Words and image by Seren Hollins

The Piña Colada is an iconic drink from the 1950s and it is the ultimate summer escape cocktail. Whenever I think of the drink, I can’t help but start singing the lyrics to Rupert Holmes’ song Escape. You know the one: “If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain. If you´re not into yoga, if you have half a brain. If you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape. I´m the love that you´ve looked for, write to me, and escape”, it not surprising that this got dubbed the Piña Colada song. Once I’ve got the lyrics out of my head, I love to get behind my vintage cocktail bar to mix up this classic taste of the tropics:

Original Piña Colada Recipe (according to the Caribe Hilton)

  • 2 oz/60 ml white rum
  • 1 oz/30 ml coconut cream (Coco Lopez to be authentic)
  • 1 oz/30 ml heavy cream
  • 6 oz/180 ml fresh pineapple juice
  • 5 cups/120 ml crushed ice
  • Pour the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth and serve in a tall glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple, a cocktail umbrella and a cherry.

There are three different places in Puerto Rico that claim to have invented the Piña Colada. The most popular tale is that Ramón ‘Monchito’ Marrero Pérez was tasked to create a signature drink for the Caribe Hilton in San Juan. He experimented with many flavours, shaking and blending away until he fell upon the combination of native rum, pineapple, condensed milk and coconut cream. The cocktail did not get the name until later, but the flavours were born there. That is, unless you were to have consulted Ricardo Garcia, who also worked at the Caribe Hilton at the time. Garcia had developed a cocktail that included the Coco Lopez and rum, but he used coconut juice and served it in a sliced coconut. When they had run out of coconuts, and he was forced to use what he had on hand at the time: pineapples. He served the drink in a hollowed out pineapple, and thus the Piña Colada was created. There is even a plaque at the Caribe Hilton to say they invented it. The Barrachina also has a plaque stating they are the official birthplace of the cocktail. Ramón Portas Mingot was hired to be the head bartender there, and also experimented with Coco Lopez and rum mixtures. He hit upon a similar recipe to Ramón Marrero, and thus they created the Piña Colada! Even the dates claimed vary. Marrero’s cocktail has been dated anywhere from 1952 to 1957, with 1954 being the most common year. Mingot’s recipe is dated to 1963. It is possible that he was the first to call the drink a Piña Colada, but the recipe came from Marrero. The real origin of the drinks conception and birth it seems are lost in cocktail history but whatever its birth right, Hollywood legend Joan Crawford apparently claimed that the Caribe Hilton’s creation was, “better than slapping Bette Davis in the face”. Well if you use the right ingredients, this cocktail can be truly delicious.

However, the 1980s wasn’t kind to the Piña Colada. In the early 80s it soared in popularity but was soon subjected to being filled with sugary tasting syrups and decorated with everything from pink flamingo cocktail stirrers to sparklers. It wasn’t long before it became a drink cliché and associated with the likes of Del Boy from the sitcom Only Fools and Horses. The Piña Colada became resigned to a life of faded glamour and was quite frankly thought of as a bit naff. However, there is nothing inherently naff about pineapple, coconut or rum and so I think a Piña Colada revival is in order.

If you happen to be throwing a little tropical party yourself this year or are feeling rather retro, then why not make a Pina Colada Cake to go with your cocktails? It’s a true taste of the tropics!

Piña Colada Cake


170 g unsalted butter, room temperature
310g caster sugar
180g sour cream, room temperature
1 tbsp white rum
6 large eggs beaten
340g self raising flour
4tsp baking powder
250g coconut cream


Pineapple Jam

Butter Cream

250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon white rum
600g icing sugar
2 tablespoons pineapple juice

Glace Cherries
Candied Pineapple (optional)
Preserved Angelica (optional)
3 dark chocolate bounty bars



Prepare two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
Add sour cream and rum and mix until well combined.
Add the eggs gradually, adding a spoon of flour at a time and then mixing until well combined after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
Add the remaining flour and baking powder and mix well.
Add the coconut cream and mix thoroughly.
Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for about 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes, and then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.


In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth.
Add the rum and add the pineapple juice.ix until smooth.


Spread a generous layer of pineapple jam on one cake and a generous layer of butter cream on the other and sandwich them together.

Place the cake on a plate and carefully cover with a layer of butter cream and then set to work on the retro style decorating.

To Decorate

Cut dark chocolate Bounty Bars carefully into quarters with a sharp knife and position around the edge of the cake, taking care to eat any leftovers. Use different coloured cherries, angelica and candied pineapple to decorate. Voila! You have a cake worthy of even the most discerning of yuppies.

For more retro recipes and indeed cocktails check out my blogs www.serenitykitchen.com

Lisa Harrison
Written by Lisa Harrison
Lisa is the Deputy Editor of Vintage Life Magazine and Publisher at Dragoon Publishing. She is avid bookworm, collector of vintage homeware, loves travel, lazy weekends away and eats way too much cake!