The Best Piña Colada Recipe Is Also The Simplest

The original Piña Colada is a summertime classic. A few small details can take it to new heights.

Originally Published: 
A Piña Colada in a tall glass sat on a bar

Is there a drink more associated with time in the sun than the Piña Colada? If someone utters the word “frozen drink”, chances are a poco grande glass containing the pineapple, coconut, and rum concoction is the first thing that springs to mind. Sweet, rich, and very refreshing, its earned its place. And while, yes, there are certainly those who dislike the drink because of its reputation as a boozy, beachside cliché, the original Piña Colada recipe deserves respect. It’s a classic for a reason.

The prevailing lore is that the Piña Colada was invented in Puerto Rico in 1954 by the bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero Perez of the Caribe Hilton. It most certainly originated on the island around this time or thereabouts, and is the alcoholic version of a classic Cuban drink of the same name. Bartender Arturo Vera-Felicié, a freelance mixologist with Puerto Rican roots who was named best bartender in Kansas City, defines the drink’s make-up simply: “Three ingredients: pineapple, coconut, rum.”

Now, there are some variances to keep in mind. The pineapples in Puerto Rico around the time the drink was invented, Vera-Felicié notes, were different from those we get today. “According to my father, they were squatter and sweeter than modern pineapples,” he says. This size made them better vessels for hollowing and drinking from, and it also meant that freshly juiced pineapple will achieve the sweetness of the original better than canned juice.

The original recipe doesn’t need to be tinkered with. But, if you’re making a batch, a few small tips can translate to the best Piña Colada you’ll ever drink.

Tips For Making A Truly Great Piña Colada

Use a whole pineapple for the juice, for chunks of the fruit itself, and even for serving it. Because of the larger size of today’s pineapples, you may want to include multiple straws or use it as a serving vessel rather than a single-portion option.

To break the fruit down, Vera-Felicié recommends using a pineapple corer. With the tool, you can easily remove the tender interior fruit while leaving the shell intact.

“If done correctly, the husk can be cleaned and frozen to use as a drinking vessel.” Freezing it will keep the drink cooler for longer and also maintain the structural rigidity of the walls.

When juicing the pineapple, be sure to juice the core with the rest. It adds “lovely flavors and brightness” to the juice, Vera-Felicié says.

To add another dimension of flavor, roast the pineapple chunks in the oven before adding them to the blender with the other ingredients for a “nice, caramelized flavor.”

Coconut milk, the main source of the drink’s richness, is a crucial component. Opt for Coco Lopez. “It’s the brand my mother used,” Vera-Felicié says. Nostalgia aside, the brand of milk was also what was used in the original cocktail when it was invented and it provides the body the cocktail requires. “A frozen Piña Colada needs cream of coconut milk, both for the fat content and the sugar levels.”

As for rum, Vera-Felicié says that when Ramón ‘Monchito’ Marrero Perez created the Piña Colada in 1954, he likely used Don Q rum. But he points out that the style of rum on the island in the 1950’s is different than it is now, and back then it had a higher proof and spent a longer time in the barrel. Today, he says to use Puerto Rican and Cuban rums due to their dry style, and the fact that no sugar is added.

“This helps create a balanced frozen cocktail that gets its sweetness from the other two ingredients.” To add more depth of flavor to the cocktail, he recommends experimenting with a mix of aged and younger rums.

Finally, he suggests add a few dashes of Angostura bitters. “Old school Cuban and Puerto Rican bartenders always sneak in a little Ango into their tropical drinks.”

More than a cocktail, the Piña Colada is a state of mind. And it has authentic roots. It’s also the kind of rich, sweet drink that you only need one of, so you better make it count.

The Original Piña Colada Recipe by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero Perez’, Caribe Hilton, 1954


  • 2 oz light Puerto Rican or Cuban rum (or a combination of aged and younger rums)
  • 1 oz Coco Lopez coconut milk
  • 1 oz heavy cream
  • 6 oz pineapple juice
  • 1/2 to 1 cup pebble ice
  • A few dashes of Angostura bitters


  1. Blend all ingredients except for Angostura bitters for 15 seconds
  2. Add mixture to a pineapple husk or Hurricane glass and top with a few dashes of bitters.
  3. Garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry

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