I have found a truly wonderful proof…

Last week, it struck me that while I rail against the Piña Colada, I had never made one myself. I’d been casting about for something good to do with pineapple juice and had allowed my preconceptions of the Piña Colada to rule it out — to rule out what must be the most widely-enjoyed pineapple-based drink on earth. A gross oversight. After all, shouldn’t one of the guiding principles of domestic mixology be that a thoughtfully-crafted potable, mixed purely for pleasure, will reveal complexities and dimensions which none but the most fastidious professional can match? I say yea, it should be so.

In consequence of this, it must be assumed that the Piña Colada is not necessarily a foully chemical concoction, but is merely a drink suffering from long, cruel abuse at the hands of the service industry. There must be an Ur Piña Colada which contains within its frothy matrix the flavor sensation that captured a generation’s palates and went on to inspire so many imitators.

So, I mixed-up the CocktailDB’s Piña Colada recipe. It’s the simplest there is, and may be the original, though unfortunately they don’t cite sources. Verdict: Blah. Flat, uninteresting and bland. If this was the drink that started it all, I’m surprised at its survival. However, it was a far cry from the others I’ve had, whose origins were likely in a bottle of pre-mix. Pineapple and Coconut did seem to be a worthwhile pairing, and so I tinkered.

Ultimately, I arrived at something which — at the time — seemed sublime. Unfortunately for posterity, I was also cooking and chatting with guests. Poor conditions for documentation. To make matters worse, I was producing several at once, and rather cavalierly at that, making the reconstruction of proportions even trickier. I have attempted to reproduce it this evening, but the drink in my hand, while still a great improvement, is but a pale shade of last week’s triumph. Here’s what I have:

2 cups crushed ice
4 1/2 oz. coconut milk
3 oz. pineapple juice (canned)
1 1/2 oz. half-and-half
1 1/2 oz. light rum
1 1/2 oz. dark rum
1/2 oz. orgeat
5 dashes Angostura bitters
1 pinch ground clove
1 pinch ground cinnamon
Blended for quite a while, of course.

Last week, I had a fresh pineapple, and was blending several slices per drink. At the moment, I have none, which I suspect to be a significant factor. Fresh fruit is always best, and I’ve no doubt that had I a pineapple, things would be better. Last week’s did not employ orgeat, but bar sugar instead. I thought the orgeat might add an oomphy sweetness … I can’t say that it’s bad, but it may be competing instead of complementing here. And last week’s was heavier on the spices and featured a pinch of cayenne pepper. I lightened-up this time, due to some mixed feedback, but I think I will increase them a bit in future … the trick will be getting enough clove to matter without it also having a numbing effect. The final — and perhaps paramount — difference is that last week I was enjoying the Colada in good company on a warm spring evening, watching the sun set. Tonight, I sit alone, a bit weary, at the end of a long, grey, rainy, 50°F day.

I should note, since there are a quite few varieties out there, that my source of the coconutty happens to be Thai Kitchen Premium Coconut Milk. Its only ingredients are coconut milk and a little guar gum as an emulsifier. Other coconut milk / cream products feature fairly lengthy ingredients lists — Coco Lopez seems most prevalent in the mixers aisle, and has a particularly daunting catalog of additives.

I’m not filing this under “to enjoy” because that’s reserved for recipes I’m satisfied with. This one isn’t there yet.

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3 Responses to “I have found a truly wonderful proof…”

  1. c says:

    Tried again this evening, though still without fresh pineapple. Not bad…

    1 cup crushed ice
    4 oz. Coconut Milk
    4 oz. Pineapple Juice
    3 oz. Light Rum (Bacardi)
    2 pinches ground clove
    1 pinch ground cinnamon
    1 pinch ground allspice
    7-8 dashes Angostura Bitters
    1 1/2 tsp bar sugar

    I’d hoped that by omitting the dark rum I’d achieve something closer to the expected driven-snow color of the standard Piña Colada, but the brown spices still yield something resembling a soy-milkshake. It’s better without the orgeat, and halving the ice content is a good thing. Still, the spices are producing something a bit too Christmassy. If I had to name the above, it would be a Bahamian Boxing Day. I blame the allspice. I’m sore-tempted to try an egg-white in the next attempt, though it seems quite improper for this drink.

  2. abby says:

    Perhaps experiment with other coconut milks. We have Chaokoh lying around. It’s recommended for curries by Kasma and it has figured in coconutty-tasty Haupias in the past. The link also shares some coconut milk shopping tips for making certain the milk is not too watery. I, too, think the fresh pineapple made a big difference.

  3. c says:

    I’ll try the Chaokoh next time, now that the Thai Kitchen is gone. Last night’s round of Piña Coladas was, I think, a bit closer to the truth … didn’t use any juice, but rather pureed some sizable chunks of pineapple. Didn’t bother to measure their volume, though. Perhaps tonight I’ll nail it. There’s still some fresh pineapple left — it’s hard to consume a 5 lb. fruit in one evening.

    I thought last night’s needed more coconut, while Abby thought it could’ve used more pineapple — this might be taken as a sign that the ratio was perfect, but I’m holding out for more in the way of the coconutty.