History of the Piña Colada
The Piña Colada traces its origins to the island of Puerto Rico. While it’s widely accepted that the cocktail was created on the island, there are several people who claim to have originated the recipe. But the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan is where the most widely accepted origin story takes place.
Ramón “Monchito” Marrero is commonly credited with creating the Piña Colada. Marrero was a bartender who worked at the hotel’s Beachcomber Bar. In 1954, he was commissioned to create a signature cocktail and he reportedly spent three months perfecting the recipe made with coconut cream, pineapple juice, white rum, and ice. Hollywood legend Joan Crawford even said Marrero’s drink “was better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.”
However, some claim that the Piña Colada actually dates back to the 1800s and credit the cocktail to Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí. According to this origin story, Cofresí would serve the sweet drink to his crew to boost morale. Regardless of who was actually the first to concoct the Piña Colada, it has strong ties to the island. It’s even been named Puerto Rico’s national drink.
Making the Cocktail
There are various takes on the classic Piña Colada recipe. But according to the Caribe Hilton Hotel, the original recipe calls for 2 ounces of rum, 1 ounce of coconut cream, 1 ounce of heavy cream, 6 ounces of pineapple juice, and 0.5 cups of crushed ice.
Once the ingredients are gathered, concocting the drink is fairly simple. First, mix the rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream, and pineapple juice in a blender. Then, add ice and mix for 15 seconds. The cocktail can then be served in a 12-ounce glass garnished with fresh pineapple and a cherry.
Several popular Piña Colada variations have also popped up on bar menus in the years since the drink was pioneered. For example, some bartenders will substitute the rum in the traditional recipe for vodka, creating a cocktail called the “Chi Chi.” Another common twist of the classic is the “Miami Vice,” which consists of half a Strawberry Daiquiri poured over half a Piña Colada.
The Piña Colada Song
Perhaps the most well-known reference to the cocktail in pop culture is in the 1979 Rupert Holmes single, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” The song was released in late 1979 and reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 during the last two weeks of December, making it the final number one song of the decade.
The lyrics tell the story of a man who’s bored in his current relationship and tries to engage in infidelity by exploring the personal advertisements in the newspaper. He spots an ad that catches his attention from a woman seeking a man who “like[s] Piña Coladas,” among other things. However, the song concludes with a twist as the man arranges to meet the woman from the ad only to find out that she’s actually his current partner.
But as intertwined as the cocktail has become with this song in pop culture, it almost wasn’t included in the lyrics at all. Holmes once stated in an interview that the chorus originally began, “If you like Humphrey Bogart and getting caught in the rain.” As he reflected on the song, he realized that a drink that’s tied to tropical paradise would invoke much more of a feeling of escape, and so Humphry Bogart was swapped out for Piña Coladas.
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Michael Caine (The Caine Mutiny)