Many bars around the world claim to have been the one to have invented the famed beach beverage: the Piña Colada. But just one—the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico—has the street cred to make the real deal claim. Swig Contributor Kristen Oliveri sat down with Erik Fois, Food and Beverage Director of the Caribe Hilton, to discuss the overall beverage plan for the sprawling hotel that has nine different food and beverage concepts, as well as putting to rest who invented the Piña Colada once and for all.
Q: You have the difficult task of creating an all-encompassing beverage program for a hotel that includes nine different dining concepts. What is that like?
A: All food and beverage outlets in the hotel offer a wide selection to our guests that come from both inside and outside the hotel. We continuously measure our offerings and adjust them if needed. It’s really all about striking a balance between listening to the guests’ needs while maintaining a competitiveness in the market.
Q: You make fresh juices for breakfast and for banquet events. What ingredients do you use? Do you incorporate them into cocktails?
A: Wherever possible, we try to incorporate fresh juices for breakfast and have a minimum of four freshly prepared juices available daily. The ingredients solely depend on the season that we are in. Oftentimes we use fresh cucumber, carrot, apples and other fruit, but we always try to incorporate some local flair by using fruits that are available on the island. As for cocktails, we often use fresh coconut water to enhance the flavors or the spirits that we use.
Q: What are some of your more innovative cocktails?
A: One really unique cocktail that we make is what we call the evolution of the Piña Colada. A ‘clear colada’ is a modern take to the classic Piña Colada that encompasses both creativity and great flavors. The cocktail is made of: coconut oil infused white rum, clarified pineapple juice, house made pineapple syrup and coconut water, served with a coconut ice pop.
Q: In terms of tourism, what do you find most people want to drink when they come for a vacation?
A: There is no doubt that people come to Puerto Rico to taste the local rum. Our guests continue to be amazed by the wide variety of flavors that we have to offer here.
Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure cocktail?
A: Personally, I really enjoy a well-crafted negroni. It’s a simple, classic cocktail that anybody can prepare, but not many bartenders can execute well.
Q: The Piña Colada. Did you invent it?
A: It is most certainly invented in this hotel! The Piña Colada was originally created at Caribe Hilton in 1954 by Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, during his days as a bartender at the resort. After three months of experimentation, Monchito finally settled on the Piña Colada mixture he felt captured the true flavor of Puerto Rico. He continued to serve the drink at Caribe Hilton for 35 years until his retirement in 1989. He left quite the legacy, as in 1978 Puerto Rico named the Piña Colada its official national drink. Below is the traditional recipe.
2 oz. White Rum
1 oz. Coconut Cream
1 oz. Heavy Cream
6 oz. Fresh Pineapple Juice
½ cup Crushed Ice
Add the rum, coconut cream, heavy cream and pineapple juice together in a blender. Add the ice and blend for about 15 seconds or until smooth. Serve in a 12-ounce glass. Garnish with a fresh pineapple wedge and a maraschino cherry.