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The piña colada leads an unfortunate double life. During a tropical island vacation, it’s everyone’s favorite cocktail. It’s the go-to, a must-have accessory for sitting by the pool. But after a long day, or work, or out for an evening on the town, piña coladas are a joke. Why? Is it the paper umbrella? The curvaceous glass?
When made correctly (i.e., not from a mix) with sweet creamy coconut, fresh pineapple and rich, heady rum, the piña colada is a fine example of cocktail craftsmanship. Which is why it’s so nice to see bartenders across the country doing right by it. Here, three ways bars are making piña coladas you won’t be ashamed to drink in the city.
Adding more rum. One of the key piña colada decisions is whether to blend it. At Andina in Portland, Oregon, head bartender Eddie Johnson blends for both creamy consistency and a high enough density to hold an extra shot of rum. The base rum is Appleton Gold infused with pineapple and cinnamon, which gets blitzed with coconut cream, fresh crushed pineapple and sugar. Then, Johnson floats a shot of Gosling’s Black Seal rum on top. “It looks nice but more than that, it makes you readily aware that you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage. It adds a little punch,” he says. “Otherwise it’s too easy to drink.”
Using a siphon. In Washington, DC, Doi Moi’s bar director Adam Bernbach is including a piña colada on his new tiki-inspired summer cocktail menu. To make his version, Bernbach mixes fresh pineapple juice, coconut milk, lime juice (the extra acidity really makes a difference, he says) and sugar, in a siphon. “The CO2 does two thing,” Bernbach says. “One, it latches onto the fat in the coconut milk to create a lush body. Two, there’s this pins-and-needles acid in pineapple. The CO2 accentuates it.” Once the juices are poured out of the siphon, bartenders add dark rum and strain the cocktail into a glass filled with crushed ice.
Going beyond pineapple. There are two extra-fruity takes on the classic vacation cocktail at New York City’s 1970s-inspired Golden Cadillac. The straight up piña colada includes passion fruit along with the traditional pineapple. And then there’s the Lava Flow: a frozen piña colada laced with fruity strawberry puree. It’s as if a piña colada and a really great frozen daiquiri had a baby.