If You Like Pina Coladas, Here, Have One!

Behold the pineapple magnificence.

Matthew Hooper

Greetings, Wonketteers! I'm Hooper, your bartender. While your editrix plans to have me post on Fridays at you, this week we thought you needed to take a load off a day early.

You probably know this drink. You've certainly had one or two before. But this version's very, very good. Not the best one you've ever had; the best one of these that you'll ever drink requires a beach, and sunshine, and someone special beside you in a bathing suit. But this one comes a close second.

Pina Colada

6 oz pineapple juice

2 oz creme de coconut

1 oz fresh lime juice

3 oz Hamilton 86 rum

Shake over ice and strain into a glass over pebble ice. Garnish with a pineapple slice.

So let's tackle the ugly truth about this cocktail: Most modern bartenders hate it. It took center stage in the '80s, shortly after Rupert Holmes wrote That Song. The art of crafting cocktails died a horrible, painful death in the '80s. Bar owners decided that cheap, quick premixes like sour mix were better for the bottom line than fresh ingredients. We ended up drinking a lot of vodka, corn syrup, and artificial flavors. It sucked. If you've never had a pina colada made from scratch – well, make this. Right now. Please.

Ingredient Shot. The pina colada mysteriously vanished soon after this photo was taken. Matthew Hooper

Pineapple Juice: I'll be honest – I use the little cans from Dole. Feel free to use an organic version, or squeeze your own. I've seen blender versions of this drink that use frozen pineapple chunks, but I don't think that's the right move. I don't like pulp in my drinks.

Creme de Coconut: Deity save me, I love this stuff. It's practically coconut frosting, only sweeter and richer. You can find Coco Lopez just about everywhere, but it contains a ton of emulsifiers and artificial glop, and it'stoo thick because of it. Make your own – 1 can of coconut milk, 1 ¾ cups sugar, heat gently on the stove until the sugar melts. Easy peasy. Important note: Creme de coconut is not coconut cream. Coconut cream's not homogeneous and it's probably unsweetened. If you try using coconut cream in a cocktail, you're probably in for a bad time.

Fresh Lime Juice: Lime juice is the acid of choice in countless cocktails, and I go through a ton of it in summer. A good cocktail needs a solid balance of acidity and sweetness to be awesome, and pineapple juice just isn't acidic enough to balance out the crème de coconut. A little lime juice – not enough to make the cocktail taste like lime, just enough to give it a little tartness – makes all the difference.

Hamilton 86 Rum: Funky, dark, dry rums are miles better than bland Bacardi, and don't get me started on Malibu "coconut" rum. Hamilton 86 is my favorite rum right now. The dark, rich caramel notes deepen and ground the pina colada, like caramel sauce on bananas foster. Use Meyer's in a pinch. 3 ounces of rum is on the strong side, but considering how the week has gone, I think it's warranted. Dial it back if you want to drive anywhere today. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not use Hamilton 151 if you value your soul. The "151" refers to the proof. Hamilton 151 is roughly 75% alcohol, aka "flammable." Do you want to set your pina colada on fire? Do you hate your liver? That's your business.

Pebble Ice: I like this drink on the rocks. Blended pina coladas are fine, don't get me wrong, but blend this one and it'll be too diluted. Pebble ice is a solid compromise, and looks great in this drink. If you check the local fast food joints, you can find one that uses "the good ice" and will let you have an extra-large cup or two. My local Dairy Queen gave me some. Sonic will even sell you pebble ice in 10-pound bags.

Garnish: The pineapple slice on the rim is a must. I like the idea of smelling fresh pineapple as you're drinking the cocktail. If you have a tiny paper umbrella that needs a home, this would be an ideal place to use it.

Questions? E-mail me at msrlapin@gmail.com. I check the comments, too. If I don't get back to you right away, be patient — I'm going to be slammed at the country club this week.

In summary and conclusion, drink well, drink often, drink with a friend. Hopefully in a bathing suit.

Tip your bartender, and OPEN THREAD.

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Matthew Hooper
Matthew Hooper, aka Samurai Grog, turned 50 in 2021 and decided to have a midlife crisis by leaving a boring sales and marketing job to tend bar at the local country club. He's never been happier. He's also a fencer, a dad, a husband, and a punk music fan. Overall, he's way cooler than he ever thought he could be when he was 16. 

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