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Classic Tropical Cocktail Recipes

Updated on August 10, 2015

Tropical cocktail recipes usually bring to mind colorful alcoholic concoctions (typically made with rum) blended with sugary fruity mixers and topped with bold (gaudy?) slices of fruit and/or bright umbrellas.

While there is nothing wrong with a creative "in-your-face" tropical cocktail, there is a way to add a touch of elegance without losing the fun! And no matter what you put your cocktail in or garnish it with, using high quality, fresh ingredients will elevate it to elite staus every time.

Read below to see how to upgrade one of the most famous tropical cocktails of all time, the Pina Colada.

The Pina Colada

The Basic Pina Colada Recipe is as follows:

  • Chill a Hurricane glass (either place in the freezer ahead of time or fill with ice and water, swirl for several seconds, then dump out and shake out excess water.)

In a blender, combine:

  • 2 ounces light rum
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 ounces Coco Lopez (coconut cream)
  • Crushed ice for blender (add enough so the liquid is not above or below the level of the ice. There should be some movement but not too much. The ice should be crowded.

Blend the ingredients until you have a fine slushy consistency with no ice chunks.

Garnish with a cocktail umbrella and a slice of pineapple.

The basic is good, but we can make it better.

Upgraded Pina Colada:

Start by rimming a chilled Hurricane glass with a mixture of coconut cream and coarse salt. Go very easy on the coconut cream to avoid having it drip down the sides of the glass. Why salt and not sugar? The drink already has plenty of sweetness, the salt adds a nice contrast.

Use the best rum you can afford. Always avoid cheap spirits. High quality spirits make better drinks and are less likely to cause hangovers.

Also, consider adding an extra layer of flavor by pouring in:

  • 3/4 ounce Meyer's dark rum or an aged (anejo) rum

Next, instead of using 2 ounces of coconut cream, substitute one ounce with fresh coconut milk.

To finish, forget about that giant spear of pineapple and shave some fresh coconut on the top of the finished drink. If you must add pineapple, spear a couple of fresh chunks on a toothpick and lay them across the rim.

So the upgraded pina colada would look like this:

Rim a Hurricane glass with coconut cream and coarse salt.

  • 1 1/2-2 ounces of fine white rum
  • 1/2-3/4 ounce Myer's dark or anejo rum
  • 1 ounce coconut cream
  • 1 ounce fresh coconut milk
  • 2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
  • Crushed ice
  • Fresh coconut and pineapple for garnish.

Blend until smooth and pour carefully into the coconut cream and salt rimmed glass.

Top with shaved coconut and pineapple if you wish.

Feel free to add cocktail umbrellas or any other creative props you can think of. Just be sure not to overdecorate the glass.

Cast your vote for Upgraded Pina Colada
The strong and refreshing Hurricane cocktail
The strong and refreshing Hurricane cocktail | Source

Hurricane Cocktail Upgrade

To upgrade another popular tropical cocktail, the Hurricane, follow this recipe to the letter:

  • 2 ounces light rum. Bacardi is always a reasonably priced choice, but try 10 Cane or Rogue artisan rums for smoother, more complex flavors.
  • 1 ounce dark rum. Myer's is the traditional go-to rum, but it's flavor can quickly overpower a drink or the imbiber. Try substituting Appleton Estate instead. It has a strong nose and flavor, is dark amber in color, and blends smoothly with a clean white rum.
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice. Unless you have plenty of time and quite a few passion fruits lying around, it's best to buy this premade. Look for fresh, low or no sugar juice in health food stores, or try Jumex or Kern's nectars. In a pinch, use an off-the shelf passionfruit juice blend.
  • 1 ounce orange juice. Definitely get the fresh squeezed. It's a totally different experience.
  • Juice of half a lime, about 1 tablespoon. Make sure your limes are thin skinned and juicy!
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce fresh pomegranate juice. (This is easier than you think and tastes better than grenadine. Select dark pink, not red fruits, cut them in half, remove seeds. Place in blender with enough water to move the seeds. Strain the juice and leave rest behind.)
  • Fresh fruits for garnish, or save a few pomegranate seeds to sprinkle on top.

Fill a shaker and your hurricane glass with ice. Pour all ingredients into the shaker, cover and shake well. Strain the mixture into the hurricane glass and garnish with your choice of colorful fruits and/or pomegranate seeds. Don't forget a straw!

Tropical cocktails abound with creativity.
Tropical cocktails abound with creativity. | Source

Tropical Cocktail Ingredients

Tropical cocktails made with high quaity, fresh ingredients are always better. Don't assume you are getting the best If you are at a bar or restaurant, be sure to ask for specific ingredients.

Always tell the server or bartender which spirit you want, and don't be afraid to ask what mixers are used in the drink. Many restaurants and bars dispense juices out of a gun that retrieves it from a box, and the taste difference is palpable.

If you know of a bar that makes their juices fresh, you have found a true treasure. Fresh juices are better for you and tend to be less sweet, creating a more complex cocktail.

Tropical cocktails do not have to be gaudy and sweet to be in this category. Avoid the extra sugar and let the fresh flavors ring through. And ok, maybe drinking it out of a coconut with a giant cocktail umbrella isn't so bad after all.


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    • MosLadder profile image

      Chris Montgomery 5 years ago from Irvine, CA

      Absolutely! Nothing wrong with a little rum, coconut and pineapple! Cheers.

    • lupine profile image

      lupine 5 years ago from Southern California (USA)

      Will try the Pina Colada...looks good.