I know you rely upon me to cut through all this red tape and tell you when to celebrate important dates on the cocktail calendar, but I have failed you.
July 10 passed without fanfare. Not because I didn’t notice, but because it just felt like a worn out recording, of a favourite song.
Yes, with apologies for the ear-worm, it was International Pina Colada Day.
Pina Colada comes from Puerto Rico and not one, but two Governors have deemed that it was invented under the swaying palms at San Juan’s Caribe Hilton.
This is a country that in 1978 declared the Pina Colada to be its national drink, so who are we to argue?
A word here about Puerto Rico.
It isn’t actually a country, it’s an Unincorporated Territory of the USA. I have an expensive Masters degree in International Relations which affords me an excellent opportunity to segue into a lengthy explanation of what that means, but would rather focus on Puerto Rico’s most important export, Enrique Martin Morales.
Ricky Martin, Christmas gift to the world, was delivered on December 24, 1971.
This singer, actor, humanitarian and apparently author who implored us to shake our Bon-Bons is second only to George Michael in world-beating handsomeness and whiteness of teeth. And probably in island ass-riding that we covered HERE.
1971 is also the year that Kingsley Amis published his first book on drinking, recently re-released in Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis which I’m reading now.
As both writer and drinker, it makes me feel simultaneously inadequate but excited by the possibilities.
This tome, as well as revealing much about booze and language mastery, tells me that Sir Kingsley was tolerant of champagne, but as a nice breakfasty drink.
I suspect he was not into yoga, nor would he have been into health food and I know he was sporting much more than half a brain. However, without a direct response to Rupert Holmes’ 1979 masterpiece on the glamour of adultery (HERE), I can only surmise that Sir Kingsley would have dealt with it mercilessly.
One clue comes in his writings on the Pina Colada itself.
He refers to it as an “atrocity”, a “disgusting concoction…made by pouring…something called Malibu which describes itself as tropical coconut laced with light Jamaican rum, and filling up with a semblance of pineapple juice…”
Now to be fair, Sir K (as he would have been ok for me to call him since had we met, we would have been best friends) had clearly not had the benefit of tasting a proper Pina Colada, because there is simply no call for Malibu.
Muddlers who came to The Bronx with me know that I know a thing or two about Malibu and Pineapple and that it is actually a Staten Island Ferry.
True to our form here at Shake, Stir, Muddle, we will look to the International Bartenders Association for the official recipe. The IBA recipe does not include Malibu and nor does any self-respecting bartender have a need for it in anything except the drink I pioneered in the late 1980s (henceforth to be referred to as the Staten Island Hillbilly).
In this more cocktail-enlightened decade, the Pina Colada is hard to find on menus. Even in Hawaii, where one would suspect the combination of sun, Dole Pineapple Plantations, water-based yoga and regular tropical rain to get caught in would put the PC back in hot demand, 3 out of 4 places we tried did not have it on their cocktail menu.
The one that did have it – the delightful Hy’s Steak House in Waikiki – still has menu
items that would not have been out of place in any fancy restaurant in the 1970s.
Think prawn cocktails, oysters Kilpatrick, but sadly no deep-fried Camembert.
Yes, the Pina Colada seems to have peaked in 1979.
Except for Brisbane and for me.
For us it peaked in 1987.
Brisbane in the 1980s was a bit like somewhere good in the 1950s.
Our biggest local celebrities were a smart-arsed hand puppet named Agro (which incidentally, I screen-tested to be the side-kick for – I got down to the last two and they went with a blonde) and a hairdresser named Stefan*.
Stefan had a chain of hairdressing salons AND a series of infomercials that opened the eyes of Brisbane ladies – and gentlemen – to their beautiful possibilities that existed just the length of teasing comb away.
Stefan also opened Jo-Jo’s on Queen Street Mall. Jo Jo’s was (and is) a bit like a fancy food court but in early 1980s Queensland, it seemed impossibly glamorous. It still uses the same tagline “Meet you at Jo Jo’s”.
In my first year of University, we took heed of that tagline and discovered frozen Pina Coladas on Thursday afternoons at just 2 for $4. This was in 1987, the year that The Bold and the Beautiful first aired on Australian television, an undeniably exciting time to be alive.
Love You Brisbane.
And on reflection, I think that the Pina Colada may be The Bold and the Beautiful of cocktails. It shouldn’t be taken too seriously, it also isn’t about Malibu and is really, really white.
That Ricky Martin did not appear in The Bold and Beautiful is a missed opportunity for us all, but I have two happy facts to impart;
1. Ricky did have a role on General Hospital for three years (so same same really – and I’ve got $17 that says he’s had Stefan’s ladies tell him how to manage his curly hair)
2. Fellow Puerto Rican, Erik Estrada did appear on Bold (as you are welcome to refer to it when you are in the know).
Millennials may be interested to learn that Erik Estrada was an international sex-symbol.
It was a confusing time for us all. Too many Pina Coladas perhaps. Everyone else needs to know that Erik was such an awesome cop in CHiPs that he became one in REAL LIFE.
Anyway, Rupert Holmes may try to lay claim to popularising the Pina Colada in this era, but a full year before his creepy Ashley Madison precursor song came out, Warren Zevon saw a Werewolf drinking the cocktail at Trader Vic’s in London.
A full year.
Yet the Holmes song continues to carry the weight of Pina Colada attention, popping up in many movies over the last two decades.
One of those movies is Bewitched.
Will Ferrell usually can’t displease me (if you haven’t seen Stepbrothers, you must), but this was appalling.
I travelled to Perth overnight for work in 2005 and had to endure this as the in-flight movie in both directions.
Another interesting historical fact for the Millennials – back in the day there was one TV screen to be shared among rows and rows of passengers and what was on, was on.
Bewitched. With Nicole Kidman. Twice in two days. That is bad luck.
Let’s erase that disappointment by focusing instead on its inspiration, the charming Bewitched TV series that ran from 1964 to 1972.
Based largely around a woman’s efforts to host cocktail parties for her husband’s boss, the central premise was that if your husband is threatened by your magical powers, hilarity will ensue if you confine yourself to preparing the high-balls and fondue the mortal way.
It had a great supporting cast but it was Elizabeth Montgomery’s show.
Not only was Montgomery talented enough to play some of her own supporting cast, she was an early gay-rights advocate in Hollywood and one of the first celebrities to advocate for AIDS patients.
And when she was dying of cancer in 1995, she asked for the contents of her IV drip to be replaced with a certain cocktail.
So for me, that’s reason enough to stage a late International Pina Colada Day – to have that drink for her.
And here’s the verdict.
You’ll love it. It’s delicious, super-fattening (whatever, everyone can afford to have one), kinda daggy and desperately in need of a musical makeover.
But if you close your eyes and take a sip, you could be livin’ La Vida Loca on the white sands of Puerto Rico.
And (apart from the Zika Virus) who wouldn’t want that?
*Stefan came to Australia from Lebanon as a teenager, did his hairdressing apprenticeship while learning English at night school and has gone on to employ thousands of people, pay many millions of dollars in taxation and indeed revolutionise hair-dressing in Queensland. I would not be one bit surprised if Pauline Hanson herself had used Stefan’s services.