Have you been curious about the Pina Colada origin? Keep reading to find out the history behind the drink and learn some facts about how this popular tropical cocktail came to be.
The Pina Colada Origin
There’s some controversy as to whether pirates or bartenders invented the cocktail, so let’s start from the beginning. Research shows that there have been many different men (including a pirate) who have claimed inventing the Pina Colada.
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Pirates and the Pina Colada
While many try to claim to be responsible for the Pina Colada origin, Roberto Cofresí, a 19th century pirate from Puerto Rico is heralded as the first to create the Pina Colada. The pirate, nicknamed El Pirata Cofresí, sailed the seas with his crew in the early 1800s.
Cofresí was said to have given his pirate crew a drink containing white rum, pineapple and coconut milk to raise their morale.
This pirate Pina Colada is unlike our modern day Pina Colada, because it didn’t use cream of coconut. The addition of cream of coconut to the Pina Colada revolutionized the drink and and yielded the beverage we enjoy today.
While Cofresí’s Pina Colada is different than the modern day Pina Colada, Cofresí is still regarded by many as the cocktail’s creator.
When he died in 1825, his original recipe died with him. The Pina Colada invented after his death was a reimagining of his pirate tonic.
The Caribe Hilton Pina Colada created by Ramon “Monchito” Marrero
After Cofresí, the next stop in discovering the Pina Colada origin is The Caribe Hilton. The Caribe Hilton is a luxury hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A bartender named Ramon “Monchito” Marrero worked in the hotel’s popular bar called Beachcombers Bar. The management of the restaurant tasked him with creating a cocktail that embodied the flavor and spirit of the island.
Marrero worked for three months to create the perfect Puerto Rican drink, and landed on the Pina Colada. Surprisingly, when he first created the drink, it was non-alcoholic!
This non-alcoholic version contained coconut cream, fresh pineapple and a little bit of half and half. This refreshing drink was shaken in a cocktail shaker and poured over ice.
The drink began evolving over time. The half and half was removed, Puerto Rican rum was added, and it was blended instead of shaken. The Pina Colada transformed from a mocktail, into the cocktail we know today. When these changes happened, the drink’s popularity exploded.
While The Beachcombers Bar no longer exists, The Caribe Hilton has another bar called Caribar operating in its place. If you plan to be in San Juan, stop by Caribar and order a Pina Colada from its birthplace!
Ricardo Garcia from the Caribe Hilton also claims the Pina Colada
While Ramon “Monchito” Marrero is recognized as the father of the modern day Pina Colada, we can’t forget to mention Ricardo Garcia. Ricardo Garcia is another bartender who worked for The Caribe Hilton, who also laid claim to the Pina Colada.
Garcia asserted that one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails, served in a coconut shell, consisted of cream of coconut, rum and crushed iced.
When the coconut cutter’s union strike of 1954 occurred, he ran out of coconut shells to house the drink. Garcia improvised and he put the cocktail in a pineapple that had been hollowed out.
The flavor from the pineapple was widely enjoyed by guests, so Garcia started adding freshly pressed and strained pineapple juice to the cocktail. The name Pina Colada, meaning “strained pineapple” makes sense with his account of the story.
The final verdict on the Caribe Hotel debate
So, the question is, which of the two bartenders from The Caribe Hotel actually created the Pina Colada? The answer is Ramon “Monchito” Marrero. There may still be a few that believe Ricardo Garcia invented the drink, however, Marrero is widely accepted as the inventor of the Pina Colada.
In 2004 the Governor of Puerto Rico, Sila Maria Calderón, issued a proclamation celebrating the Pina Colada’s 50th anniversary, and also honoring the life of Ramon “Monchito” Marrero – the drink’s creator.
The Caribe Hilton hotel also attributes the drink to Ramon “Monchito” Marrero.
The Barrachina Pina Colada
While the controversy surrounding The Caribe Hilton may seem to be cleared up, there’s still another bartender who claims this tropical drink as his own.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Barrachina restaurant to the list of potential fathers of the Pina Colada.
Chef and owner of Barrachina restaurant, Pepe Barrachina, employed a Spanish bartender in 1963 named Don Ramon Portas Mingot.
Pepe Barrachina claimed that it was Mingot, who created the Pina Colada, at his restaurant.
There’s another story that says Ramon “Monchito” Marrero once worked at Barrachina, and actually created the Pina Colada there, before moving to The Carribe Hilton where he worked for 35 years.
Despite all of the men who try to claim our beloved Pina Colada, the majority of the information indicates that Ramon “Monchito” Marrero is the true creator the Pina Colada, which he developed at The Caribe Hilton.
However, even though Marrero is considered the creator, these other men who lay claim to the drink are also part of its history. I felt it was right and fair to mention them as well.
Even though there may be some question about the origins of the pina colada, there is no disputing the fact that we all love to drink them!
Pin this post on the history of the pina colada for later
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Discover the history of more popular cocktails.
As you can see from the history of the pina colada that I related above, popular cocktails can have a long and checkered past. Be sure to check out these pages for more of the history of popular cocktails.
Also, head over to find out what’s in a pina colada, so that you can make one at home.
About the author
Since graduating from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Jess Speake has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA. She is a freelance writer, specializing in content related to fashion, food and drink and film industry topics. Find out more about Jess here.
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