I raise my glass to your glass dropping!
Coconut Full Moon tonight. The perfect time to toast that essence of equatorial elixir – pina colada.
Maldives is not my only tropical love. I am also an epicurean devotee of the pina colada. It is my tropical cocktail. I only really drink it in the Maldives because I do believe that ambience and context is as much a part of an exceptional drink experience as the drink itself. Like port with cigars and cards. Or Pimms at one of The Season events. I have occasional sampled pina coladas when I am at establishments renowned for their mixology just to explore their spin on this classic. But the experience is more clinical and investigative than my sensual savouring in the Maldives.
My pina passion has reached a higher profile as a part of my annual Maldives Tour posts to the Trip Advisor Maldives Forum. I post a daily thumbnail sketch of each resort highlighting things like the weather, my favourite dish, snorkel spottings. And I include a headline assessment of the resort’s pina colada.
For me the pina colada is as iconic a tropical drink as the Maldives is a tropical destination. And it can be an emblematic indicator for the resort overall. It’s complicated and varied enough that the resort’s own quality of ingredients, attention to detail, creativity, flair and even personality can shine though in this little alcoholic microcosm. You can have foamy vs. flat, shaken vs. blended, iced vs. chilled, not to mention a range of ingredient variations (eg. coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut flavouring). And it can be presented in simple tall glasses with a sprig or garnish to coconut shells with a cornucopia of fruit and frills.
Last year, the epicenter of all things coconut, Kurumba resort, rose to the “Pina Colada Challenge” with an unprecedented flurry of pina colada artistry on the occasion of my visit. The exceptional evening got me questioning my first principles. With all of the options and variations, what was I looking for in the “perfect pina colada”. That led to a bit more “research” and now my own recipe and guidance for the quintessential pinoconut concoction.
FUNDAMENTALS – What are my basic principles for the ultimate pina colada?
Despite many classic recipes call for it, I first tried to avoid the Sugar Syrup ingredient. I thought one could get the desired sweetness with the pineapple juice and even the coconut cream would contribute a bit. However, in depth experimentation showed that the syrup really helped to smooth out and mellow the final product in a way no other balancing could (without sacrificing the rum kick). If getting or making the sugar syrup is just a step too far, then actually using Malibu Rum (the exception to the “not flavoured Rum” rule) provides the same sweetness and some of the mellowing effect (but unfortunately does introduce a distinctly “artificial” or even “chemically” tinge).
Also notice NO ICE. Ice just waters down the drink and interferes with the smooth sipping. The frozen ingredients provide all the frigidity that you need (and more than shaking over ice will ever do).
Perhaps the key objective here is balance. You don’t want any individual ingredient overpowering the flavour. You want all of the tastes to blend harmoniously.
Blend ingredients until smooth. Not too little so that it is lumpy. Not too much that it overly thaws the drink. Depending on the type of blender you have, you might want to pre-crush the frozen coconut cream as this can freeze quite solidly.
You can let your inner Carmen Miranda go crazy if you like, but there is only one classic garnish – a skewered Maraschino cherry and pineapple slice perched on the edge of the glass. Some say the cherry is dated and even twee, but I guess I am just too old school. And no straw! The drink needs to be sipped from the glass like a fine wine. Straws are mostly for drinks with ice (see note above on “no ice”).
The Guardian has also published their pina perfection path “How to make the perfect piña colada”. It’s an okay recipe. I’m against the use of ice for a truly “perfect” pina, but I understand how it is an expedient way to achieve coldness. And the piece provides some in depth perspectives on some of the dynamics of the drink.
Happy Hour Coconut Moon everyone!
(special thanks to our friends Wayne and Lucille who contributed as research assistants in the methodical lab testing)
If you are inspired to be your own concoct your own cocktail creations, then arrival at Kurumba will start your holiday on the right foot. They provide all the fresh ingredients to make your own mojito precisely to your liking when you walk into your room. We loved the concept because it spurred us to indulge in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise done. When you arrive, it doesn’t feel appropriate to raid the mini-bar right off the bat. And if you did, all you can really do is have a simple drink like a beer, glass of wine or neat liquor. But the layout inspired us to create an especially refreshing and interesting drink to accompany our unpacking and settling in.
Researching yesterday’s croquet piece, I was struck by the curious terminology of the game much of which seemed like a menu for exotic cocktails – Super Shot, Dambuster, Dolly Rush, Mangler, Octuple Peel, Straight Triple. It brought me back to our Sun Siyam Irufushi visit and wiling away too many hours at their “Water’s Edge” bar.
Over 90% of cocktails there are custom recipes made by Anil. As our waiter commented, “No one wants to drink Coca Cola at the Maldives”.
While I tend to stick to my ritual pina coladas during my resort visits I nonetheless always appreciate inventiveness. And Lori always seems to be interested in trying an unconventional concoction. I’ll often sample hers and more often than not the cocktails are more oddball than highball.
But Irufushi was a truly refreshing change. Their “Shanghi #1” is a resort favourite which Lori tried (bracing with a bit of fizz and not too sweet). I had a “Login” which is like a tropical mojito”
If you want to indulge in the taste of the Maldives, Maldives Complete has scooped the recipes for their top three creations…
Vintages are the marques of distinctive quality for the finest wines, but how about “vintage” cocktails? Velaa bills them as the Maldives’ “Rarest and Most Expensive Cocktails”. Starting at $1,230, they would make a Top 10 list in the world are a mostly certainly the most exclusive in the Maldives. But anyone can throw together lots of expensive ingredients. What I like is their distinctive attention to the story behind each…
“History in a glass – the cocktails celebrate vintages from bygone years – using the finest vintage Ports, Cognacs and Armagnacs, such as Guy Lheraud, Vieil a unique 1930’s vintage as the base liquors for each drink…The dedicated mixology team at Velaa has developed their first-class repertoires for these fine aged cocktails and aim to transport guests back in time to the prohibition years in New York or Chicago.”
So you can toast today’s 127 anniversaire of the Tour Effel’s opening with a double distillation of “drinking stars”.