Pina Colada Redemption

I wish I didn’t think about the Pina Colada quite as much as I do. It’s really not a very good PinaColada (1)drink. It is however the first drink my best friend and I ever worked on together. Back then it was served at every cookout before we really started to learn about cocktails. In those days we nixed the white rum for a hearty pour of dark Jamaican and flavored banana rum. College kids will be college kids right? At the end of the day a Pina Colada is an overly sweet dessert drink. Still -to me atleast- good flavors rest at it’s core.


This is -for the most part- a site obsessed with Tiki, and the Pina Colada is NOT a Tiki cocktail. If that made you do a double take then allow me to reference this wonderful interview Jeff Berry did. True tiki drinks have balance, and they all rely on some degree of fresh citrus. As a coconut milkshake the Pina Colada is great to replace a slice of pie with. I can’t help however but see that a lot of true Tiki drinks do share some similarities with the Pina Colada. Infact some cocktails like the Painkiller, the Coconut Grove Cocktail, and the Coconut Kallalloo seem to be evolved directly from it. It does have tropical roots, by the 70’s it was even on legitimate Tiki menus. Can this drink be saved? Thats what we’re trying to figure out this month.

PinaColada (5)

While most of this month will be focused on using the Pina Colada as a base for other creations, I felt some time needed to be spent on showing what a Pina Colada could be by itself. The Rum Dood posted a fascinating article I really liked on how he made this drink palatable. I love the addition of fresh pineapple, but I wasn’t as big a fan of chewing on the pulp. I do highly recommend his blended version. We juice pineapples every week here, so we thought to use that fresh juice in a shaken version. The fresh lime gives it the balance it always needed. Then a hit of amber Jamaican rum gives the drink depth. I think the ratio here is important. I do want this drink to lean sweet, but I want to avoid making it to sweet.

PinaColada (2)

Pina Colada (JFL Style)

1 oz Cruzan White Rum

1 oz Appleton V/X (Special will work in a pinch.)

½ oz fresh lime juice

1 oz Coco Lopez coconut cream

1 oz fresh pineapple juice

1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake with ¾ cup of crushed ice like you hate your arms. Then pour unstrained into a goblet, coconut, or hollowed out pineapple. Then garnish with a cherry, pineapple slice, or paper parasol. If you prefer yours frozen use 1 cup crushed ice and blend on high for 10 seconds.


Still with notes of sweet coconut and hints of pineapple acidity the brightness of lime reigns in the overly sweet nature this drink is infamous for. The drink has a sweet front of coconut cream and then stiffens into pleasing rum note and finishes with abit of angostura and burnt sugar spice. While this is still, to us, a dessert drink with the lime at very least it is balanced. Don’t neglect a dash of bitters and the use of two rums. It goes a long way from making this drink into a party animal and not a pariah.


Join us the rest of the month as we explore evolutions and offshoots of the Pina Colada. So what do you think, is this drink worth saving? Until next time…

“You get hammered America!” -JFL


About JFL

Joey or JFL as he is known by friends is a culinary trained mixologist from the Heart of Dixie Birmingham, Alabama. From a weekly column in the St. Clair News Aegis to his own experiments online JFL never stops doing work on Tiki and Cocktails. When he's not studying all things spirit, wine, and beer he's pursuing his own odd interests such as cartoons, cheesy old horror movies, horror punk, hair metal, and hockey
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6 Responses to Pina Colada Redemption

  1. Joseph Tkach says:

    I am not a huge fan of coco lopez, though I understand it is more readily available in most places. If you go to an asian market, or to trader joe’s, you can find unsweetened coconut milk or coconut cream, and then exert a finer control over the level of sugar in your drink.

    I’ve never thought of a shaken piña colada, I’ll have to give it a try. You have given me an interesting idea.

    • JFL says:

      I support coco lopez. It’s a quality coconut cream. Coconut milk is NOT a substitute, though I have made some drinks I like with it. Coconut Cream should in theory be used as a syrup almost. Let me know what you discover in your own experiments. For Tiki purposes though I do recommend coco lopez over any other brand.

      I do think a Coconut Milk Pina Colada version would be quite interesting. It’s a possibility I want to explore sometime this month. I do have a soft spot for the Coco Lopez though. If It’s good enough for Jeff Berry to recommend it’s good enough for yours truly 🙂 .

    • JFL says:

      Also thanks for reading! This is a scary topic to take on. So I hope people find something to take from it.

  2. Pingback: Pina Colada Redemption: The Painkiller | Rated R Cocktails

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