Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | July 7, 2010

Piña Colada

I just spent a week vacationing in Puerto Rico – a couple days in San Juan and the rest in Vieques. I drank more Piña Coladas in the last eight days than I have in my entire life beforehand.  Puerto Rico in July is HOT and Piña Colada is a great cocktail to cool off. Is there any other time to have a frozen cocktail than when it’s in the upper 90s?

While in San Juan, I stopped by Restaurant Barrachina and the Caribe Hilton, both of which claim to have invented the Piña Colada in 1963 and 1954, respectively. I’d been to Barrachina before and enjoyed their Piña Colada, which was made with Ron del Barrilito Two Star. The downside with it is that they serve it mixed from a frozen drink machine and then add rum to it without mixing. They do this because they regularly serve over 1,000 Piña Coladas a day and do even more during peak seasons. It’s an understandable problem, but definitely detracts from a well-made cocktail.

The Piña Colada at the Caribe Hilton was mixed from scratch, but made with white Puerto Rican rum. It lacked the flavor of an aged rum. I ordered a second one with aged rum and got a fairly wild and overly potent concoction that used three kinds of dark rum. It was basically undrinkable.

Between the two, I’d say I preferred the Piña Colada from Barrachina by a long way.

But neither of the claimed originators provided the best Piña Colada I had on the trip.

In fact, the best Piña Colada I had in Puerto Rico – sampling from about twenty bars and restaurants in San Juan and Vieques – was from the W Hotel in Vieques. It was rich, creamy, and balanced, with great consistency and a paper-thin dried pineapple cross section as a garnish. Duffy’s in Esperanza was a close second, though it was interestingly made with Cruzan aged rum. Bananas in Esperanza was also top notch, though not quite as flavorful and rich as the one available at Duffy’s, it had exquisite consistency. I definitely got a kick out of two of the best Piña Coladas in Puerto Rico that I had coming from waterfront dive bars and not the slick joints that claim to have created the cocktail. At least that was my experience.

For a complete analysis of the history and recipe of the Piña Colada, check out the work of Giuseppe and Richard of Painkiller.

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