Why is the Piña Colada always frozen? Because a blender makes it as smooth as the music of Chuck Mangione, and as mellow as the vocals of Rupert Holmes. Really, though, it’s because coconut cream is difficult to mix, and a shaker isn’t always the best choice. You can shake a Piña Colada, but this Summer favorite should be as easy to make as it is to drink.
The Piña Colada comes from Puerto Rico, and in that typical cocktail history way, it’s origins are debatable. It was either created by this bartender at that beach front resort, or that bartender at the other beach front resort. The result, wherever it came from, is a genuine classic, a wonderful and simple mix of rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream. Most likely created in the mid 1950s, the Piña Colada became an item in the 1970s when embraced in song by the emerging smooth jazz genre. Its simplicity also makes it great for the home kitchen. All you need is the ingredients, some ice, and a blender.
Frozen drinks are cocktails, too, even those often associated with Caribbean resorts, cruise ships, smooth jazz and suburban socials. The Piña Colada is, perhaps, the best known of the spiked slushees (no, the frozen Daiquiri doesn’t count, just no) and it’s also practical, for the best way to get Coco Lopez in your cocktail is with a blender. Coconut cream is just hard to work with sometimes.
What is coconut cream? It’s coconut steeped in coconut water and heavy cream, then strained. It’s not a hard thing to make, there’s just no reason other than the pleasure of making it from scratch, just like there’s no reason to make your own Irish cream, yet it’s very satisfying if you do. Coco Lopez is fine, and will be less expensive in the long run, but if you insist, you have a few options from using a food processor to simply cream the coconut, or using coconut oil. A Google search will offer many recipes, but we make ours with heavy cream, sort of like coconut milk. Only with cream. This way, you don’t need any sweetener, the cream is plenty sweet, but there are vegan recipes for those who want to avoid the cream.
Start with a coconut, bust it open, being careful to collect the water, then shred the coconut meat. You should get about 2 - 2 1/2 ounces, by weight, of grated coconut, and if the coconuts are small, you may need 2 of them. Add cream to the coconut water until you get a total of 1 quart of liquid. Put everything in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat, cover, and let cool to room temperature. When cool, pour into a cheesecloth lined bowl, or a flour sack towel, and squeeze out all the coconut cream. Toast the remaining shredded coconut, and use it for a cake or something. The key thing is, don’t waste it.
Next, we’ll need pineapple, and this is one place where you definitely should make the effort. For some reason, canned pineapple juice is still somewhat a thing. We don’t use canned citrus, but not everyone or every bar is as fastidious with pineapple juice, even though they should be. The only canned juice that should be behind your bar is tomato juice. Everything else, mostly, can be dealt with, even if it requires effort. For pineapple, you have to press it to get the juice out. Cut up a fresh pineapple as you would, remove the core, and put it aside. Remove the skin from the pineapple pieces, however you cut them, and discard, or toss in the compost.
Your best bet to get the juice is a stand juicer, like the Hamilton Beach 932 Commercial Citrus Juicer. It’s for citrus, but you can press your pineapple in it, too. If this is unavailable, any hand press juicer will work. Fill the juicer with some of the cut up pineapple, and squeeze. You’ll get alot of juice, assuming a ripe pineapple. Repeat as necessary, but save the pulp, that stuff that remains after pressing. Bottle the juice and put it aside, then put the pineapple pulp and core in a saucepan with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. bring it to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let cool to room temperature. Strain out the pineapple pulp, and bottle the resulting pineapple syrup, it tastes great with rum, or in any number of cocktails. We’re not using it in a Piña Colada, but it’s a shame to waste all that pineapple pulp. Stick the bottled pineapple syrup in the refrigerator for later, but keep the fresh pineapple juice at hand.
So far we’ve made coconut cream, and got shredded toasted coconut as a by product, then we made fresh pineapple juice, and got pineapple syrup as a by product. Already, the Piña Colada is a fruitful drink, and we haven’t even made it yet. We can’t without rum.
Many recipes will go fancy, using several kinds of light and dark rum, and adding lots of other things, and they’re all good recipes. Once you get the hang of it, try them. For now, let’s stick to spec and use white rum, or, as we prefer, Below Deck Silver Rum from Eastside Distilling, which is quite similar to the style of rum found in the basic Piña Colada recipe. Making it is then all about putting the ingredients in a blender with crushed ice, and blending until smooth. Be careful with those heavy duty, Vitamix style blenders. They could make it a little too smooth, and, if blended long enough, could start melting your drink. A simple, good quality kitchen blender is enough here, and if it’s big enough, make plenty of drinks at once. You’ll want to join your guests, but, if it’s your party, please consider the music carefully. Smooth jazz, even though infatuated with Piña Coladas, is a little too background-ish in a business/shopping center/typing pool kind of way, and no one likes to feel like they’re drinking in an elevator.
4 oz Pineapple juice
2 oz Coconut cream
1 1/2 oz Below Deck Silver Rum
1 1/2 cup Crushed ice
Blend ingredients in a kitchen blender until smooth. Serve in a hurricane, or similar glass, with a paper straw. Garnish with a pineapple frond, orange or pineapple wedge, and a maraschino cherry.
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