I love a good piña colada. I'm not talking about the sickly-sweet Trader Vic's version with spiced rum (or worse, coconut rum) and a can of coconut milk served in a hollowed-out pineapple. Okay, I do love those, too; but it's hard to justify that many empty calories right up front. Here's a lighter version, perfect for mid-morning, with an innovation borrowed from our friends at Beaker and Flask here in Portland: coconut water ice cubes.
A well-heeled friend of mine made the cocktail for me last week: aged rum, pineapple gum syrup and coconut water cubes. It was delicious, obviously, but a little precious, even for me. That pineapple gum syrup is $13 for only 8.5 ounces! And her rum was very smooth. Verrry smoooth (read: expensive-tasting). But I knew this would taste great even if I cut a few corners.
I use a mid-range rum, Pyrat XO Reserve; it tastes fine to me, and doesn't break the bank. I thought about how to make my own pineapple gum syrup, but settled on just using pineapple juice. The coconut water, though—that was truly inspired. Fresh juice from a raw, young coconut is, by far, the best-tasting, but barring that, use whatever you like. I prefer the Thai brands that have a toastier, macaroon-like flavor (they're usually marketed as "young coconut juice" and my favorite one is found in the freezer section of my neighborhood Asian grocery store). Just pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze it.
I used about three cubes per drink, poured in my rum and pineapple juice, then floated a mere spoonful of coconut milk on top for effect. I think it tastes clean and lovely (and more calorie-conscious) without it, but if you really crave the Trader Vic's experience, there's no other way.
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About the Author: Portland, Oregon native Heather Arndt Anderson is the author of the food blog Voodoo & Sauce. She was recently published in the Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia, for which she penned the Pacific Northwest chapter.