Cracking "The Colada Code"
Piña Colada's are just about my favorite summertime cocktail. Just one sip and your surroundings are transformed to a tropical beach somewhere in the Caribbean. Just one sniff of the coconut milk and you're reminded of the days when you didn't care what the sun did to your skin as long as you were covered in coconut oil.
We drink a lot of piña coladas at my house. I don't make them just for the grownups however. I make them for the kids as well -- virgin, of course. They absolutely love them! In fact, I have found that if you mix up a batch of piña coladas, thin it with just a bit of water, and pour into Popsicle molds and add the stick, they make perfect popsicles.
In Spanish, piña colada means "strained pineapple". It is such a popular drink in Puerto Rico that in 1978 it was declared the national drink of the country. It was invented in 1954 by Ramon "Monchito" Marrero, a bartender at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in San Juan. He wanted to capture all of the flavors of Puerto Rico in a glass. It took him three months of experimenting before he came up with the piña colada.
If you like Piña Coladas
I prefer frozen piña coladas. It's almost like having a frosty or a smoothie. I also prefer using the best ingredients when making a batch at home. I've read the ingredients on the back of all of the store-bought, pre-mixed piña coladas, and they are all made with high fructose corn syrup (an ingredient I try to avoid) and have very few natural ingredients.
I have found that a can of Coco Lopez mixed with a can of Dole pineapple juice makes the best piña colada. It has a more natural taste, whereas the frozen Barcardi mixes, or any of the other pre-made mixes, taste too sweet and artificial. Using real cream of coconut imported from the Dominican Republic gives a piña colada an almost nutty flavor. I think Coco Lopez is the most available cream of coconut product and can be purchased at most grocery and liquor stores.
Now let's talk about rum. Rum is a spirit usually made from sugar cane. Some rums are made from sugar cane juice while others are made from molasses, the byproduct of the sugar making process. Some rum is made from blends of sugar cane juice, cane syrup, and molasses, in varying combinations. According to Edward Hamilton, the Founder of the Ministry of Rum in Culebra, Puerto Rico, the best rums are made under the strict supervision of an experienced distiller and from fresh raw materials. Most of his favorite rums come from the countries of Guadeloupe, Martinique, Haiti, Barbados, Cuba, Guyana, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Croix, St. Thomas and Venezuela.
Recently, I have been enjoying a fabulous rum from Venezuela called Pamparo Anniversario, but I must admit that it can be hard to find. It's a dark blend of four to six-year-old rums and is just wonderful. However, I do believe it is best sipped and not mixed with anything. Another excellent aged rum is Doorly's X.O. Fine Barbados Rum with its toasted coconut and vanilla nose. For these two rums, forget the piña colada because refined, aged rum should really not be mixed with anything.
So for finding the right rum for a piña colada, it is best to stick with the more popular, inexpensive brands of rum such as Bacardi, Myers or Cruzan Estate Dark Rum. I believe that a golden (amber) or dark rum better suits a piña colada than a light rum; however, most recipes do not agree. I say, try it both ways and see what you like.
Piña Colada RecipeCombine 4 ounces Coco Lopez with 3 ounces pineapple juice. Add 2 cups of crushed ice, 2 jiggers (3 ounces) of dark rum and blend well. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.
Serving a piña colada in the proper glass is also important. Either a daiquiri glass or a traditional cocktail glass is what most bars and restaurants use. Garnish it with a large slice of fresh pineapple, leaving the peel on, and a maraschino cherry. Stick in a little paper umbrella, and you will feel the sand between your toes and the warm sun on your back.
Frozen Blender Full
Combine in blender one 15-ounce can of Coco Lopez with a 12-ounce can of Dole pineapple juice. Add 6 to 8 jiggers (9 to 12 ounces) of rum, and fill the blender the rest of the way with crushed ice. Blend well. Garnish with pineapple and cherry. About 8 servings.
Looking for Coco Lopez? Get it inexpensively here.
Kitchen tools you'll need: Blenders, Carafes & Pitchers, Cocktail Picks & Swizzle Sticks