A good Piña Colada depends heavily on the rum selected for the job. Choose the right one, and you can take the Puerto Rican classic cocktail to glorious new heights. Blending coconut, pineapple, and rum, the Piña Colada is about as tropical as mixed drinks come. And a good rum cocktail can transport you straight to a warm San Juan beach. The key is to find a rum that works in harmony with the decidedly distinctive and sunny flavors of the other two main ingredients.
Problem is, many bartenders keep their specific rum selections under lock and key. Further, some of the best Piña Colada recipes incorporate a plurality of rums from different regions (often the Caribbean and Hawaii). While we don’t exactly expect you to craft something as perfect as what is engineered behind the bar at places like Tropicale, Lost Lake, or Polite Provisions, you can make a better Piña Colada. And a major first step in that process is grabbing the right rum.
We perused some of the better recipes out there and chatted up some industry experts for the best rums to call up when making a Piña Colada. Bust out the flip-flops, unfold the cocktail umbrella, and get to mixing with these standout selections.
Alicia Perry is the general manager and bartender at Polite Provisions. She appreciates this Jamaican selection for its “navy strength, earthy notes, and hints of caramelized banana.” It’s great and a little funky on its own but even better dressed up as a proper Piña Colada.
Why not rhum, rum’s cousin crafted from pressed sugarcane (instead of molasses)? Perry likes this white rhum from Martinique, which she says shows hints of merengue and a slight grassy and dryer finish. Pro tip: Use a blend of this rhum and Smith & Cross. That’s what Perry does. “The two really take the Piña Colada into another realm for me, providing more depth and layers of flavor that showcase pineapple and coconut in a more robust way.”
There are scores of infused rums out there, some far superior to others. This one from esteemed rum-maker Plantation is up for the task. “It lends a juicy caramelized pineapple backbone to the cocktail,” Perry says.
“It packs a punch of flavor with notes of toasted coconut and vanilla,” Perry says of the Real McCoy. Similar to above, she suggests blending this rum with Stiggin’s Fancy, yielding an intriguing flavor profile she equates to a Dole Whip.
Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, this rum shows pie fruit characteristics along with a nice oak influence. The baking spice aspects are especially tasty and fare well with the coconut flavors of the cocktail. The rum is a bit heavier so it’s especially good with a richer Piña Colada recipe.
The folks at Tropicale aren’t giving up their house Piña Colada recipe anytime soon. But we do know they like this premium rum from Nicaragua and we’ve tried it out to stellar results. It has a bit of spice to it, along with some tremendous citrus notes that play beautifully with pineapple.
This Pedro Mandinga rum is all about finesse and offers a kick of banana that rounds out the cocktail swimmingly. Most bartenders argue that it’s the best option out of Panama right now and it fits into a Piña Colada seamlessly.
This Venezuelan gem is a bona fide sipper and it does great things to a Pina Colada, especially a more delicate recipe that really sits back and lets the rum do the talking. It shows a bit of toffee, baking chocolate, and even a hint of anise. Pro tip: Half the amount of sweetener or coconut milk (if it’s sweetened) your recipe calls for to let the details of this rum come to the fore and play off of the other ingredients.
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