Sample piña coladas in Puerto Rico
Did you know that the piña colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico? In fact, the intoxicating blend of coconut cream, pineapple juice, white rum, and ice was invented in the capital city of San Juan. So there’s no better time to down the vacation classic than during the very official Piña Colada Day on the very advisable Monday, July 10.
Now, where to start? That’s a pretty good question—there’s a dispute over who actually created the cocktail, with no less than three bartenders laying claim to it. The most famous origin story starts at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, which credits staff bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero with coming up with the drink in 1954. According to the hotel, he finessed the recipe over several months, and the end result turned out so well that after tasting it, actress Joan Crawford declared it “was better than slapping Bette Davis in the face.” (Old Hollywood! So violent.) At the same location, another bartender, Ricardo García, says he created the cocktail, after a coconut shortage made him improvise with coconut cream while whipping up a tropical cocktail. The final theory traces back to 1963, when bartender Ramón Portas Mignot to the adoring patrons of the Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan. That spot even doubled down by hanging a commemorative plaque by the entrance.
What is known is that the cocktail is delicious and comes in all forms, from frosty disposable cups at roadside stands to the convenient Piña Colada Popsicle at Señor Paleta in San Juan. If you can’t make it out to Puerto Rico, you always can try to make your own version at home. But if you are in Puerto Rico, why not take yourself on a full-on gastronomic tour? We suggest a culinary route through small and mountainous Naranjito, located about 45 minutes or so from San Juan. The town was always a destination for pub crawls, or chinchorreos, known for copious amounts of chinchorros (a.k.a. bars) where you can grab a beer and a bite to eat to a backdrop of live music. There’s a gastro map to follow along Route 152, taking you from spots known for mouth-watering comida criolla, to the updated traditional offerings of El Limbo Bar and BBQ (which also has incredible—and dangerous—passion fruit mojitos), to the charming family-run Rancho de las Longanizas, where you’ll walk out smelling of smoked meat, to the upscale Caliche and Asador San Miguel, both offering gourmet food with mountainous views. (You might want to hire a driver for this one.)