Outside of a gin and tonic, the piña colada was the first mixed drink I ever had. I was 14 and in Fiji with my father. I was moving to America with my mother; he was staying in Australia. We took a vacation together as a farewell of sorts. I don't remember much about what we talked about or where we went, but I remember the beach, and a little shack with a wonky billiards table where he taught me to shoot pool, and I remember the piña colada he bought for me, its taste like pure tropical exuberance. It's a bittersweet memory, to say the least. To me, a piña colada has always tasted like the beach and the ocean but also like growing up — my first cocktail, my first great heartbreak.
And yet, as a true adult, it has betrayed me. Is there another drink that should be so delicious but so often is so nasty? Even at its best, a piña colada is frequently too sweet, too cloying, too reminiscent of suntan lotion.
Luckily, the folks at The Hungry Cat have a remedy. The Rum Diary has been running as a summer special, and is basically a less-sweet version of a piña colada with a slight spicy kick. They use white rum and coconut milk and pineapple juice and just a touch of jalapeño. Garnished with a piece of pineapple and toasted coconut, it is the piña colada's slightly more sophisticated older sibling. Perfect for the last hurrah of summer.
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