Last week's column got me thinking a bit more about rum, especially now that summer's almost here. Rum has an affinity for fruit juices, especially tropical fruit juices, which makes it a natural for summertime entertaining. And what's more tropical, with its coconut and pineapple flavoring, than a piña colada?
Depending on which version of history you believe, the piña colada has either been around since the 1800s or was invented in 1954 at a bar in San Juan. The truth of these things is always a little hard to ascertain, but most stories seem to agree that this drink originated in the Caribbean region, which certainly seems likely given the ingredients, which include pineapple juice, coconut, and rum.
The piña colada became firmly implanted in American minds (in an ear-worm kind of way) by recording artist Rupert Holmes, who released a song called "Escape" on an unsuspecting public in 1979. You probably know the chorus to this song by heart whether you like it or not, and it's become known informally as "The Piña Colada Song." The drink soared to such heights of popularity during the '80s that it was not uncommon to attend bridal showers or weddings where a piña colada fountain was the center of attention (and yes, it does have the reputation in some quarters as being a bit of a "girl's drink," but who cares?).
So how can you make one at home? You'll need some pineapple juice for starters; you can, of course, juice your own, but a good quality, store-bought brand of 100% pineapple juice will do just fine. You'll also need some coconut cream, which is different from coconut milk, so do read the labels on the cans. Coco Lopez makes a coconut cream which is already sweetened, so you don't need to use sugar or simple syrup when you make your drink, as some recipes call for. And last, but certainly not least, you'll need some light rum, and your trusty blender.
Proportions vary according to recipe sources, and you can (and should) always modify these things to suit your own tastes, but this basic recipe (this makes one drink; scale accordingly to make two) will get you started:
4 oz. pineapple juice
2 oz. coconut cream
1.5 oz. light rum
Pour ingredients into a blender along with 1-2 cups of crushed ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry and a small slice of fresh pineapple.
Like I said, feel free to experiment with the proportions. Some people like to add a little lime juice to cut the sweetness (and if you don't like sweet drinks, you might find this a bit cloying, so the lime juice might be a good idea). You could experiment with the rum, too; a darker rum would deepen the flavor a bit.
All you need to do now is sprinkle some beach sand on your deck and kick back with some music. Don't blame me for the ear-worm: