Rum Journal: Piña Colada Perfection in San Juan, Puerto Rico

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - March 5, 2013

SAN JUAN — IT’S ONE OF the world’s most famous cocktails: a blend of coconut cream (preferably Coco Lopez), rum and pineapple.

While the piña colada has a long and illustrious history at beach bars around the world, the story of the drink began in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

But like any famous cocktail, there are a number of different historical accounts: for some, it was invented in 1954 at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan; for others, the recipe dates back to 19th century pirate lore.

Among the strongest claims is that of the Barrachina restaurant in Old San Juan.

It’s here that bartender Don Ramon Portas Mingot is said to have first mixed the Pina Colada in 1963.

According to manager Rajesh Sabunani, Don Ramon first mixed the drink at the behest of Coco Lopez itself, which was seeking a pineapple-coconut concoction for its anniversary.

Above: Calle Fortaleza in Old San Juan

And with the piña colada, Barrachina, which is a restaurant as well as a bar, has become an institution on Old San Juan’s Calle Fortaleza.

“It’s world famous — it’s known all around the world,” Sabunani says. “They’re consistent, we don’t use any ice in our piña coladas, and their taste and texture and consistency are very accurate from the first one to the last one.”

On a given day, Barrachina can serve between 300 and 400.

“If you’ve never tried a piña colada in Barrachina, you’ve never really had the original version,” he says.

While cocktail historians will likely debate the birth of this drink for centuries, one thing is clear: Barrachina’s variety, made with Puerto Rico’s fine Ron del Barrilito, is as good as it gets. — CJ

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