Travel to any island, or just want to be transported to the islands, and a pina colada is on the drink of choice. They are made by blending coconut cream, pineapple juice, rum, and crushed ice. Then it’s poured into a glass (or a pineapple if you’re lucky) and topped with a slice of pineapple and a maraschino cherry. With its refreshing coconut flavor, they are a heavenly summertime cocktail. But have you ever wondered who invented them?
Three bartenders stake their claim to being the inventor of the pina colada.
Ramón “Monchito” Marrero Pérez was a bartender in San Juan and experimented with drinks for his Beachcomber Bar at the Caribe Hilton. In 1954, he tested a cocktail with newly invented Coco Lopez. Coco Lopez is a pre-made coconut cream an essential ingredient in Perez’s pina colada.
Ricardo Garcia, another Caribe Hilton bartender, also claims he invented the pina colada.
He says the coconut-cutters were on strike, therefore he couldn’t make the popular drink that was served in a coconut shell. Instead, Garcia began to add freshly strained pineapple juice to the drink and serve it in a hollowed out pineapple. Pina colada translates to strained pineapple.
But, yet another bartender claims he is the inventor. Restaurant Barrachina says that in 1963 their bartender, Ramon Portas Mingot, mixed the drink there for the first time.
Legend also says in the 19th century, a Puerto Rican named Roberto Cofresi combined white rum, pineapple juice, and coconut milk. Roberto was a pirate and gave the cocktail to other crew members to make them happy. He died in 1825 without ever sharing the recipe.
While we don’t know which version is right, we do lean towards it being invented at the Caribe Hilton. In 2000 and 2014, Puerto Rico’s governor hailed the Caribe Hilton the “Birthplace of the Pina Colada.”
The rise in popularity of blenders in the 1970s and the ability for tourists to vacation in Puerto Rico and taste this frozen cocktail helped to make this frozen summertime drink more popular in the United States. It became the official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.
Blue Ribbon Pina Colada Recipes
Since we can’t all travel to Puerto Rico, here are some recipes for a variation on the cocktail or recipes that celebrate pina colada flavors.