There are few cocktails more evocative of a beach vacation than the iconic Piña Colada. As bartender Joaquín Simó declared in our blind tasting of the drink, “It’s an outdoor drink. You’re using it basically like air conditioning. Having it indoors doesn’t feel quite right.”
But even when the outdoors doesn’t beckon, the Piña Colada has something to offer. An unparalleled emblem of carefree drinking, the quintessential summertime drink has become the inspiration for countless original concoctions as bartenders seek to stretch the bounds of the formula, channeling the essence of the Piña Colada even—or perhaps especially—in the depths of winter.
For some, this means swapping or splitting the traditional rum base. In Natasha David and Maxwell Britten’s Absinthe Colada, for example, a half-ounce of grassy rhum agricole complements an ounce and a half of Swiss verte-style absinthe and a teaspoon of crème de menthe, alongside the expected coconut and pineapple. Rum meets … more rum, in Demi Natoli’s Congas y Coladas, which offers a savory spin on the formula thanks to her Doña’s Mix, a cumin-infused take on Donn’s Mix. Ran Duan’s Sherry Colada, meanwhile, ditches the rum altogether in favor of amontillado sherry, which lends a rich, nutty through-note to his low-proof take on the classic.
For others, the craveability of the Piña Colada arrives in the guise of another cocktail entirely. Chris Amirault, for instance, melds the pineapple and coconut of the poolside classic into the structure of an aperitif cocktail in his White Negroni Piña Colada served on the rocks, while Ryan Chetiyawardana transforms the creamy cocktail into a clear, bubbly long drink. Of course, nobody is stopping you from whipping up the classic in its traditional form, either. The Piña Colada is, after all, always in season.