Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Puerto Rico IV - If you like piña coladas, but don't like sitting through annoying easy listening songs.

Ah, the piña colada, that simple and sweet concoction of coconut cream, pineapple juice and (hopefully) Puerto Rican rum.  Many a piña colada has ended its life by a poolside bar or lounge chair.  Once I even had to get a dry one during a visit to Acapulco in 2000 - coinciding with the presidential election that year (it is illegal to sell alcohol in Mexico during election weekend. This is different than the US, where our elections might actually motivate us to drink more.)  And of course, the piña colada is not an Anglo creation, not a Mexican innovation, and not a Cuban concoction.  Esta es boricua, pa'que nosotros lo sepamos.

Official Name: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Spanish: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico)
Is it a state? Nope, it's a territory - the largest one in the United States
Official Languages: Spanish and English, with Spanish as the more widely spoken language
Territorial Nicknames: La Isla del Encanto (The Island of Enchantment); Borinquen (from the original Taíno name for the island, Borikén)
Cession to the US: December 10, 1898 (after winning autonomy from Spain on November 25, 1897)
Capital: San Juan (largest)
Other Important Cities: Bayamón (2nd largest), Carolina (3rd largest), Ponce (4th largest)
Region: Caribbean; South Atlantic (US Census)
Bordered by: the Caribbean Sea (all sides)
Closest land mass: Dominican Republic, a little more than 50 miles to the west
Official Territorial Foods and Edible Things: none
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Puerto Rican food (duh) - a mixture of Taíno, West African and Spanish influences, including: sofrito, tostones, arroz con habichuleas (con gandules around Christmas), mofongo, tembleque; ají dulce (sweet peppers indigenous to Puerto Rico); piña colada

As many a source says, the specific origin story of the piña colada is not certain, and there are a few narratives.  Nicholas Gill [2009] writing for the New World Review lists at least four different origin myths for the piña colada, including one that says the drink originated in the 19th century, another more popular one that gives the credit to Spanish ex-patriate Ricardo García who created it at the glamorous Caribe Hilton in San Juan in 1954, and yet another one that sets the creation of the drink in Buenos Aires (!) in 1963.  As Gill suggests, the most credible theory gives the cred to another employee of the Caribe Hilton, Ramon “Monchito” Marrero at the hotel's Beachcomber Bar, also in 1954.  At any rate, the legendary piña colada was almost certainly born in San Juan, and is an widely known drink throughout Puerto Rico, the United States and the world, even wending its way into the first #1 song of the 1980's, a song by Rupert Holmes that many a radio listener has tried to "Escape" before suffering it for too long.

The Recipe: Piña colada

The piña colada is not too difficult to make.  The International Bartender Association suggests one part white rum to one part cream of coconut to three parts of pineapple juice (3.0 cl to 3.0 cl to 9.0 cl respectively).  Most recipes, including the one I followed on the Goya website, say you need just the following:

* pineapple juice (this is a bit more expensive than I had expected, at about $2 a can)
* coconut cream (not coconut milk but cream, again not too cheap at about $3 a can)
* rum, preferably white rum, most preferably Puerto Rican rum (this smallish bottle of Bacardi Puerto Rican rum set me back about $7 at the Wine Source.  I didn't want a larger one because I don't drink many cocktails or liquors)
* ice (you will crush this)

You should typically have pineapple slices and maraschino cherries for garnish (one each per glass), but I'm not mass producing these things here.  I will go without all that "faincy" stuff.

Into a blender, throw in your ice.

Next, add the pineapple juice...

... the cream of coconut...

...and the rum.

Blend until smooth and serve.

Now this is a pleasant summer drink, and as warm as this past winter was, you just know we're going to need a few of these in what promises to be a subtropical sort of summer (90 degrees at the end of May?  In Baltimore!?  Well, a piña colada will help me cool down...

- - - - -

And we're done with the Isle of Enchantment.  We fly back from Puerto Rico (or a few hours up 95 if you're kickin' it Nuyorican style) to the teensiest state in the Union, where you will miss all the good Italian, Portuguese and hearty Yankee cooking if you blink en route between Connecticut and Massachusetts.  You've guessed it: next we're exploring Rhode Island.


Deane, Zain.  "Mofongo".  Go Puerto Rico (, date unknown.  Copyright 2012,, All rights reserved.

El Boricua (  "Mofongo".  Date unknown.  Coyright 2012, El Boricua, All rights reserved.

Gill, Nicholas.  "The History of the Piña Colada".  New World Review, 2009.  Copyright 2009, New World Review, All rights reserved.

Goya.  "Piña Colada: How to Make Piña Colada".  Date unknown.  Copyright 2012 Goya Foods, Inc., All rights reserved.

Goya.  "Tembleque - Coconut Pudding: Quick, Coconut Gelatin".  Date unknown.  Copyright 2012 Goya Foods, Inc., All rights reserved.

International Bartender Association. "Piña Colada".  Last accessed 2010 (archived by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine,

Rivera, Oswald.  Puerto Rican Cuisine in America: Nuyorican and Bodega Recipes.  Second edition.  Four Walls Eight Windows: New York, 2002.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Puerto Rico" and "Puerto Rican cuisine" pages and other pages.