Where was the pina colada invented: This Is Where The Piña Colada Was Born
Where Was the Piña Colada Born? A Bar Fight Between Two Puerto Rico Tourism Icons
In San Juan, a historic hotel and a restaurant popular with cruisers both claim to have invented the boozy beachside beverage. Can we settle this dispute?
The origins of the piña colada are like the origins of the universe: shrouded in mystery and hotly disputed.
In Puerto Rico, where the fruity-frothy combo of pineapple, coconut cream, and rum is considered the official cocktail of the island, two different San Juan businesses—the Caribe Hilton hotel and Barrachina restaurant—claim to be the birthplace of the drink.
Both establishments date to the island’s mid–20th century “Operation Bootstrap” era, when Puerto Rico’s political and business leaders determined to transform the economy from an agricultural one dependent on the cultivation of sugarcane to an industrial one powered by manufacturing and tourism.
It was a time of surging affluence, modern improvements, and, often, abuses of the poor—you know, 1950s stuff.
Not long after Puerto Rico opened the gates to mass tourism, visitors began slurping down Puerto Rican piña coladas by the bucketful. And who could blame them? We’re talking about a creamy fruit smoothie with booze.
The cocktail’s most astute review remains the one delivered by Hollywood legend Joan Crawford, who, upon tasting a piña colada for the first time, supposedly declared it was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.” (And if Crawford didn’t actually say that, she should have.)
But where was the Bette-battery-besting beverage born?
Claimant #1: Caribe Hilton
When it opened in 1949 on a peninsula next to an 18th-century Spanish fort overlooking the mouth of the Condado Lagoon, the Caribe Hilton (1 San Gerónimo St.) held the distinction of being the first modern luxury hotel in Puerto Rico as well as the first Hilton built outside the continental United States.
It had a tropical, mid-century modern flair reminiscent of Miami Beach as well as considerable star power, attracting the likes of Sophia Loren, Rita Moreno, and Elizabeth Taylor, who spent part of a honeymoon here (she probably got the family discount—she had just married Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Jr. ).
(Vintage photo of the Caribe Hilton’s beach; credit: Caribe Hilton)
The place has undergone several expansions and renovations over the decades, most recently after Hurricane Maria did its damage in 2017. A $150-million facelift completed in 2019 brought additional fortifications to protect against storms as well as updated décor in soothing shades of blue and white to all 652 guest rooms, along with a new spa and dining venues (there are nine altogether).
(Credit: Caribe Hilton)
But the hotel has retained links to its long past as well. Displays of vintage photos in the lobby show off Eisenhower-era visitors sipping from coconuts and wearing straw hats. Parrots and peacocks still live amid the tropical landscaping as always. And Ramón “Monchito” Marrero’s piña colada recipe is still served at the bar.
In 1954, the hotel says, bartender Marrero came up with the perfect balance of ingredients after months of experimenting, and, to paraphrase the title of one of that year’s Oscar nominees, a star was born.
(Photo of bartender Ramón Marrero at the Caribe Hilton; credit: Zac Thompson)
Marrero never patented the drink and, in fact, the recipe is emblazoned on a wall next to the bar, right next to its progenitor’s photo. You put 2 ounces of white rum, 1 ounce of coconut cream, 1 ounce of heavy cream, and 6 ounces of fresh pineapple juice in a blender. Add half a cup of crushed ice and blend until smooth. Serve in a 12-ounce glass, garnished with a pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.
The result: a drinkable dessert sweet enough to resolve the fiercest of Hollywood feuds (Crawford is supposed to have uttered her assessment of the drink, by the way, at the hotel’s Beachcomber Bar, which was later replaced by a joint off the lobby called Caribar).
Marrero worked at the hotel for another 35 years, during which time the piña colada became a big international hit. As for receiving recognition, Marrero, who retired in 1989 and has since died, once told the Washington Post that cream-of-coconut maker Coco Lopez gave him a color television set on the day in 1978 when he sold his 3 millionth piña colada.
The company was kind enough not to take the gift back the following year, when Rupert Holmes released his Gift-of-the-Magi-but-with-adultery earworm “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).”
(Piña colada from the Caribe Hilton; credit: Discover Puerto Rico)
In 2004, Puerto Rico’s then-governor, Sila María Calderón, issued an official proclamation marking the 50th anniversary of the piña colada. Having laid eyes on the document, we can confirm that the text names Marrero as the cocktail’s creator and the Caribe Hilton as its place of birth.
Case closed? Not quite.
Claimant #2: Barrachina
A little more than 2 miles west of the Caribe Hilton, amid the bluish cobblestones and pastel-colored Spanish Colonial architecture of historic Old San Juan, a large stone plaque outside Barrachina restaurant (104 Calle de la Fortaleza) heralds the building, in both Spanish and English, as: “The House Where in 1963 the Piña Colada Was Created by Don Ramon Portas Mingot. ”
In contrast with the Caribe Hilton’s story about the drink’s origins, the plaque posits a different year, a different location, and a different Ramon.
(Plaque at Barrachina restaurant in Old San Juan; credit: Zac Thompson)
Frommer’s paid a visit to Barrachina to get to the bottom of things and to get to the bottom of another piña colada glass (for journalism!).
The restaurant is an unashamedly tourist-friendly spot with an indoor-outdoor layout made to look something like the leafy, fountain-dotted courtyard in a rural Latin American village. There are touches of Spain thrown in for good measure, including paella on the menu and a live flamenco floor show (not scheduled for the night we were there). Frozen piña coladas are served in milkshake glasses with little umbrellas, Love Boat-style.
The bartender on duty didn’t know much about piña colada lore, but later, over the telephone, head bartender Jorge Ayala filled us in.
In 1963, according to Ayala, Barrachina’s man behind the bar was Ramon Portas Mingot, a recent arrival to the island from Argentina (though the restaurant’s website describes him as a “traditional Spanish bartender,” whatever that means).
Mingot won a cocktail-making contest that year with his original piña colada recipe, Ayala says, earning inventor bragging rights and prompting the business to install the plaque.
(You may also hear talk around town that the Caribe Hilton’s Marrero worked at Barrachina first and brought the piña colada over to the hotel with him, but that seems unlikely given that Barrachina opened in the early ‘60s, by which time Marrero had been working at the Hilton for several years.)
Barrachina’s profile is bolstered considerably by being located in Old San Juan, a beloved day trip setting for fun-seeking cruise ship passengers, who are more than willing to risk brain freeze in order to suck down a piña colada in the spot where it was allegedly first mixed.
“We were selling 2,200 a day before the pandemic,” Ayala claims.
Now, because Barrachina’s piña colada year zero is 1963—which is, our calendar tells us, later than the Caribe Hilton’s 1954—buying the restaurant’s claim to firstness requires believing that Barrachina’s version is the first true piña colada.
(Piña colada at Barrachina restaurant in Old San Juan; credit: Discover Puerto Rico)
“People make two mistakes” when trying to formulate the drink, Ayala says. “They use too much coconut and they use ice.”
Barrachina’s drink, however, has far more pineapple than coconut cream, and the two ingredients are combined in a slush that’s kept churning in machines behind the bar, sort of like the frozen margarita contraptions at Tex-Mex restaurants.
The mix is poured over Don Q Gold rum and stirred to make the finished product, which won’t, the bartender says, get watered down by melting ice.
Not to mention that removing the blender from the equation makes the drink easier to distribute to hundreds of rowdy cruisers at once.
Barrachina’s fruit-forward concoction does offer an alternative to the Caribe Hilton’s creamier, foamier take. But does this make Barrachina’s contribution a whole new creation or a variation on a theme?
Unless you want to split hairs and argue over the one true pineapple-to-coconut ratio, the evidence seems to support the Caribe Hilton’s claim that its bartender created the piña colada—or, in any case, the modern version of the drink we know today.
In 2017’s Rum Curious: The Indispensable Tasting Guide to the World’s Spirit, author Fred Minnick digs up newspaper stories from as early as the 1920s that reference piña coladas, beating the Caribe Hilton by three decades.
Most of the earlier versions are alcohol-free combos of pineapple and coconut, though Minnick does cite vintage references to adding rum into the mix. More alarming from the Puerto Rican perspective, reporters in the ’20s describe the drink as Cuban (heresy!).
Hedging its bets, Puerto Rico’s tourism organization suggests the piña colada just may have been invented even before that, by Puerto Rican pirate and folk hero Roberto Cofresí (1791–1825), a noble-born bandit who has become, over time, a mythic figure thought of as a Caribbean Robin Hood. Hey, pirates famously like rum and Cofresí was a pirate, so why not?
With the past made murky by decades of barroom boasts, corporate promotion, tourist misinformation, and rum goggles, it’s probably impossible to deliver a final verdict on the cocktail’s origins.
Can we declare a mistrial and head for the pool?
After all, even if neither Ramon—the one at the Caribe Hilton or the one at Barrachina—was actually the first soul on earth to find the magic combination that is a piña colada, the important thing is that both drinks are delicious and just different enough to demand a taste test to compare.
As the country music superstar and unheralded conflict negotiator Garth Brooks once put it: «Bring me two piña coladas. I want one for each hand.”
Who Invented the Piña Colada? » Whalebone
The piña colada, sweet with coconut cream, tart with pineapple juice, and garnished with a red maraschino cherry and hopefully a small colorful umbrella is a true staple of any tropical vacation (real or imagined). The piña colada represents palm trees, balmy nights, and not a worry in the world. The ultimate umbrella drink, it feels like it’s always been a part of our getaway dreams. But somebody had to have made the first one at some point, right? Who was it? For a change, nobody says it was Hemingway who invented or inspired it.
Birra & Empanadas
Barrachina, located in the historical section of San Juan, Puerto Rico known as Old San Juan, claims to be the founder of the piña colada. (Although, nearby resort the Caribe Hilton also boasts the same claim, so take your pick—you’re in good hands either way). Located in a historical building on Calle Fortalezza, Barrachina is situated in an outdoor courtyard with merlot-colored walls and rustic decor.
When Barrachina opened their doors in the late 1950s it was known for their paella. But in 1963, head bartender and mixologist Ramon Portas Mingot is said to have concocted the first piña colada behind the bar, and the frothy drink became the star of Barrachina. It went onto become the official National Drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.
In Old San Juan to do some serious “research” into the topic, I settled onto a stool at the bar and ordered up a piña colada. Served frozen in a tall glass complete with a cherry, pineapple wedge and tiny umbrella. I was stoked to try one of my favorite tropical drinks in its supposed birthplace.
Served frozen in a tall glass complete with a cherry, pineapple wedge and tiny umbrella.
OK. So it might not have been the best piña colada I’ve ever had, but it definitely hit the spot. Barrachina is a lively bar and restaurant filled by tourists and locals every night. Come, sidle up to the bar or a table, order a piña colada and discover the place that made this drink famous.
During my one-night stay in Old San Juan I made it my mission to find some of the best bars in this part of the city. We can’t take these things lightly. Research is important. After trying the piña colada at Barrachina, I drank craft beer at La Taberna Lúpulo, ate empanadas at Birra & Empanadas, danced with the locals at La Factoría and enjoyed cuba libres at a dive bar called El Batey.
If you are keeping score at home:
- Birra & Empanadas: small bar serving up Argentinian style empanadas and good vibes.
- El Batey: who doesn’t love a good dive bar with graffiti covered walls and cheap rum drinks?
- La Taberna Lúpulo: a hip beer hall serving up over 50 different beers on tap.
- La Factoría: a veritable Russian doll of bar. The most famous bar in Old San Juan, visiting La Facortía is a must. Don’t be fooled. There’s more than what you may spy when you first enter. You must walk through the doors to the right of the bar to get to the three other bars, each one different from the next.
And if while you are keeping score at home, you want to make a frosty Piña Colada, have at it:
FROZEN PIÑA COLADA RECIPE
3 parts pineapple juice
1 part coconut cream
1 part dark rum
Blend all ingredients with ice. Whip it good.
Top off with a rum floater and garnish with maraschino cherry, pineapple wedge, coconut flakes, and, of course, an umbrella
Read Ariana’s full guide to exploring Old San Juan here.
Pina colada — cocktail composition, TOP-5 proven step-by-step recipes with photos!
Pina Colada is a delicious yet easy-to-make cocktail known to everyone. It is served in almost all restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, in different flavors.
Pina colada cocktail looks great in the photo, which is noted by many girls as a plus. You can prepare such a cocktail at home in just a few minutes. Homemade pina colada will impress everyone!
- What is the cocktail made of?
- Coconut milk/cream
- Where did the cocktail come from?
- How do you make a pina colada?
- Pure Alcohol Free Pina Colada
- Chi Chi Pina Colada
- Lava Flow
- Amaretto Pina Colada
- Strawberry Pina Colada
- Banana Pina Colada
- with ice cream»
- Picture of pina colada
What is the cocktail made from?
The traditional pina colada recipe is made with rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice. But now there are many more recipes, everyone can find a pina colada to their taste. There are even recipes for non-alcoholic pina coladas!
Pina colada is considered to be an alcoholic cocktail, and therefore rum is indispensable. 3 varieties of rum will do.
White or light rum. It is used as a classic version, it gives a delicate taste, not very strong.
Dark rum. It is used less frequently and is taken by volume 2 times less than light rum. The cocktail has a more tart aroma and bright taste bitterness.
Golden rum. This type of alcohol is used very rarely, as it is believed that it drowns out the real taste of the cocktail. Used for a sweeter flavor.
If it is not possible to find rum, then it can be replaced with vodka, but in this case, you will have to add no more than 25g.
The original recipe uses coconut cream, which was the main secret ingredient. But the recipe has undergone many changes, and now there are many more variations of what you can make your favorite cocktail from.
What to replace? Instead of cream, you can use:
Coconut milk. As a rule, it is used in the preparation of a cocktail, since it is much easier to find milk than coconut cream.
Dried coconut cream/milk. If it is not possible to find milk or cream, then you can replace it with dry ingredients. In this case, it is worth adding a little more pineapple juice.
Coconut cream. It is not added during cooking. It is used in the form of a cap on the finished drink.
Where did the cocktail come from?
The story goes that the pina colada cocktail appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. The recipe was developed through long experiments and was a resounding success with customers.
Pina colada was first invented in the Caribbean, but soon the recipe migrated to America and then to Europe. At the moment, the cocktail is basic, i.e. any novice bartender should be able to cook it.
How do you make a pina colada?
Of course, we are not bartenders, but today we can also make pina colada at home.
Classic. The most popular and easy homemade pina colada recipe.
The composition of pina colada, as well as its preparation, is terribly simple.
You only need 3 ingredients to make your own cocktail.
- 30-40 g light or white rum
- 90-100 g — pineapple juice (not syrup from canned pineapple pieces!!!)
- 40 g coconut milk or cream
All ingredients (preferably cold) must be mixed into a homogeneous mass using a blender.
Serve the cocktail in a tall glass, garnished with a slice of pineapple.
Unusual cooking options.
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«Pure» pina colada without alcohol
This recipe is suitable for those who lead a healthy lifestyle, children, motorists, opponents of alcohol.
- Pineapple juice — 20 g
- Coconut milk — 50 g
- Medium fat cream — 30 g
Whisk all the ingredients, adding powdered sugar if necessary. Serve in a tall glass.
Pina Colada Chi Chi
Prepared in the same way as the classic one, but vodka is used instead of rum.
Classic pina colada mixed with daiquiri.
Pina colada amaretto
Amaretto liqueur is used instead of rum. Amigos
It differs from the classics in that it mixes white and black rum. White idea is 2 times more.
Pina colada with strawberries
A variant that is loved by many.
Prepared in the same way as a traditional pina colada, but with the addition of a few large berries or strawberry puree while whipping.
Banana Pina Colada
You will need 70 g white rum, 90 g pineapple juice, one whole banana.
Whisk all ingredients together.
Pina colada with ice cream
You will need 20 g of regular ice cream, 60 g of pineapple juice, 30 g of rum.
Whisk all ingredients together. You can add a few pieces of ice.
Photo of pina colada
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Pina Colada: cocktail composition, homemade recipe
Pina Colada cocktail, or Pina Colada (phonetically more literate name, even known to almost every person) away from the alcohol industry. This is one of the drinks that has a very loud reputation and great popularity, originating in the Caribbean. In terms of its refinement of taste, it can probably yield only to Cosmopolitan. Pina Colada is a kind of emblem of Puerto Rico. nine0003
History of creation
There are several versions of Pina Colada’s appearance on the cocktail market. According to one version, the earliest, the creator is a pirate from Puerto Rico — Roberto Cofresi. To boost the morale of his team, around 1800 he mixed light rum, pineapple juice and coconut. After his death (1825) the recipe was lost.
According to another version, if not the creator of the cocktail itself, then Ramon Marrero, a bartender from the Beachcamera Bar, took up the task of determining its recipe. For the first time, the cocktail appeared on the bar menu on August 16, 1954 years old. It included a product that Ramon Lopez Irizzari invented — Coco Lopez Coconut Cream. This story is highly commercial in nature and is questioned just because the mention of Pina Colada took place back in 1950 in the New York Times.
The author of the famous Caribbean cocktail, according to the third version, is Ramon Portas Mingota from La Barchitta. However, his version of Pina Colada was not released until 1964. Along with this, this story is officially recognized in Puerto Rico. nine0003
There are several more versions of the appearance of the drink, which are not very popular and are not proven by almost any facts, or pale in comparison with others. For example:
- 1906 Washington Post mention of a cocktail;
- 1914, Ricardo Garcia, Barcelona;
- 1922 Travel magazine touted a drink made from rum, pineapple juice and lime with added sugar.
This cocktail was registered in the bar list of the International Bartending Association (IBA) on 1961 years old. Rupert Holmes’ song «The Piña Colada Song» brought him popularity.
The original recipe
Of the many variations, Ramon Mingota’s was the original. According to his recipe, Pina Colada contains:
- white Cuban rum — 30 ml;
- coconut milk or coconut cream — 30 ml;
- strained pineapple juice — 90 ml;
- frozen crushed ice — 50 gr;
- cocktail cherry and/or pineapple slice — 1 pc. nine0015
Rum, milk and juice are blended with ice in a blender until smooth. The resulting cocktail is poured into tall goblet or hurricane glasses. Served with a straw, the glass is garnished with a slice of pineapple and/or a cherry.
Where coconut milk is hard to find, Malibu coconut liqueur is taken instead. In this case, cream of 11-12% fat content is added to the composition.
Kavist with experience
Experts believe that for making a cocktail you need to take only Cuban rum, and preferably Puerto Rican origin. This is more of a nitpick, since any quality white rum is suitable, the country of origin does not matter. nine0003
Serving and drinking
Pina Colada is served in a tall glass with several straws, garnished with a slice of pineapple or a cherry. Sometimes serving with a lime wedge is allowed (especially if it is a variation with lime juice).
Cocktail is served in small volumes from 160 to 400 ml. Larger volumes are usually controlled by ice cubes, in which case no ice is added to the blender.
Interesting serving options are pineapple or coconut shell. The cap is cut off from the pineapple, the flesh is scraped off, ice is added and, in fact, a cocktail. Optionally, a hole is made in the cap itself, where tubules are inserted, or served open with tubules and cocktail cherries. They also do it with a coconut — the half is scraped off, the composition is poured into it, preferably already with crushed ice. nine0003
Despite the fact that the cocktail belongs to long drinks, it is advisable to drink it within 5-15 minutes, especially if it contains heavy cream. This is due to the fact that under the action of sour pineapple juice, the cream curdles, and the cocktail loses its attractiveness. Melting ice dilutes its taste, which also does not have a very good effect on taste characteristics. Longer use is also allowed for those who want to dilute the sweetness of the cocktail with melting ice — provided there is no cream. nine0003
Thick varieties, with pulp, drunk with a straw and a small long spoon. After drinking the liquid part, the thick part is used as a dessert.
Due to the large amount of ice that gradually melts, this cocktail is considered summer.
As for the strength, the answer to the question of how many degrees in Pina Colada depends on the rum used in the recipe. The strength of the rum varies from 40 to 75 degrees. As a rule, dark brands are stronger than light ones.
There are many recipes for Pina Colada, since Cuban rum or coconut milk are not available in all regions of the world.
- Virgin Colada, or Non-Alcoholic Pina Colada — as the name implies, is a non-alcoholic option, suitable for children and those who do not drink alcohol. Its composition includes:
- pineapple juice without pulp — 90 ml;
- coconut cream, milk or coconut cream — 30 ml; nine0015
- lime juice — 25 ml;
- 2 teaspoons of whipped cream.
The ingredients are whipped in a blender (which is more suitable for all cocktail options) or in a shaker. The cocktail is served in tall glasses with crushed ice and is drunk through a straw. For decoration, pineapple slices and cocktail cherries are used, as in the original composition.
- Chi Chi — a variant of Piña Colada, where rum is replaced by regular vodka:
- vodka — 50 ml;
nine0014 coconut cream / coconut syrup / Malibu liqueur (optional) — 2 teaspoons;
- pineapple juice — 90 ml.
Mix the whole composition in a shaker, filter into a tall chilled hurricane glass or snifter. The cocktail is decorated like a regular Piña Colada.
- Bahia — an alcoholic version with the addition of whipped or coconut cream, which are an obligatory ingredient. Pineapple juice — 120 ml;
- light Cuban rum — 60 ml; nine0015
- coconut milk — 2 teaspoons.
Blend all ingredients in a blender or mixer for a few minutes (no more than five), serve in hurricane glasses with orange or pineapple slices.
- Lava Flow, or Hawaiian Pina Colada, is a combination of Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri.
- pineapple juice — 60 ml;
- coconut syrup or coconut milk — 30 ml;
- white rum — 45 ml;
nine0014 vanilla ice cream — 20 gr;
- strawberry puree — 45 ml.
Strawberry puree is made independently from fresh strawberries or is taken ready-made, for which the berries are whipped in a blender, laid at the bottom of tall glasses (half a tablespoon per glass). The rest of the ingredients are placed in a clean mixing container, whipped and slowly poured into glasses. Served with a straw and a small long spoon.
- Amaretto colada — Piña Colada, which has added an additional element in the form of Amaretto liqueur.
- light rum — 50 ml;
- pineapple juice without pulp — 130 ml;
- Amaretto liqueur — 30 ml;
- Malibu liqueur — 40 ml.
The whole composition is whipped in a blender with crushed ice (in stages — first the liquid components, then ice is added), the mixture is poured into chilled glasses. Serving is the same as regular Piña Colada.
- Fruit Colada — cocktails that contain apple, orange, melon or any other juice instead of pineapple juice. According to the selected juice, the cocktail will bear its name — Apple Colada, Strawberry Colada, etc.
- white Cuban rum — 30 ml;
- coconut milk or Malibu liqueur — 30 ml;
- fruit juice — 90 ml;
- crushed ice — 50 gr;
The ingredients are mixed in a blender, the cocktail is served as usual.
- Banana Colada, or Banana Colada, prepared with banana puree:
- light rum — 60 ml;
- pineapple juice — 100 ml;
- coconut milk or Malibu liqueur — a tablespoon; nine0015
- ripe banana — 1 pc.
Sliced banana and liquid ingredients of the cocktail are added to the blender, whipped until smooth, the whole mixture is poured into a chilled tall glass. The cocktail is decorated with straws and a pineapple slice.
- Blue Hawaii, according to some sources, can be considered both an independent cocktail and a variety of Pina Colada:
- white rum — 40 ml;
- Blue Curacao liqueur — 20 ml;
- unstrained pineapple juice — 100 ml; nine0015
- lemon juice — 20 ml;
- coconut liqueur — 20 ml;
- crushed ice.
All ingredients are blended and served in tall hurricane glasses with straws and a pineapple or lemon wedge.
How to make Pina Colada at home?
This cocktail is very easy to make at home for parties or just for yourself.