Sunday, March 7, 2010

Caramelized Pina Coladas

I’m a mixologist at heart, which is really just a fancy name for a bartender. I love playing around with fruits, spirits and liqueurs to make exotic cocktails. One thing I’ve learned in this process: when making a fruit-based cocktail, for maximum flavor you must use ripe, fresh fruit that is in season. The only alternative is to use high-quality frozen fruit or a fruit puree. An exception to this rule is coconut. Cream of coconut adds just the right balance of sweetness and flavor to the classic pina colada. Just because it comes in a can doesn’t mean it’s bad. Homogenized cream of coconut was developed in Puerto Rico in the 1950’s by Don Ramón Lopez-Irizarry, and it became the star ingredient of the pina colada, which was conjured up by a bartender at the Caribe Hilton a few years later. When making your own pina coladas, seek out Coco Lopez brand, it’s the best. And if caramelizing fresh pineapple is too taxing, consider using the same amount of Perfect Puree’s excellent Caramelized Pineapple puree. You can buy it directly from

Caramelized Pina Coladas

Makes 2 drinks

Caramelized Pineapple:
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups fresh pineapple chunks (1/2-inch chunks)

Caramelized Pina Coladas:
2 ounces light rum
1 ½ ounces dark rum (Mount Gay or Myers’s)
2 ounces Coco Lopez cream of coconut
1 ounce heavy cream
2 ounces pineapple juice (canned is ok)
½ cup Caramelized Pineapple chunks
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 cups crushed ice

½ fresh orange slice, cut in half
Two quarters of a fresh pineapple slice

Caramelize the pineapple:
1. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the sugar. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and beginning to bubble. Add the pineapple and stir until it is completely coated. Continue to cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool completely.

Make the drinks:
2. Place two pina colada or wine glasses in the freezer. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth—there shouldn’t be any chunks of ice left. Divide the mixture between the chilled glasses and garnish with the orange and pineapple slices. Serve immediately.