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Bon Voyage Drinks
Chill Out With a Piña Colada

by Linda Coffman

The Tropical Taste of Puerto Rico
The Original Pina Colada

Light and creamy—just add an umbrella

When your ship's horn signals it's departure time, it's also time for one of the highlights of every cruisea festive sailaway deck party. Laden with trays of exotic bon voyage “umbrella” drinks, bar servers make their way through throngs of cheerful passengers anxious to toast the beginning of their cruise. Without a doubt, the most popular of those tempting bon voyage beverages is the Piña Colada.

Did you ever wonder who served up the very first Piña Colada? I did, so I went to the source—the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico. According to Maria Elena Pérez, the Piña Colada was introduced there on August 15, 1954 by its creator Ramon “Monchito” Marrero.

A Touch of Zest

As a newly hired bartender, Monchito set out to make a drink with “a touch of zest” for Caribe Hilton guests, who sometimes suffered the after effects of too many strong cocktails. However, it was never meant to be a hangover remedy. Instead, he set out to create a light drink, reflective of the tropical tastes of Puerto Rico. He spent the better part of three months mixing, tasting, and discarding hundreds of combinations until he felt he had the perfect blend. And on that that day, the Piña Colada was born.

Translated, Piña Colada means “strained pineapple” and Monchito stressed that the pineapple should be fresh from the field that morning because only Puerto Rican farmers know the secret to “slicing out the best juice.” His world-famous drink was designed to incorporate the warmth and flavors of Puerto Rico in a smooth and creamy concoction.

Coco López, the maker of the coconut cream most often used in the drink, marked the selling of the three millionth Piña Colada in 1978 by presenting a color television set to Monchito. On the same day, he was honored with a party and awarded a medal by the Caribe Hilton, while the government of Puerto Rico declared the Piña Colada the “national drink of Puerto Rico.” Monchito was invited to Holland to be named an honorary member of the Netherlands Bartenders Club in 1986. A plaque commemorating his achievement is displayed at the tourist information center in San Juan. 

Monchito Marrero is no longer with us, but he is still a celebrity in his own right and his legacy lives on in the form of his flavorful handiwork. Internationally, it is estimated that more than 200 million Piña Coladas have been served since 1954 when Monchito officially mixed the first one in what was then the Caribe Hilton's Beachcombers Bar.

You can enjoy the same drink Monchito created and personally served to Caribe Hilton guests, including such luminaries such as Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor, and John Wayne. The original Piña Colada recipe is:

  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 1 ounce coconut cream
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • 6 ounces fresh pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • Pineapple wedge & maraschino cherry for garnish

Pour rum, coconut cream, cream, and pineapple juice in blender. Add ice. Blend for 15 seconds. Pour into a 12-ounce glass. Add garnishes.

For those who prefer a tasty non-alcoholic Virgin Colada, just leave out the rum.

Whether it's the original recipe, a variation containing other flavors, or a Virgin-version, the Piña Colada is a perennial favorite with cruise passengers world wide.

Caribe Hilton -- Relax with a Piña Colada during a pre- or post-cruise visit to Puerto Rico.

Source: Maria Elena Pérez, Caribe Hilton Public Relations, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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