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The best pina colada I ever had was while visiting a friend in Puerto Rico. We had gone into Old San Juan for dinner at one of the Island’s best restaurants. We had a reservation, but that really didn’t mean much in PR. We were on “island time”, a term I had yet to become familiar with. We were asked to wait at the bar. The bartender recommended a pina colada while we waited for our table. My friend suggested we go slow and order virgin pina coladas because it was going to be a long night. That was a very smart suggestion and I didn’t really miss the rum.
A pina colada is a pineapple and coconut drink that is normally spiked with rum. In PR, they use a combination of white and dark rum. At least that is what I experienced. As a side note, the rum is amazing in PR. However, the pineapple and coconut are just as good.
I think a pina colada is the quintessential summer drink to be enjoyed on a warm evening as the sun is setting. My favorite way to prepare this cocktail is with fresh fruit that has been placed in the freezer briefly until it forms ice crystals. This assures that the drink will be icy cold and a little slushy with the fresh fruit.
This is a very filling drink, so you might want to go light with the food you pair with a pina colada. By light, I mean appetizers and finger food. I love drinking this with a basket of tostones on the side. Tostones are twice-fried green plantain slices that are crunchy and salty. I also love this with pork pernil spooned onto toasted baguettes slices or tortillas. Pork pernil is basically a well-seasoned and slow-roasted pulled pork that is a common preparation in the Caribbean. I think jerk seasoned chicken wings and fried calamari rings might also be good matches.
For this pina colada mocktail, we are using fresh pineapple, coconut cream, pineapple juice, ice, and a pineapple wedge for garnish. If you want to give everyone the option to make this into an alcohol-spiked cocktail, put out a bottle of dark rum and a shot glass for them to spike as desired. The nice thing about a virgin pina colada is that kids like it and the fruit is full of digestive enzymes. Get your blender out and let’s get to making the best pina colada mocktail.
- 2 ½ cups fresh pineapple chunks
- 1 cup of ice
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 4 Tbsp coconut cream
- 2 pineapple wedges for garnish
- If you have a whole pineapple, slice the skin and eyes (dark tough bits) off. Slice vertically around the hard center core. Discard the core. Chop or dice the slices. Dry 2 ½ cups of the pineapple chunks on a paper towel.
- Place the pineapple chunks in a sealable plastic baggie and place that in the refrigerator for about 60 minutes or until just frozen.
- To a blender, add the frozen pineapple chunks, ice, pineapple juice, and coconut cream. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the mocktail into tall glasses. Garnish the rim of each with a pineapple wedge. Serve immediately while cold.
Notes & Tips
- This is one mocktail that I don’t recommend making ahead of time. It is best served right away while it is cold and slushy. It will tend to get watered down if made ahead.
- To determine the ripeness of a fresh pineapple it will have a dull, solid sound when tapped. A hollow thud indicates immaturity and poor quality. Pineapple stops ripening as soon as it is harvested. Choose one with a fragrant sweet smell at the stem end. Avoid those that smell moldy, sour, or fermented. Pineapples are generally freshest between March and June.
Substitutions & Shortcuts
Pineapple: I think fresh is best for almost every recipe that calls for fruit. There is nothing like fresh pineapple. If pineapple is out of season or you want to save time, you can use frozen pineapple. Just make sure it is unsweetened. I don’t recommend canned pineapple because it is mostly canned in a sugary syrup. If you don’t like pineapple, you can make this mocktail with mango chunks.
Pineapple Juice: Try to find pure, fresh pineapple juice in the refrigerated display in the market. If available, get juice that doesn’t have added sugar. If all you can find is canned juice, get a can that is labeled 100% pineapple juice.
Coconut Cream: There are many varieties of liquid coconut available. Coconut milk is thinner than coconut cream. It is also less sweet. For this recipe, I prefer coconut cream, also labeled as cream of coconut, that is thick and sweetened. You can find it in a bottle or a can. It will either be in the ethnic food aisle or with the mixers and bar supplies. If you only have coconut milk, add a little sugar or agave syrup to the drink to make it as sweet as you like.
Is Pineapple Good for You?
Fresh pineapple is pretty low in calories, despite the natural sugar content. The flesh contains no saturated fat or cholesterol. Yet, it is an excellent source of fiber, including pectin.
Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain which is essential for digestion because it breaks down protein. Bromelain is also highly anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting, and protective against seasonal allergies.
This fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C. 100 grams (one serving) of pineapple provides 80% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps to combat infections, boosts immunity, and fights off inflammation and cancer-causing free radicals. Other vitamins in pineapple include vitamin A and B complex.
The fruit is rich in minerals, including copper, manganese, and potassium. Potassium is an important component of cells that helps to control blood pressure and heart rate.
All of this should be a green light for you to enjoy your pina colada mocktail or two.