In the land of drinks, the piña colada has become something of a tourist trap, reserved for sun-burned vacationers in Jimmy Buffet attire. But that’s unfair to the rum-soaked smoothie of sorts. A good piña colada is a wonderful, wonderful thing, especially when you need to transport yourself to somewhere warm and beachy. As in right now, while you sit shivering in front of your heater vent watching the last of the leaves fall from the trees.
What makes the tropical drink so good? For starters, it evokes a laid-back island somewhere near the equator. Secondly, it’s playful, marrying amazing flavors like coconut, pineapple, and lime and doing so in a fun, Slurpee-like format. Many argue that it’s a classic among the tiki canon of drinks while others dispute that, arguing that it should be in its own regional family of sun-kissed cocktails (the original is believed to be first devised in Puerto Rico).
Regardless, it’s a staple within the rum category. It can be simple and slapped together with a few liberal pours and a blender or complicated, with carefully-sourced ingredients and a layer-stacking approach to building additional flavors. If you’re somebody like Alfredo Climaco of newly-opened Portland, Oregon, bar Tropicale, you take the drink quite seriously.
Climaco is, in many circles, affectionately known as the “piña colada king.” The Mexico native launched Tropicale this August. It’s a pop-up bar specializing in the cocktail, along with Caribbean and Latin American-inspired small plate items. The bar itself sends you straight to the south side of the border with its gorgeous green Talavera tiles. For a top of the line piña colada, either splashed with rum or zero-proof, it’s the place to go.
“Well, I believe that high-quality ingredients make a great piña colada,” Climaco says. “Our piña colada is handcrafted with whole pineapples, never the frozen stuff. We use organic coconut meat and coconut cream. We serve it with Oregon cherry juice, Oregon cherries, in-house dehydrated grapefruit, and more fresh pineapple,” he adds. “We make our piña colada with a lot of care and you can taste that.”
To experience the Tropicale piña colada, you have to go straight to the source as the recipe is under lock and key. But we’ve got you covered with an equally enticing recipe below from lauded bartender Erick Castro, as told to Punch. Let Climaco inspire you to not only perfect the drink, but also play around with it until you find your own favorite in-house batch. It’s a bright and boozy means of getting through what’s promising to be a long and ominous winter.
There are a few things to keep in mind when making one of these island-ready cocktails. Pay attention to the rum you use and look to perhaps elevate your home collection for the best results. The lineup at Clément, for example, is both impressive and delicious. You may not have access to fresh whole pineapple, but you can likely get at some pretty good coconut products, either at your local grocer or online. And don’t forget to have fun dressing up and accessorizing the end product with things like custom straws, plant leaves, or even little figurines or flags. A good piña colada is refreshing and palate-pleasing but it’s also something you should have some fun with.
(Created by Erick Castro of Polite Provisions)
- 1.5 oz pineapple juice
- 1.5 oz Coco Lopez
- 0.5 oz white rum (Plantation 3 Stars is suggested)
- 0.5 oz overproof rum (Smith & Cross is suggested)
- 0.5 oz dark rum (Plantation Original Dark is suggested)
- 0.5 oz dark Rhum Agricole (try Clément Rhum Agricole Premiére Canne)
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin and shake with 0.5-oz pebble ice to dissolve.
- Strain into a chilled Hurricane glass filled with pebble ice.
- Garnish with an orange slice, a brandied cherry, and a pineapple frond.
To make the most of your tiki drink, make sure to visit our guide to the best rums for piña Coladas.
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