continued to serve at the hotel for 35 years until his retirement in 1989, according to a press release I received on behalf of the hotel. (They’ll be celebrating with activities throughout the year and a Piña Colada Festival on August 16 if you find a trip to Puerto Rico in the cards.)

And, a tidbit about rum, the spirit of the Piña Colada: Even though rum is made from sugar cane (in the form of fresh sugar cane juice, cane syrup, or molasses)—while most other spirits are distilled from grain—the natural sugars are converted to alcohol in the distillation process, so rum itself is not a sugary sweet spirit. Another tidbit: “Piña Colada” literally means “strained pineapple,” a reference to the juice that’s used in the drink.

Sure, maybe a Piña Colada is extra special accompanied by warm ocean breezes while on vacation, but you can easily mix up a taste of the tropics at home. And, after pondering—and not even while sipping said cocktail—I think it would be the drink’s birthday as it was “born” sixty years ago. So Happy Birthday, Piña Colada! (Not to mention July 10 was National Piña Colada Day!) Cheers!


Piña Colada

2 ounces light rum
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces coconut cream
   (or 1 ounce coconut cream and 1 ounce heavy cream)
Pineapple wedge for garnish

Shake liquid ingredients well with ice. Strain into a hurricane or large ice-filled wine glass. Garnish with pineapple wedge.

Frozen variation: Blend all liquid ingredients with about 1 cup crushed ice and pour in glass. Garnish with pineapple wedge, if desired.

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