Aaron Fitas has elevated the classic Piña Colada with the use of luxe ingredients and a refined sensibility. (Photo/Courtesy Aaron Fitas)

Celebrate National Piña Colada Day

Rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and ice. Four simple ingredients are all it takes to whip up a piña colada, a cocktail that brings to mind warm Caribbean sunshine, white sand beaches and the refrain of the 1979 hit “Escape (The Piña Colada Song),” by Rupert Holmes.

Juke box pop music aside, those images come to mind because the tiny island of Puerto Rico – just 100 miles long and 35 miles wide – is home to the blended pineapple and coconut cocktail. But like all time-honored treats and traditions, there’s no end of dispute as to who actually bears the credit for its creation.

La Piña, a creation of New York City mixologist Aaron Fitas.

La Piña, a creation of New York City mixologist Aaron Fitas. (Photo/Courtesy Yerba Buena Restaurant)

Three bartenders in the island capitol of San Juan each lay claim to the creation of the cocktail: first, there’s Ramón ‘Monchito’ Marrero Pérez, who says he first mixed up the concoction in 1952 at the Caribe Hilton Hotel, adding a new product – cream of coconut – to the shaken pineapple and rum drinks that were then popular at the hotel bar. However, his coworker Ricardo Garcia says he invented the cocktail. And Barrachina – a restaurant on old San Juan’s Fortaleza Street – also claims to have been the first to serve the drink on its cocktail menu in 1963, thanks to creative bartender Ramón Portas Mingot.

Local lore aside, there’s one thing everyone can agree on. The cocktail – using ingredients native to Puerto Rico, as well as rum, a spirit that’s been distilled on the island since the 1600s – is a refreshing, bright drink perfect for sipping on during summer’s hottest days and sticky nights. And it seems fitting that on July 10, the piña colada is celebrated with a holiday of its own: National Piña Colada Day. While we love the traditional, icy blended version (click here for the recipe), we’re offering an unusual take on the classic here: a more refined version, made with coconut water rather than thickly sweet cream of coconut, which with its lower sugar content, incidentally makes for a low calorie option as well.

La Piña

2oz of Santa Teresa Rum

1oz freshly squeezed pineapple juice

1oz coconut water (canned with pulp)

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 oz simple syrup (see bel0w)

Simple syrup:

One part water

One part sugar

For syrup: Put sugar and water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let rest at room temperature, then store into a container until ready to use. Do not freeze.

For cocktail: Shake all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Strain and serve in a chilled martini glass. Serves one.

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