Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | April 15, 2009

The Pina Colada

I just got back from my vacation to Puerto Rico. One of the interesting things about visiting there was the number of uniquely Puerto Rican drinks – or at least drinks that Puerto Rico’s rum culture cling closely to. From the Mojito to the Daiquiri to the Cuba Libre, Puerto Rico has found some ways to put rum in your belly. The one that is most quintessentially Puerot Rico, though, is probably the Pina Colada [Edit: Though I think PR’s native beer, Medalla Light, probably is a bigger draw].

The origin of the Pina Colada is under dispute. But to the extent that something being written in stone matters, the Restaurant Barrachina has this plaque nailed outside their entrance, claiming rights to the creation of the drink in 1963:

I was able to sample “original” Pina Colada while at Restaurant Barrachina. The frozen drink was premixed and waiting in dispensers at the bar. The only addition was rum. In our case, we went with Bacardi Select, which added a nice brown ripple through the cocktail.

I’ve said before that I’m not a big fan of Tiki drinks. To understand the extent to which sweet, frozen drinks aren’t my think, I could safely say that frozen drinks like a Pina Colada make me long for the heady, booziness of a Tiki drink. That said, it was in the mid 90s throughout my stay in Puerto Rico. And in the middle of the day, drinking my first Pina Colada at Restaurant Barrachina, I felt refreshed drinking the sweet, sweet flavors of a Puerto Rican original.

I didn’t have another Pina Colada after the one at Barrachina throughout my trip. I’d thought about going to the Caribe Hilton in Old San Juan, who also claims to have created the Pina Colada…in 1954. But at the end of the day, the kitsch of drinking a drink that I’m not terribly enthused by at a bar connected to its creation didn’t sound that compelling.

It’s also worth noting that my visit to Restaurant Barrachina was just one small part of a trip that seemed to recreate the Three Sheets episode in Puerto Rico. In it, Zane Lamprey visited Barrachina for the pina colada. He also made mojitos at NoNo’s, an Old San Juan bar that happened to be one of my first stops on Day One. Naturally, in addition to a couple Medalla’s, we sampled their mojito. Good stuff, but nothing mindblowing. And unfortunately it turned out to be one of the best mojitos we had on the trip.

I’ll have a couple more posts in coming days about my trip to Puerto Rico and the rum, beer, and cocktail experiences I had while there.

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