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Puerto Rico is known for lots of things – tiny frogs, pristine beaches, bioluminescent bays and lush rainforests. It’s also the birthplace of the pina colada – a delicious cocktail consisting of rum, coconut milk and pineapple juice.
Translating as “strained pineapple”, this tropical drink was declared Puerto Rico’s national drink in 1978 and is best drunk by the beach or pool. You’ll find the pina colada served at most establishments throughout the island, including beach bars, restaurants and luxury hotels.
Some of the best pina coladas I’ve tried were at the beach, although you may want to try the versions offered at Barrachina and the Caribe Hilton – two bars that claim to have invented this delicious drink.
I visited both places to try their pina coladas and discover more about the drink’s history.
Pina Colada Ingredients
½ a cup of coconut cream
½ a cup of pineapple juice
1 cup of ice
¼ cup white rum
Cherries, pineapple wedges to garnish
Mix the coconut cream, pineapple juice, ice, and rum in a blender until the ingredients are fully blended and frosty. Pour the drink into a glass and garnish with a cherry and pineapple wedge.
Who Invented the Pina Colada?
Who invented the pina colada is up for debate. The Caribe Hilton claims that the cocktail was invented by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, a bartender who worked at the hotel’s Beachcomber Bar back in 1954. He was commissioned to create a signature cocktail, and apparently spent three months crafting it. When Hollywood actress Joan Crawford took a sip of it, she claimed it was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.”
Meanwhile Barrachina, which is located in the center of Old san Juan, claims its bartender Ramón Portas Mignot was the one to invent this tropical drink.
However, there are also stories that suggest the pina colada may have been invented even earlier than that, all the way back in the 1800s. Supposedly Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí served a mix of coconut, pineapple and white rum to boost his crew’s morale.
Where to Try the Pina Colada in Puerto Rico
The Caribe Hilton is located on the eastern edge of San Juan islet overlooking the water. Inside the hotel on the ground floor you’ll find a large pina colada wall explaining the history of the drink, along with the original 1954 recipe.
The recipe includes 2 oz white rum, 1 oz coconut cream, 1 oz heavy cream and 6 oz of fresh pineapple juice. It also uses ½ cup of crushed ice, a pineapple wedge and Maraschino cherry for garnish.
In 1954 Ramón “Monchito” Marrero was asked to create a drink that captured the unique flavors of Puerto Rico and he finally settled on the above recipe. It was a hit with guests and locals, and Monchito continued to serve the drink at Caribe Hilton for 35 years until his retirement.
In 2004 and 2014 the Caribe Hilton received proclamations from the Governors of Puerto Rico to celebrate the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the pina colada. They recognize “Monchito” Marrero as the official creator of the drink.
I sampled the pina colada in the hotel’s Caribar and it tasted nice and creamy! Definitely a thumbs up for this one.
Located in Old San Juan near La Fortaleza, Barrachina is a Puerto Rican restaurant that also claims to have invented the pina colada. The plaque outside the restaurant reads “The house where in 1963 the pina colada was created by Don Ramon Portas Mingot”.
I wasn’t particularly keen on the pina colada served here – it tasted like it had come out of a machine and just was more icy than creamy. However, the restaurant has a very colorful courtyard patio filled with tropical plants – definitely a good spot for Instagram photos!
A Final Word…
If you like pina coladas then you’ll find no shortage of places to try them in Puerto Rico. They’re very refreshing on a hot, sunny day and usually cost around $7-$8 at most beach bars. The pina colada is so popular throughout the world that there’s even an official Pina Colada Day, which is celebrated on July 10th! If you need more Puerto Rico inspiration, check out my Puerto Rico travel guide and my 3 day Puerto Rico itinerary.