Piña Colada Cocktail

By Robert Hess

It was on August 15, 1954, that Ramon "Monchito" Marrero Perez first introduced the Pina Colada to the customers of the Beachcomber Bar at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is said that he spent three months working on it until he finally felt he had captured "the sunny, tropical flavor of Puerto Rico in a glass."

Recipe

How to Make a PiƱa Colada

2 oz white rum

1 oz Coco Lopez Coconut Cream

1 oz heavy cream

6 oz pineapple juice

4-6 oz ice

Instructions

Blend all ingredients in a blender.

Garnish with a speared cherry and pineapple chunk.

Comments
Nick 17 Mar 2008
12:00 pm

Good episode, though I couldn’t help but notice the striking change in garnish in the last few shots of the episode :)

Berkana 18 Mar 2008
5:06 am

I’m not sure where to get Coco Lopez coconut cream. Is there anything about that particular brand that is important to this drink recipe? What is the difference between coconut cream and coconut milk, such as those found in Asian supermarkets?

Peter V 18 Mar 2008
7:10 am

While tending bar here in Orlando, Florida I discovered a positive relationship between using natural juices and increased sales.

The hotel lobby bar where I worked, had the bottled “Pina Colada mix” but it made very few sales.  The stuff often went bad. So when I would make one, the guest would often return in it and tell me “it tastes funny.”

After reading Gary Regan’s book, I convinced my managers to invest in a case of Coco Lopez coconut cream and some small cans of pineapple juice.

One slow, Sunday afternoon at my bar I put the Pina Colada up on my “Special’s Board” for $7.29. I made one or two Pina Coladas without the spoiled mix. Suddenly a buzz started among the guests and I was making five or six at a time. That afternoon I made over 100 dollars in sales on this one drink!

This was very unusual for a small lobby bar; but it was because I was doing something extra: Walt Disney called it “plussing.”

Commercial mixes have killed the sales of classic cocktails in Florida’s hospitality industry; this is true is especially of the Bloody Mary, as well as Pina Colada and even the Margarita.

Bars have prefabricated bottled mixes that often sit on unrefrigerated speed racks and are kept until the mold begins to grow inside. Food and Beverage managers should understand how increased sales and quality ingredients are positively correlated.

Robert Hess 18 Mar 2008
1:12 pm

Nick… yeah, we edited out me “fixing up” the garnish a tad just before the last “hero” shot :->

Berkana… Coco Lopez Coconut cream is a very thick cream, and works a lot better than a coconut milk. If you are having a hard time finding Coco Lopez, just use the thickest coconut cream/milk you have available

Peter… I (of course) TOTALLY agree with you. Thanks for the story!

-Robert

Adam 20 Mar 2008
12:13 am

To Peter V:
AMEN!
Thank you for providing us with your first hand account concerning the practice of creating quality drinks from scratch with a touch of “love” or as you quoted Uncle Walt, “plussing” it.

Absolutely, the “Prefabricated Drink Mix” producers and distributors, the world over, have done an embarrassing disservice to quality bartending. The creation of these “quick fix” products are a bitter reminder of the age old philosophical argument: “Just because something CAN be done, doesn’t necessarily dictate that is SHOULD be done.”

But PDM marketers aren’t the only offenders whose hands are soaked with this batch of premixed bile. Unfortunately, some 4 or 5 star restaurants pride themselves on back house (kitchen) drink mixes for their sweet-&-sours and bloody marys. By doing this, they are corning the guest/customer into a highly rigid and ill fated dining experience. If you’re positively salivating for a mild gin mary during a Sunday brunch, the bar may screw you with a tart and saucy drink mix. And it’s all due to the misdirected notions of penny pinching and workflow efficiency. IT’S WRONG!
Save the premixes for the strip clubs, college bars and night owl dives.

To Master Mixologist Hess:
I’m aware that your sponsor, Kegworks, does market “instant cocktail mixes.” With that in mind, I wholeheartedly pray to Bacchus, Hotei, and Saint Amand that you will never comprise the quality of future cocktails just to satisfy a sponsor. }:^)

Robert Hess 20 Mar 2008
7:49 am

“Using a commercial sour mix to make a cocktail is like using instant rice to make paella.” :->

I suppose an argument could be made for mixes being appropriate for “some” situations, but if you ever see me using a mix on the show, then it’s because I think that it makes a great drinks.

That said, there are a couple of commercial mixes that I am not totally opposed to. One of them is the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai mix. Not as good as scratch, but for a “mix” it isn’t bad. Specifically because they aren’t putting the lime juice in it. Their mix is essentially just a premix of the orgeat and orange curacao (although non-alcoholic). Of course I don’t see any reason for using it since it is just as easy to mix it up from scratch.

Another is the Demitris Bloody Mary Mix (http://demitris.com). Bloody Mary Mix overall is probably a better concept than other mixes since most people are using canned/bottled tomato juice anyway. A “mix” is then (usually) just the tomato juice with added spices. The differentiation about Demitris however is that they are “just” the spice mix. Vodka (or gin), Tomato Juice, Demitris, and lemon juice makes for a quick drink. And you can not only adjust the seasoning up or down by adding more or less of the “mix”, but what I do is use their spice mix in addition to scratch spices to make a more complex drink.

It should also be pointed out that the concept of a “mix” itself isn’t necessarily a bad idea, the problem lies more in the execution of the mix, and in the inappropriate use of it. Pimm’s No.1 could be considered as a “mix”, so too could vermouth, take that notion far enough, and even gin could be seen as a mix, although not one that would be easily replaced with an “a la minute” version.

What I -hate- however, is seeing a recipe which calls for a “mix” as an ingredient. Recipes should always be listed out as “scratch/fresh”, otherwise “newbies” will think the mix is the right ingredient to use. I take this so far that I don’t like seeing “catsup” as an ingredient in cooking recipes. When I cook, I essentially make my catsup from scratch by using tomato sauce, some form of sweetener, some form of acid, and some appropriate spices in order to make the sauce fit the dish.

-Robert

Al Nelson 21 Mar 2008
8:28 pm

Mr. Hess,
While you are in your exotic drink phase (pretty much our entire focus at my work) ...what are the odds you could do a segment on the Gombay Smash? I have had a hard time researching the origins of this drink, and have no definative recipe.

Keep em coming.

AL

Mark Seconi 24 Mar 2008
1:31 am

Coco Lopez cream of coconut is not too difficult to find; I’d first check your grocery store.  Here in the United States, many grocery stores carry it in their drink, canned fruit or baking sections.

Cream of coconut and coconut cream are not the same ingredient; although, these terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably.  Cream of coconut is similar to coconut milk, but with a higher ratio of coconut to water than coconut milk.  Sometimes, coconut cream will form on the top of canned coconut milk if the can is left undisturbed for a few days.

Cream of coconut, on the other hand, is sweetened coconut cream with added stabilizers to make it creamy, but pourable.  As such, you can not simply substitute coconut cream and/or milk (no matter how think) for cream of coconut and expect to get the same results.

As for the Coco Lopez brand, it is the original and probably best known producer of cream of coconut.

Dominik MJ - the opinionated alchemist 6 Apr 2008
6:54 pm

I need to say, that a pi

Robert Hess 7 Apr 2008
6:24 am

To the best of my knowledge, fresh juices are always better than any other option… although I have to admit I’ve never tried doing fresh cranberry juice. And to do fresh pineapple juice takes something a little more specialized then a simple hand juicer…

Lloyd 1 Aug 2008
9:39 am

I’m curious how you came up with that recipe. Having 6x pineapple juice to coconut cream seems a bit out of balance. Did you personally opt for a creamy Pina Colada that has more of a dominate pineapple taste?

I usually make with 1 1/2 rum, 1 1/2 oz coco cream and 2 -3 oz pineapple juice.

I will at times use a dark rum like Coruba which for those who love the tast of rum is a nice way to go.

One downside to this drink is the saturated fat content. I wish there was a no-compromise low-fat version….Oh well, enjoy while you can.

Thanks Robert for the videos. Keep em’ coming!

dimitrios zappas 17 Feb 2009
11:02 am

guess what i am drinkink at my profile picture…
At the Barranchina Bar - old San Juan, Puerto rico.
With coco lopez, fresh pineapple, and a dark local rum.

mdoudoroff 9 Jul 2010
4:55 am

The guys at Painkiller (NYC) have recently published their thoughts on this drink, the version of which they serve daily is staggering in its deliciousness.

http://www.painkillernyc.com/research

Small Screen Colin 9 Jul 2010
4:58 am

Martin,

I will stop by and grab one with my wife when we are in NYC in August. Still haven’t been to Painkiller! What a great excuse to stop by!

john eason 10 Jul 2010
2:29 pm

You certainly have the historical data down on the Pina Colada. Dissapointing that you chose a different rum than the original recipe calls for. Originally DonQ Gold was used in the cocktail not a “white rum” and certainly not Bacardi. I prefer mine with an additional shot of DonQ Anejo on top as a floater.

Salud!

Dominik MJ aka the opinionated alchemist 11 Jul 2010
2:11 am

Hm I am not sure that DonQ was originally used for the Pi

Dominik MJ aka the opinionated alchemist 11 Jul 2010
2:20 am

P.S. A pineapple leaves looks gorgeous behind the actual fresh pineapple quarter wheel. And the nuclear glowing maraschino cherry can be substituted with an awesome dark amarena cherry!

john eason 11 Jul 2010
5:03 am

Remember we are talking Puerto Rico as the orgin of the drink and the Serralles family has been there making DonQ there for 7 generations! DonQ is the National Product of Puerto Rico.  It is considered premium to Bacardi in Puerto RIco selling up to $2.00 a bottle more and also posts better sales figuers on the island. We have a signed document in the Serralles archives from the cocktails creator Ramon Wlarrero. I tried to post a picture but there is nowhere to do it.. If you talk to anyone at the Caribe Hilton, to this day they still take great pride in this creation as do the folks at DonQ.

Dominik MJ aka the opinionated alchemist 11 Jul 2010
5:43 am

I am not sure about the references.
I believe, that DonQ is nowadays considered as superior. However I doubt, that it was so, when the Pi

Robert Hess 12 Jul 2010
11:40 am

There is a great writeup by Jared Brown regarding the origins of the Pina Colada in “Mixologist: The Journal of the American Cocktail” (Vol 1) http://www.amazon.com/dp/0976093707 In it, Jared doesn’t evidence the use of a particular brand of rum which was originally used, but several times he does specify that it is a white rum which is to be used.

john eason 12 Jul 2010
11:54 am

I need to read that book. In Puerto Rico we are told that the gold is what was used in the original recipe. We have a document in the Serralles archives from Mr Marrero that he used DonQ in the cocktail. I would post a picture of it but I don’t see a way. Note…I have worked for DonQ for the past two years. Very doubtful this history has be “rewritten”. The Serralles have always claimed that they were the original rum brand in the cocktail.

Never the less. I do love National Pina Colada Day. What better excuse to enjoy one.

mdoudoroff 12 Jul 2010
12:04 pm

Irrespective of history, I can imagine no good reason to ever use a filtered (colorless) rum in a Pi

ashley v routson 6 Aug 2010
12:00 am

Whilst the interchange about the history is entertaining, as are all the “controversial” battles of the cocktail culture, my real question is 2 ounces of booze in a 12-14oz (depending on the ice) drink? LAME. It is like throwing a shot of two of Bourbon on bread pudding—with that much sugar and that much fat, who is even going to notice the booze?

Wow, am I outta line here? Forget fighting over what rum was traditionally used and whether or not fresh juices are better ... where is the booze?

Disclaimer: meant to be funny, not insulting people… that much.

Robert Hess 6 Aug 2010
5:51 am

Ashley, I am a firm believer of “a drink, is a drink, is a drink”. So when a bartender makes a drink and serves it to a customer, the amount of “booze” in that drink should essentially be the same regardless the size of the drink (there are some exceptions). Otherwise, you can easily run into problems. If you think that 2 oz of booze is too little for a 12 oz drink, then my recommendation would be to reduce the size of the drink instead of increasing the amount of the booze. You could take the above recipe and cut everything in half except for the rum, and you’d end up with a smaller drink, and one in which the flavor of the spirit would be more pronounced. I’ve never tried this, so I’m not sure if the resultant drink would be as good however.

ashley v routson 6 Aug 2010
10:17 am

Robert, Thank you for such a time response! I was only half kidding about the booze part. I do understand the importance of balance. And obviously, this recipe has stood the test of time, which means it exists for a reason. I do have a serious question, though. Is there any ways to reduce the calories in this beverage without completely sacrificing its flavor profile? Or is one just forced to down a couple hundred calories a pop?

Cheers,

Ashley

Robert Hess 6 Aug 2010
10:42 am

I think this drink is doomed to be off-limits for folks trying to watch their calories.
I “suppose” it might be possible to muck around with using a coconut flavored rum, low fat soy milk. “Splenda” simple syrup. etc. and get something that might pretend to take the place of it, but I think such an approach is fraught with problems.

If you are needing to seriously watch your calories, or sugar intake, or whatever, I think trying to manipulate products/recipes to “seem” like the thing you are needing to avoid is just going to create an even stronger craving for the real thing. Best to simply move away from it all together.

ashley v routson 6 Aug 2010
10:52 am

Robert, Well if you saw my eating and drinking habits, you would know that I am not very good at watching my caloric intake. However, as a young female with a slowing metabolism—I have developed a more heightened awareness.

I am in the school of thought that it is often better to satisfy your craving with a little bit of exactly what you want, instead of searching for unsatisfying substitutions. Good thing that the pina colada is not at the top of my list of preferred cocktails and it would be easiest to avoid it all together. Speaking of preferred cocktails, the cocktail you are featuring in the next issue of Mutineer Magazine is my all-time favorite. Cheers!

Steven D. Lauria 26 Jun 2011
7:08 pm

Hi Robert,

Yes, freshly juiced pineapple makes it right and delicious!  (I use my Jack LaLane Deluxe Juicer.)

My question, Robert, is how long do you think the Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut will remain fresh after being opened if refrigerated?

Instructions on the can say to refrigerate it…but they don’t say how long the contents will last before going bad.

I’ve refrigerated mine, and the stuff inside has turned solid.

Thank you, Robert, for all of your episodes.  They are terrific!

Robert Hess 27 Jun 2011
5:50 am

Steven, I don’t really have any idea how long it would stay “good” in the refrigerator. It has a high sugar content, so that will help, but I probably wouldn’t want to keep it for more than 4 to 6 weeks at the very most perhaps? It will probably go off flavor wise before it goes off from a “health” standpoint.

Jan 30 Aug 2011
7:34 am

Hi, I was thinking of storing fresh juice frozen in ice cube bags so it would be always possible to take only the right amount and let it melt. Does freezing the juice seriously affect its quality/taste or is there any other reason that it’s a bad idea?

There is a recipe that calls for orange juice ice cubes as a garnish too, sort of ‘cosmopolitan based punch’.
/Jan

Robert Hess 30 Aug 2011
7:45 am

I’ve never played around with using frozen juices, but I suspect the result wouldn’t be as good as fresh, but perhaps more importantly if your juice is frozen as an ice cube, waiting for it to melt would be a bit of a drag, and melting the ice by heating it would affect the quality of the juice most likely.

Dominik MJ aka the opinionated alchemist 30 Aug 2011
4:43 pm

Unfortunately frozen pineapple resembles exactly the taste of canned one. Not sure off other juices [lemon and lime also doesn’t really freeze good], but pineapple is so rich of enzymes, which alters dramatically the texture [what is negligible in juice] and unfortunately the taste.

Orange juice seems to work quite ok - you could use also the already frozen juice concentrates - they are not as good as fresh juice, but the quality degrades much less.

I still have the idea, that a cocktail is only as good as the ingredients, and fresh fruits are nowadays over the year available [and if you don’t want to pay the premium, you can focus on seasonal drinks].

A reasonable cook / chef would never use canned vegetable or frozen produce, which would have an obviously lower quality than the fresh one. There are products, which are different, so you want to have them sometimes preserved/processed [e.g. tomatoes, dried herbs], but this erects out of a conscious decision, not out of the notion of saving money…

Jan 30 Aug 2011
10:34 pm

Thanks for comments, I guess you are right. It was just tempting to have a ‘fresh’ juice on hand all the time and melt some before guests come. Also because it can be sometimes difficult to get good oranges or limes at times here in Central Europe, they are often soft and dry, and as you said, quality matters.

Post a Comment
You must be registered and logged in to post comments.

Register for a New Account

-->