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What is a Piña Colada?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Perhaps few cocktail recipes define tropical drink as well as a piña colada, a blended beverage made from rum, ice, pineapple juice and coconut cream. This refreshing cocktail rivals the frozen daiquiri in popularity among imbibers vacationing in exotic ports of call and Caribbean-style resorts. A well-mixed drink combines the sweetness of pineapple and coconut with the sugary undertones of rum in a cool slurry of crushed ice.

A typical piña colada recipe calls for a 1 1/2 to 2 ounce pour of rum, which may be light, dark, golden or coconut-infused. The next ingredient is a generous supply of strained pineapple juice or the blended pulp of crushed pineapples. Some bartenders with access to fresh pineapples may even puree freshly-cut sections. The name piña colada literally means "strained pineapple".

The next ingredient is a matter of dispute among bartenders. Some recipes call for coconut milk, a thin liquid extracted from coconut pulp, while others call for coconut cream, a thicker and more processed coconut product available in many grocery stores. If coconut milk is used, some recipes suggest adding condensed milk as a thickener and stabilizer. Coconut cream should be thick enough to survive the blending process without separating.

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All of these ingredients, along with a supply of cubed ice, are placed in a blender and mixed until smooth. The finished drink is then poured into an oversized glass and garnished with fruits such as cherries and sectioned pineapple. A variant using vodka instead of rum is known as a Chi-Chi, and a carefully combined daiquiri/piña colada cocktail is called a Miami Vice.

The origins of the drink are shrouded in mystery. Pineapple juice itself can be served strained or unstrained, much like orange juice is strained for pulp. This non-alcoholic beverage would have been called a piña colada by itself by local residents. The first recipe for an alcoholic beverage called a piña colada appeared in the early 1920s, but it bears little resemblance to the modern frozen cocktail. Several nightclubs and bars in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean locales claim to have invented the first modern version, but these claims have been difficult to verify.

The piña colada is now the official drink of Puerto Rico.

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