What’s in a Pina Colada Drink Mix?


Ever wonder what goes into your favorite bar drinks? It’s fun to watch a skilled bartender whip up a cocktail in a flash. They make it look easy, effortless even.

And while you probably won’t be able to juggle shakers and pour like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, you can learn to make your own drinks at home – and well enough that they’ll impress your friends.

Let’s start with the pina colada drink mix. Ready your senses and read on!

The Pina Colada Drink Mix: From Tropical Roots to Global Sensation

The pina colada has a storied history. First concocted in the warm, salty mists of the Caribbean, the drink blends the acidic sweetness of pineapple juice with the creamy coolness of coconut. Add a generous splash of rum and you’re good to go.

The exact birthplace of the drink is disputed and unclear, other than it hailed from Puerto Rico. Some origin stories trace the drink back to the 1800s. Others give the legendary 50’s barkeepers of the Caribe Hilton and Barrachina the credit. Whoever’s responsible, the drink shot to fame on the world stage when Joan Crawford tasted it and said the drink was “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face”.

It wasn’t long before the pina colada became a staple of bar drinks everywhere, synonymous with relaxation and indulgence. By the 1970s, Puerto Rico had declared the pina colada its national drink.

The Core Ingredients

So, how’s the drink made?

Three ingredients lie at its heart: Pineapple, coconut, and rum. These three pillars built the pina colada’s reputation, and each is a vital component contributing to its unique character and flavor profile.

The pineapple brings a juicy, tangy sweetness that evokes images of tropical orchards basking in the sun. Meanwhile, the coconut introduces a creamy, velvety texture that balances out the acids in the pineapple.

Finally, the rum infuses the mix with warmth and complexity. The type used can vary from light to dark, and it’s what really rounds out the drink with a powerful kick that earns the pina colada its spot with the rest of the adult beverages.

How Your Local Bar (Probably) Makes a Colada

Whether you’re looking for cocktails in Toronto or any other city, you’ll likely find the pina colada on the menu, So, how does your barkeep make the drink?

There are two schools of thought. The first is to shake by hand with a lot of crushed ice. The second is to blend the mixture with a conventional blender.

Why the difference? It’s a matter of taste (pun intended). Shaking over crushed ice results in a less slushy texture, while blending converts the drink mix into a thicker, more desert-like drink. Plus, blenders are loud and some bars prefer to avoid using them.

Whatever process your bartender prefers, they’ll start by pouring premium pineapple juice over ice and following it up with a generous helping of coconut cream. Most mixed drinks at a cocktail bar use around one and a half fluid ounces of liquor – the standard size of a bar jigger.

Once the drink is mixed, your bartender will probably garnish it with a slice of fresh pineapple, a maraschino cherry, or even a sprig of mint. These small details invoke the senses of sight and smell to complement the flavors of a well-crafted cocktail.

Secret Touches for a Winning Pina Colada Drink Mix

Looking to bring the cocktail bar to your front room? As with all mixed drinks, it’s the personal flairs and unexpected elements that can make a cocktail shine. That’s why you’ve probably got a favorite bar and a favorite mixologist. So, how can you get creative with your drinks?

One subtle touch can be the infusion of spices into your drink. A hint of cinnamon or nutmeg adds warmth and complexity to familiar flavors as long as you don’t overdo it. A splash of bar syrup like passion fruit, vanilla, or strawberry introduces new flavors and sweetens the drink.

However you experiment, don’t be afraid to taste your drink before you pour. If you’ve overdone it with the rum, the sweets, or the cream, you can add a dash of pineapple juice or freshly squeezed lemon to balance out the mix.

If all else fails, add more ice and shake vigorously: You won’t bruise light rum, and shaking a drink a second time can help balance flavors better as more of the ice melts.

The Right Kind of Rum

The choice of rum will alter this drink’s character dramatically.

Light, white rum is clean and subtle. It allows the pineapple and coconut to take center stage, creating a refreshingly crisp cocktail.

Dark, aged rum, meanwhile, will bring a robust, caramel-smoky profile to your drink. It’s more pronounced and more complex. It’s also easier to get wrong, so take your time and err on the side of caution. You can always add more rum.

Reach for the spiced rum if you’re on the lookout for an even more nuanced drink. Mid and top-shelf varieties are what you’re looking for. Common, cheaper brands like Captain Morgan won’t cut it here and you’ll likely ruin the profile of the cocktail.

Beyond the Basics

Crushed ice, citrus, something sweet: Textures play a crucial role in the enjoyment of a good mixed drink. Crushed ice is a popular choice because it melds with a cocktail seamlessly, while the addition of sweet syrups, honey, or brown sugar can amplify the natural sweetness of the pineapple.

Citrus, too, holds a special place in a bartender’s arsenal. It’s used to brighten drinks and neuter the overpowering taste of stronger alcohols. Experiment with all of them to find the balance.

A Toast to Adventure

When you drink a pina colada you’re not just celebrating a cocktail, but honoring a tradition stretching back decades. The pina colada drink mix is more than a drink. It’s a symbol of exploration that has traveled the world.

Whether you’re enjoying it at a cocktail bar in Toronto or prepping it for friends at home, it’s a drink that promises possibility.

Located in King West, Toronto, the Kissa is an exclusive restaurant and nightclub catering to those looking for that extra “something”. Click here to make a reservation on our booking portal.

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