Classic cocktails do not just reside in the domain of the late 19th and early 20th century. While that may be the most common place to mine them, unique cocktails are sprinkled through history. The place you will find them the most often is when a new ingredient is introduced to group of people with cocktail creation on the mind. Sweet vermouth, curacao, soda water, tonic water, all of them were integrated into drinks soon after they burst into the market. Coco Lopez is one of those ingredients. It was created in the late 1940's by a professor at the University of Puerto Rico. His goal was to replicate the coconut cream that was gleaned from the pulp of the fruit. It is sweet and perfect for cooking, but very difficult to extract. Don Ramon Lopez Irizarry discovered that by adding the right amount of simple syrup to the coconut cream he could transform it. He created the first cream of coconut, and it went into very drink, dessert, and recipe that they could create.
The recipe that came out on top was the one created at the Caribe Hilton on San Juan by bartender Ramon Marrero "Monchita" Perez, a bartender at the hotel. He utilized the syrup that was created by Irizarry on the island, added pineapple juice for balance, and gave it a little kick with the native spirit of Puerto Rico, rum. One story circulated that it was created in a more accidental way. That the bar a coconut cocktail in a hollowed out coconut to its guests and it ran out of "cups". To solve the problem, the bartender used pineapples as cups and enjoyed the addition to the drink.
It was not until 1978 that the cocktail was named the national drink of Puerto Rico, and a year later it topped the charts as a popular song. It was the last number one song of the 1970's.
Pina Colada (from the Caribe Hilton San Juan)
2 oz./ 60 mL rum (a fine Puerto Rican rum does the trick)
1 oz./ 30 mL heavy cream
1 oz./ 30 mL Coco Lopez
6 oz./ 180 mL fresh pineapple juice
.5 cup of ice
Glass: Hurricane or something fancy
Garnish: Pineapple Cubes and Maraschino Cherries
Ice: Blended cocktail; crushed into the drink
This tastes great. The sweetness of the cream of coconut is nicely tempered by the pineapple juice. The ice adds some texture. It is very thick, and not something I could drink many of, but one or two would be nice with my toes in the sand. The cocktail was part of the run up to the Tiki drink movement, employing the same tropical flavors and sweetness as its brethren. It also inspired thousands of recipes outside the cocktail kingdom, mostly desserts and dips. You can malign the version that came out in the 1970's and 80's, but there is nothing like the real thing.