“They did a paternity test on the piña colada, and it was made with Don Q rum at the Caribe Hilton!” a helpful stranger yelled at me last year in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before vanishing into thin air. I was researching whether the piña colada was still relevant to the island of its birth, and it seems he was correct. Everyone (besides the folks at competitor Barrachina) believes the Hilton is where pineapple, coconut cream, and rum were first blended with ice and sipped through a straw.
Regardless of where the piña colada truly came from, there are a lot of spots in New York City making this delightful drink their own — adding bitterness, herbaceous notes, or just turning its sweet, milkshake-ready flavors into a soda float. New York City has so many fantastic takes on the piña colada, you don’t have to go on vacation to unashamedly sip one (or two).
(298 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-335-0446)
An absinthe and oyster bar known for its class and refinement may be one of the last places you’d expect a piña colada — but with the Maison Absinthe Colada, Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere proves it’s a contender for one of NYC’s tastiest hot spots. Crème de menthe and Mansinthe — a Swiss absinthe with minty elements — round out this unblended take on the cocktail.
(269 E Houston Street; 212-475-0400)
The fanfare around this Lower East Side pub’s opening has been well deserved — given its unpretentious menu and a refreshing change of pace with its cocktail menu. Owner Giuseppe Gonzalez’s legendary take on the piña colada includes a top-off with bitter, red Campari. It’s neither too icy nor too sweet, and as the Campari distributes throughout the glass, it cuts the acidity of pineapple and accentuates the creaminess of the coconut cream.
(225 Avenue B; 917-656-6788)
A speakeasy like Pouring Ribbons doesn’t seem like the typical locale to sip on a beach drink, but they’re making it work with the new “Silk Road” menu that marries the flavors of East and West. The Way of the Warrior combines two kinds of rum, pineapple, vanilla, matcha, and coconut. The addition of a bitter element to this piña colada takes it beyond vacation status — matcha’s fresh, verdant flavor is a surprising complement to the fruit and funky rum.
(75 St. Marks Place; 212-777-9637)
The revamped Holiday Cocktail Lounge wants cocktails to be all about fun again, which is why their new drinks menu offers a piña colada called And His Hair Was Perfect. Bartender Michael Neff’s nontraditional version is made with white Caña Brava rum, Kalani coconut liqueur, fresh lime, and pineapple, then served over crushed ice with an Angostura float, for a touch of bitterness to balance out all the fruit. To top it all off, a pink plastic army man garnish is there to remind you that though piña coladas can be serious…you should probably just have fun with them.
(27 Broadway, Brooklyn; 646-568-6622)
Donna has a tropical feel, despite its South Williamsburg location, and at a place where you can order chicharrón and rice and beans, it makes sense that you can also get a piña colada. Here it’s called the Brancolada, because of its inclusion of minty Branca Menta. A hint of orange juice is also blended in with the pineapple, coconut cream, and Appleton rum — the perfect way to balance out the mint.
(136 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-782-8370)
When the thick of summer hits and you just want to sit in an air-conditioned movie theater, Nitehawk Cinema will give you the perfect opportunity to hang out with a piña colada float in hand, pretending you’re not stuck in the city. With pineapple Jarritos, coconut sorbet, and Flor de Caña Silver rum, it’s pure vegan indulgence.