Piña Colada: Tropical Relief

The piña colada is the tropical drink associated with palm-shaded plazas of Puerto Rico and resort beaches in the Caribbean, where it provides icy pleasure against the blazing tropical sun.

The reality is that San Juan averages around 85º this time of year, while a thermometer in Houston punches towards 100. We're the ones in need of the piña colada's sweet heat relief.

The original piña colada--a blend of rum, pineapple, and coconut cream---was invented by Ramon "Monchito" Marrero, the bartender at the Caribe Hilton's Beachcomber Bar, in San Juan. He was given the task to create a special cocktail for the hotel's glamorous clientele. The drink not only became the Hilton's signature drink, but eventually the official drink of Puerto Rico.

I tried the original, and even with a dozen calibrations, it seemed too sweet, and light on the rum.

I tried versions using dairy cream, which weakened the other ingredients. Finally, I reverted to the common recipe--the one on the can of Coco Lopez--which claims to be the "authentic recipe."

It's simple enough: three ounces rum, four ounces pineapple juice and four ounces of Coco Lopez, blended with two cups of ice. It's an excellent recipe, but I felt like it needed more rum, so I upped it to four ounces. That makes it boozy enough, but it creates a mysterious waxy taste that sits in the gullet. I lowered the rum to 3½ ounces, with the same result. Obviously, the recipe creators figured that out already.

The next weak spot was the pineapple juice. Most of the juice available is sold in cans, which imparts a metallic taste to the pineapple. I could carve up a fresh pineapple, but drinking should be drinking, not work. The solution was not in the juice aisle, but in the canned fruit aisle. Rather than the metallic canned pineapple, I found a plastic jar of Dole Harvest Best Pineapple Juice in 100% Pineapple Juice. The juice is ideal--not sweet, but not too tart--and the chunks look almost fresh.

I dumped the juice and chunks into the blender, resulting in the perfect liquid for a piña colada -- translated to English, "strained pineapple." The blender made the juice light and fluffy, so I added more. The blend is also less sweet than regular canned pineapple juice, which balances the drink better.

Piña Colada

  • 3 ounces rum
  • 4 ounces Coco Lopez
  • 6 ounces pineapple chunk/juice blend
  • 2 cups ice

Remove a few chunks of pineapple from jar, for garnish. Dump the rest of the jar of pineapples and juice into a blender, blend until it is a wet fluff. Pour back into jar, to measure. If the Coco Lopez is solidified, put it outside in the terrific heat to melt.

Add all of the ingredients to blender, turn on to high speed until smooth. Make two drinks. Garnish with pineapple chunks and a cherry.

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John Kiely
Contact: John Kiely