When it comes to liquid refreshments, there’s nothing better than a chilled Puerto Rican cocktail. One of the most well-known is the traditional piña colada, a national drink since 1978.
Puerto Rico has many more, lesser known cocktails to indulge in that you won’t find in fancy resorts and tourist traps. Locals enjoy their own version of eggnog to celebrate the holidays and every region has a homebrewed moonshine rum. If you’ve ever wondered if there are any great Puerto Rican cocktails to indulge in, you will be spoilt for choice. Here’s 11 must-try Puerto Rican cocktails on or off the Isla del Encanto.
11 Puerto Rican Cocktails
- Classic Piña Colada
Regarded as the world’s most loved mixed drink, the Piña Colada was conceived on the island, specifically first served at the Caribe Hilton’s Beachcomber Bar in 1954 (as they claim). This iconic rum-based cocktail is the ultimate beverage for your sweet senses, and is made with cream of coconut, pineapple juice, rum and is usually garnished with a maraschino cherry, pineapple wedge or both. The increased popularity of this beverage has given rise to several variants of Piña Coladas including Ciña Polada, Coast Colada and Chambord Colada. However, a classic Piña Colada is made with just the ingredients mentioned above, and is served either on the rocks or blended with ice.
Also referred to as ron caña or ron cañita (cane rum), this, often illegally produced moonshine rum from Puerto Rico is much stronger than commercial rum, and at times may surpass 100 proof. Pitorro is definitely not a drink for the faint hearted. Made from sugarcane, Pitorro can be “cured” with sugar and fruit including tamarind, papaya, coconut, mango, and even chocolate and coffee flavors.
The curing process of this home distilled moonshine rum begins when sugar and flavors are added to the rum, which lowers the intensity of the alcohol flavor. To accelerate the curing process and integrate the flavors, Pitorro may at times be buried underground. Although it is illegal to produce, getting your hands on some Pitorro is easy with the right connections, especially during the holidays.
You can also find a few Pitorro brands on the market and available in stores—at a much lower proof. Buy them in the supermarket or pick some up at the airport when you are flying out of Puerto Rico to share with friends.
- Bacardi Shaken Daiquiri
This daiquiri on the rocks is a simple mixture you can find all over the island, and something easy to make at home. Simple combine Bacardi Light rum with lime and 2 tablespoons of sugar and ice. Shake well to serve.
- Papa Jac
Made famous at Candelas Bar in Old San Juan, the Papa Jac is the official cocktail of the San Sebastian Festival, and is now commercially produced. The recipe is a mixture of passionfruit juice and rum.
This is basically a shot that is a blend of Palo Viejo brand white rum and then combined with anise liquor. The anise makes the drink sweet and adds to the flavor of the rum similar to licorice with a twist.
- Mavi (or Mabi or Mauby)
This traditional Puerto Rican drink has been around for hundreds of years and it’s not really a cocktail, but deserves mentioning since it’s one of those drinks that you very rarely find outside of Puerto Rico. Mavi contains a small amount of alcohol—or more—depending on how it is brewed. You can usually find mavi being sold by the gallon on the side of the road. It’s sweet, bubbly and refreshing, Puerto Rico’s champagne. The recipe calls for bark from the mabi (mavi, mauby) tree, spices, sugar and water, mixed with yeast and fermented for about three days.
A common cocktail made with Mavi (Mabi, Mauby) is the Mauby Libre, which combines the sweet drink with dark rum and lime.
Traditionally known as a Cuban cocktail, there is no shortage of Mojitos to be found in Puerto Rico, the rum capitol of the world. Rum production on the island started as early as the 1600’s and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The Mojito is simple to make and requires just 5 easily available ingredients such as sugar, white rum, lime juice, mint and sparkling water. Puerto Rico offers its own variations with the tamarind, passion fruit, and mango mojito.
This alcoholic refreshment is already irresistibly fresh and punchy and serving it in frozen state simply ups the ante. Just like a regular Mojito, a frozen Mojito is a mint-flecked, frothy, light and limey beverage that is made by combining the aforementioned ingredients and then adding lots of ice for that frozen feel.
- Whiskey and Coconut Water
You will most always find coconut water available as a mixer in Puerto Rican bars. Mix it with whiskey or rum and serve with ice for a refreshing cocktail under the hot Caribbean sun.
Originally from the island of Vieques, just off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Bilí is a version of Pitorro made from a favorite island fruit, la quenepa. You can find quenepa for sale on the side of the road and in markets when it is in season. These sweet-tart fruits are mixed with brown sugar, rum (or moonshine), vanilla and spices and then aged underground for a few days just like you would cure Pitorro.
Since Puerto Rico is the rum capitol of the world, we can’t leave it off the list. More that 70% of the rum consumed in the United States is from Puerto Rico and every city seems to have a brand. There are over 30 brands on the small island, with the most popular among locals being Don Q. Ron Barrilito 3 Star is often recommended as one of the best high-end (though not pricey) rums to drink on the rocks or neat.
This popular Puerto Rican beverage usually makes its rounds around the festive season, and is an alcohol laced eggnog like refreshment that is easy to make. This traditional Puerto Rican drink can be enjoyed with or without rum and its ingredients include coconut milk, rum, egg yolks, sweet condensed milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and vanilla. Variations include the Chocolate Coquito and the Pistachio Coquito.
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 1 can condensed milk
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1- 1 1/2 cup white rum
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- In a large bowl, whisk the evaporated milk, condensed milk, rum, water, coconut milk, nutmeg and cinnamon together. You can add more rum if desired. For non-alcoholic Coquito, replace the rum with a cup of cold coconut water or ice.
- For true flavor, refrigerate the drink for two hours and garnish it with a bit of cinnamon and serve chilled.
This sums up our list of typical alcoholic drinks you’ll find living in Puerto Rico. Is there a Puerto Rican cocktail we missed? Add your favorite drink to the list in the comment section below.