The Piña Colada Was Invented in This Glamorous Puerto Rican Hotel — and We Have the Original Recipe

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A report by Tanner Saunders for Travel and Leisure.

It might be obvious, but here at Travel + Leisure we love, love, love hotels. In fact, every year, we make lists of our favorites and the ones we’re most excited about opening. Besides the sheer comfort of hotels — the cloud-soft pillows, luxurious robes, and dreamy amenities — we’re also fans of the things they create and serve to guests.

For example, did you know that brownies were first created in 1893 at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago? If you didn’t (or even if you did), take a look at the recipe and make these classic, sweet treats for yourself. If desserts aren’t quite your thing, you might be excited to hear that New York’s Waldorf Astoria also created a ton of classic dishes, including the Waldorf salad, which combines grapes, celery, walnuts, and apples, back in 1896. And that’s not all: The same hotel is also credited with inventing red velvet cake, Thousand Island dressing, and even eggs Benedict.

But now, as the warmer months start to sweep in, it’s time to turn to another hotel creation — one with a splash of alcohol. Let’s take a trip back in time to 1954 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. If you found yourself at the iconic Caribe Hilton, you might be one of the very first to try a piña colada. Invented by bartender Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, according to the hotel, the piña colada — which translates to strained pineapple — was first served at the hotel’s Beachcomber Bar, and then took the world by storm.

Vintage photo of guests of Caribe Hilton, Puerto Rico enjoying Piña coladas by the beach

Now, over 60 years later, the Caribe Hilton has gone through a nearly $100 million renovation following the devastating Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. But like the spirit of PR, the piña colada continues to thrive as one of the world’s most vibrant island drinks. In fact, in 1978, it was declared the official drink of Puerto Rico.

Sadly, as we all stay at home right now to stop the spread of COVID-19, a trip to San Juan isn’t in the cards — though it’s never too early to start planning for when we can travel again. Until then, it’s time to grab your blender because our friends at the Caribe Hilton have shared the original piña colada recipe for us to make at home.

They were quick to let us know that they use Bacardi Gold rum, though your preferred brand is totally fine as long as it’s gold or dark rum. “The gold rum and cream are sweet like sugar when combined, but the pineapple is what brings it all together,” Caribe Hilton bartender Héctor Santos López told us. “The key is to serve it ice-cold. The original is my favorite — it’s what everyone always asks for.”

And why mess with a classic, right? Wherever you are, ¡salud!

Caribe Hilton’s Original Piña Colada Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. rum
  • 1 oz. coconut cream (signature recipe uses Coco Lopez brand)
  • 1 oz. heavy cream
  • 6 oz. pineapple juice
  • ½ cup crushed ice

Directions:

Mix rum, cream of coconut, heavy cream, and pineapple juice in a blender. Add ice and mix for 15 seconds. Serve in a 12-oz. glass and garnish with fresh pineapple and a cherry.

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