Piña coladas and other such retro cocktails are back in vogue, with many Britons keen to capture the tropical beach holiday vibe with parasol-garnished drinks after two years of holidaying in the UK.
Bars and supermarkets said rising demand for kitsch tipples, such as the mai tai, blue lagoon and tequila sunrise, reflected a post-pandemic desire among consumers for fun experiences and the Instagram-ready appeal of the colourful drinks.
Waitrose’s latest drinks report said fruity feelgood cocktails have made a comeback among drinkers keen to make up for lost holiday time abroad due to the pandemic.
Searches on the supermarket’s website for piña colada, a rum cocktail made with coconut milk and pineapple juice, are up by 40% from last year.
The drink, invented in a luxury hotel bar in Puerto Rico in the 1950s for wealthy tourists looking for a taste of the Caribbean, is now the UK’s third most popular cocktail, after negronis and mojitos, according to a new survey.
Jamie Matthewson, drinks trading manager at Waitrose, said: “I think what’s driving it is that people want something fun. Those types of experiences with friends that we’ve been missing out on so badly over two years.”
A survey of 1,000 people by Drinks House 247 found piña colada was most popular among those aged between 25 and 44, and 55 and over.
Kerry Maisey, who owns the Ridley Road Market Bar in Dalston, east London, said sales of retro cocktails were booming among millennials as their bright colours made the drinks popular to share on Instagram and TikTok.
“Our frozen cocktails, which are our retro cocktails – blue margarita and our pink colada, a piña colada with pink food dye – have always been popular, but since October they are the most popular drinks,” she said. “Our sales have almost doubled.”
Maisey said the drinks appealed to younger drinkers because they fitted their interest in the 70s aesthetic. “Suits in one colour for women, elements of 70s’ leather or denim coming into what people are wearing,” she added.
But she said the appeal was not just ironic. “Younger people are viewing them in a different way than people have in the past. There’s no sense of them being passé. They have that visual element. We do have customers who have seen the drinks online and want to drink the same thing.”
Piña colada’s appeal is countrywide. The Drinks House 247 survey found piña coladas were the most popular cocktail in Yorkshire and the Humber and the east Midlands. Meanwhile, Northwich in Cheshire has a festival dedicated to the drink, in tribute to Rupert Holmes, singer of 70s hit Escape (The Piña Colada Song), who was born in the town.
Adam Gerrard, organiser of the festival, on 20 August, said: “Most bars [and] now even our some of our traditional pubs are starting to sell cocktails. It’s a bit strange that you’ll see grown men stood in a pub drinking a piña coladas but it happens. Even the Wetherspoon’s sold them last year.”
How to make a piña colada
[From Felicity Cloake’s recipe]
Piña coladas are made from rum, cream of coconut (or coconut milk) and pineapple, either blended or shaken with ice. They are often garnished with a pineapple wedge, maraschino cherry, or both.
50ml coconut milk
50ml golden rum
75ml fresh pineapple juice
1–2 tbsp sugar syrup (2 parts white sugar to 1 part water)
Juice of ½ lime
Slice of pineapple, maraschino cherry, cocktail umbrella etc, to decorate
Using enough ice to fill your glass to two-thirds, whizz in a blender until crushed, then put in a cocktail shaker. Stir the coconut milk, then add to the ice along with the rum and pineapple juice. Whizz or shake until well blended, taste and add the sugar syrup and lime juice as required. Pour into a cold glass. Cut a small notch in the pineapple and cherry and slot them on to the rim of the glass. Serve immediately.