The piña colada is an iconic cocktail, and for good reason. The combination of rum, pineapple juice, lime and coconut cream marry beautifully and taste tropical, whether you mix them in your basement or on the beach. Piña coladas are often made in a blender, a method more popular than perfect, but many bartenders serve it over pebble ice as well.
Though its origins are a point of contention to this day, a popular story is that the modern iteration of the drink was created around 1952–1954 by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, then a bartender at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico. While rum and pineapple juice had appeared in cocktails for years, the 1954 launch of Coco Lopez coconut cream was still relatively new. Marrero’s piña colada was so popular that it spawned countless adaptations. Puerto Rico declared the piña colada its official drink in 1970.
Since its genesis, mixologists have tinkered with the original recipe to develop their own version.
“The formula for the colada family is so delicious at its foundation that it lends itself so well to riffing,” says Erick Castro, partner of Raised by Wolves in San Diego and creator of a colada riff called the Piña Verte (recipe follows). “Whether it’s the Miami Vice, which mixes the piña colada with a frozen strawberry daiquiri, or the Chi Chi, which subs [in] vodka for the rum, it is really hard to go wrong with pineapple, coconut and lime.”
Processes vary. “To be honest, I’m not sure that a colada needs to be blended, but I think pineapple and coconut are the key,” says Jim Wrigley, beverage manager at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in Grand Cayman.
With those elements intact, you can get experimental. Some bartenders clarify their piña colada, while others use Angostura to add a bitter profile.
For home bartenders, we have rounded up a few delicious riffs on the classic. While some ingredients can be swapped, crushed or pebble ice is key. One reliable source is Sonic, which sells 10-pound bags for $2.44. You can also call a local ice storage company to arrange a pick-up.