The piña colada, the magic elixir of beachfront and poolside relaxation, didn’t ascend from heaven as you may have assumed. It is actually the stuff of mere mortals, maybe even one in particular.
Rumor has it that Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresi first whipped up the rum, coconut and pineapple blend to raise his crew’s morale, but the recipe was conveniently lost after his death in 1825. Historians concur this isn’t likely how it happened, but people were aware of the drink in 1950s, per a mention of it in the New York Times.
Marrero tended bar at the Hilton for the next 35 years, where he would sling drinks, including his brainchild. In 1978, the piña colada was named the official drink of Puerto Rico. In 2004, Governor Sila María Calderón made the drink officially official with a signed proclamation on its 50th anniversary.
Since then, the Caribe Hilton has become headquarters for all things piña colada, serving twists on the cocktail and food variations, such as piña colada French toast.
Meanwhile, other bartenders have made the same claim to fame that they invented the iconic drink, some of whom are Marrero’s coworkers. Maybe they mixed a similar concoction but Marrero is given the credit for perfecting it. Unless we see evidence to the contrary, we're going along with the Caribe Hilton's story and the mark Marrero left on Puerto Rican culture.
Here’s Marrero’s official recipe if you want to try making one too. Notice his recipe, the official one, uses heavy cream for extra richness: