This post is part of our Rum Hub.
Most cocktail origin stories are a mess of faulty timelines, hazy memories, and recipes that, if lucky, were hastily written on a napkin. But the Piña Colada… well, that one’s somewhat clearer.
As the story goes, in 1954, bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero of the Caribe Hilton in San Juan created a new cocktail that mixed rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice—and the Piña Colada was born. The cocktail was served by its creator during his 35 year tenure at the bar, and in 1978, the Piña Colada was declared the official drink of Puerto Rico.
Over the decades, many different restaurants and bars have claimed to be the inventor of the Piña Colada—a few in Puerto Rico, a few not. There are even references to a similar drink from a couple decades prior, with some attributing its creation to Cuba.
Regardless, it’s easy to see how complementary ingredients such as rum, pineapple, and coconut would be naturally mixed together, especially on island locales. And the drink proliferated after the invention of Coco Lopez (which, perhaps coincidentally, also dates back to 1954).
But it seems the Caribe Hilton has the most street cred to make this claim. In 2004, the hotel was presented with a proclamation signed by Puerto Rico’s Governor as part of the Piña Colada’s 50th anniversary celebration that supported the Caribe Hilton as the cocktail’s birthplace. That could just be a helping of hometown support, but given the backstory and timing, we’re inclined to believe it.
Piña Colada recipes vary, especially in their proportions of rum, coconut, and pineapple juice. Our preferred version dials back the pineapple for a somewhat drier drink, while the Caribe Hilton’s uses a full six ounces. When making it for yourself, feel free to experiment to find whatever suits your tastes best. But Marrero’s original recipe is a great place to start.
Original Piña Colada Recipe
2 oz white rum
1 oz coconut cream
1 oz heavy cream
6 oz fresh pineapple juice
0.5 cup crushed ice
Add the rum, coconut cream, heavy cream, and pineapple juice to a blender. Add ice and blend for about 15 seconds until smooth. Serve in a 12-ounce glass. Garnish with a fresh pineapple wedge and maraschino cherry.