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Three Ways: The Piña Colada

A frosty Piña Colada is as much a summer icon as sandy beaches and swimsuits. First blended in Puerto Rico (where it remains the island’s signature drink), the Piña Colada is an impossible-to-argue-with frozen combo of rum, pineapple, and coconut. And while enjoying the original formula is always a good idea, these three riffs prove you don’t need a beach to drink in some sunshine. 

The Cantina Colada

“With the weather warming up, I wanted to make a drink that was bright and refreshing but still had some dimension to it,” says Kaitlin Neve for El Alma in Austin. Selecting mezcal for its versatility, Neve found the spirit complementary to the sweet coconut notes in a Piña Colada. Tying together equal parts mezcal, pineapple juice, and lime in The Cantina Colada, Neve aims for a smokier take on the classic that can be served over ice or frozen. “I like using a joven mezcal because they tend to have a little funkiness like some rums and [rhum] agricoles do, which highlights the flavors perfectly in The Cantina Colada.” 

To prepare the drink, add 2 oz. of mezcal, 2 oz. of pineapple juice, 2 oz. of fresh lime juice, and 1 oz. of Coco López coconut cream to an ice-filled shaker and shake to combine. Double strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice, then garnish with a lime wheel and a pineapple leaf. Alternatively, combine all of the ingredients in a blender with approximately 1 cup of ice and blend until smooth.


In St. Croix, where Sally Roots co-owner James Freeman grew up, there was a recurring party in Frederiksted called the Sundowner, where Piña Coladas were sipped as the sun set behind the ocean. Seeking to re-create the memories of those nights at his Brooklyn bar, Freeman came up with his own Sundowner accented with the tangy addition of pink guava. “This cocktail embodies the laid-back vibe of St. Croix,” he says. “The pink guava adds a creamy, seductive value that feels like jumping into a pool of warm kiwi.”

To make the drink, add 2 1/2 oz. of rum (Sally Roots uses a house blend of 11 rums, but a 1:1 blend of white and aged rums does the trick, as does a blended Jamaican-Martinique rum such as Denizen Merchant’s Reserve 8 year), 1 1/2 oz. of fresh pineapple juice, 1 oz. of fresh orange juice, 1 oz. of pink guava juice (Sally Roots uses Mira brand), 3/4 oz. of Coco López, and 1/4 oz. of fresh lime juice to a blender. Add enough ice to fill a 12 oz. glass, and blend until a smooth consistency is reached. Serve in a 13 oz. Poco Grande glass, and garnish with a pineapple frond. “One sip and you’re forever changed,” Freeman adds.

Piña Colada Kinda

As the owner of roving vacation-inspired pop-up Shipwreck, bartender Eric Nelson has cultivated a following for his eclectic cocktails. Now behind the bar of lauded Portland, Oregon, Thai barbeque spot Eem, Nelson continues to tap unexpected flavors, and for his Piña Colada Kinda (a Shipwreck original), salt and coffee add depth to the classic build.

In a blender, add 4 oz. of pineapple juice, 2 oz. of rum (“Any good quality rum will do; we like something with a bit of funk,” Nelson says. “If you don’t have rum, experiment! Kahlua and Bénédictine are cool.”), 1 1/2 oz. of Coco López, 1 oz. of heavy cream or heavy coconut cream, 1/2 oz. of overproof rum, and 1/2 cup of ice (or 3/4 cup “for a less assertive experience”). Sprinkle in 1/4 tsp. of kosher salt and 1/4 tsp. of fine ground coffee, then blend until uniform and silky. Pour the drink into your favorite tropical glass and top with whipped cream (preferably coconut-based), then do like Nelson and garnish with a sprinkle of bee pollen, which he describes as “not essential, but hella cool.”

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