By Alexander Britell
BACUNAYAGUA — It’s one of the Caribbean’s most famous cocktails, and perhaps the one that most typifies the best and worst of Caribbean tourism: the piña colada.
This cocktail, which is said to have been born at the Barrachina bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico (or, others would have you believe, at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan), is polarizing; on the one hand, it is that stereotypical drink, the one that every tourist seems to be drinking on the beach or on a cruise ship. On the other hand, it is delicious.
That brings us to Cuba, an island known for many cocktails, from the Mojito to the Daiquiri, but not particularly famous for the Piña Colada.
That’s what made it such a surprise when I arrived at the Bacunayagua rest top on the road to Varadero.
This small outlet with a bar and a giftshop looks out on Bacunayagua Bridge, the tallest bridge in Cuba, and has a bar that serves one thing: freshly-made piña coladas.
Except these aren’t the ones you’re used to.
Typically, the drink includes rum, cream of coconut (usually Coco Lopez) and pineapple juice.
These are something else — something fresher.
They include fresh coconut water and coconut milk from fresh-plucked coconuts, and — here’s the biggest distinction — crushed pineapple — not pineapple juice.
It’s the latter that makes this pina colada simply out of this world — instead of pineapple juice from concentrate, this is an authentic, natural cocktail with tasty chunks of pineapple inside the drink.
Oh, and they’re made with Cuba’s top-level Havana Club 7 Anos — not a run-of-the-mill rum. And, better yet, you get to pour the rum yourself.
They’re said to be the best in Cuba, and it’s hard to imagine otherwise.
But they’re also something else — the best in the Caribbean.