Feb 14, 2022
A TRIO OF TROPICAL COCKTAIL RECIPES
Brighten up the Winter Blues with Some Seriously Tropical Tastes
If you love a bit of sunshine, you're in good company. We are seriously in need of some mood-boosting tropical cocktails to take us away (in our minds) to a sandy beach, the wavelets lapping on the shore and mainlining vitamin D through doing nothing more effortful than lying on a sun lounger. So let's take a look at the big three tropical cocktail drinks: the originals, the foundations, the delicious Pina Colada, Daiquiri and the Mai Tai.
Popular Tropical Cocktail Recipes
The Pina Colada
It's said the Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí gave his crew a beverage containing coconut, pineapple and white rum to cheer them up after a long voyage. But Cofresí died in 1825 and with him his recipe.
Fast forward a century to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where bartender Ramón "Monchito" Marrero shook up the first Piña Colada at the Caribe Hilton in 1954. The Caribe Hilton was the first luxury hotel to open on the island and was Conrad Hilton's first international location. Marrero wanted to show the American tourists who came to his hotel how good Puerto Rican produce was while also getting them out of work mode and into the holiday chill zone. Coconut and pineapple were both major Puerto Rican exports at the time. But he had a problem. You see, the acidity of pineapple juice curdles when mixed with straight coconut water, so a simple blend didn't suit the American pallet.
Then Marrero discovered Coco López stocked in local supermarkets. Invented by Ramón López Irizarry, an agricultural professor for the University of Puerto Rico, it's made of coconut cream with sugar to sweeten. So by adding this local coconut cream and blending the ingredients with ice, he created a drink that showcased his two chosen flavours with a delightful, creamy texture.
The island had relied on rum industries since the 16th century. As a result, white rums like Bacardi and Don Q were in high demand on and off the island — as chronicled in Hunter S Thompson's Rum Diaries — and the light flavour was a no brainer fit for his concoction. His rum, pineapple and coconut blend became so popular that Marrero would continue to serve his new cocktail personally throughout his time as a bartender at the hotel. He had to hire several 'barboys' to help with his prep-heavy, fresh pineapples. Now the Pina Colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico and one of the favourite tropical cocktail recipe all over the world!
It's hard to know for sure the origins of this drink. Still, most agree that Jennings Stockton Cox created the recipe in the Siera Maestra Mountains in southeast Cuba. Cox was an American mining engineer who, following the American-Spanish war of 1898, was employed to explore the region looking for iron-ore. He made his base in a small town called Daiquiri, where the locals blended dry white rum with their evening coffee. He soon introduced the Cuban-made Bacardi rum to his workers in the mines — giving them a ration to help fight waterborne diseases like Yellow Fever.
According to the 1928 cocktail book, When its Cocktail Time in Cuba, author Basil Woon says Cox's miners gathered to drink their rations with lime and sugar at the Venus Bar in Santiago, having at least three of four every morning.
Cox also recorded the cocktail recipe in his logbook, which consisted of the juice of six lemons, six teaspoons of sugar, six Bacardi cups of 'Carta Blanca', two small cups of mineral water and plenty of crushed ice, shaken well.
In 1909, the USS Minnesota travelled by Cuba. The captain of the boat, Charles H. Harlow, proposed to his crew to visit different places that were important during the American-Cuban war. Stopping in Daiquiri, where a battle had occurred, Jennings Cox greeted the team and served a Daiquiri cocktail.
The ships medical officer, Lucius W. Johnson, fell in love with the drink and took the recipe back to the Army and Navy Club in New York. Johnson mixed a jigger of rum, the juice of half a lime and a teaspoon of sugar, then filled the glass with finely shaved ice. The humid weather melted the ice quickly, and the glass became frosted. The reputation for a refreshing beverage that kept people cool in the muggy New York summers spread. This exclusive club, which exists to this day, was delighted by the exotic tropical drink and named a lounge bar The Daiquiri Room in its honour.
The Mai Tai
You'll find the Mai Tai's origins in the 1940s when Victor Jules Bergeron, also known as Trader Vic, and Donn Beach founded tiki culture. Their tiki bars provided a brief escape from reality, a fusion of Polynesian and Caribbean style and sensibilities.
One story goes; In 1944, Trader Vic was serving two friends from Tahiti at his restaurant when he was struck with inspiration. Thinking about what made drinks such as Martinis and Manhattans famous, he realised the secret was in their simplicity and decided to use that to his advantage with a new rum-based drink.
Taking a bottle of medium-bodied, seventeen-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum as the base, he realised he needed to combine the rich flavour with a juice that wouldn't overpower it. He built the cocktail with the sweetened ingredients of orange curaçao, rock candy sugar and a hint of French orgeat syrup. That's when the lime juice was added to create a subtle yet sharp blend that would help balance the flavours.
Then finally, he shook the ingredients and poured them over shaved ice, garnished with a bunch of fresh mint to round off the aroma and finished with half a lime shell on top to represent a desert island. All it took was a sip of this tropical cocktail drink from one of his friends, who then exclaimed, "Mai Tai-Roa Aé," meaning "out of this world, the best," in Tahitian, for the name Mai Tai to be coined and made official.
Find tropical cocktail recipes and more in our new cocktail recipe section of the website.