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When we were at Tiki Oasis a few months ago, we sat in on a terrific seminar with Richard Boccato where he talked about the importance of having a good blender in a tiki bar and how to make great blended drinks. To summarize the talk in one sentence, all you need to know is that blenders are vitally important and making a great blended drink is more difficult than you might think. A few drinks were served during the seminar, including a piña colada made with a salted date syrup that added an addictive, slightly savory element to a classic drink. You might think that since a piña colada is sweet in the first place, you wouldn’t want to add additional flavors – especially syrups – to them, but piña coladas are actually something of a blank canvas and you can do a lot with them without making them too sweet.
Trader Joe’s recently introduced a seasonal Pumpkin Spice Caramel – definitely not a tiki product on its own – and we decided to use in to play around with a seasonal twist on the piña colada. We didn’t expect it to be quite so delicious, though. The drink has a smooth, creamy coconut flavor that is accented perfectly with buttery caramel and just the right touch of pumpkin pie spice. It tastes like Thanksgiving in the tropics – and that is a good thing!
This recipe is based on the recipe that Richard Boccato used for his piña colada, though we were a bit more generous with the caramel sauce in our holiday drink because we wanted to ensure that the pumpkin spice flavor was distinct. We used a blend of aged Jamaican rum and dark Jamaican rum, both of which give the drink a nice rich rum flavor. The addition of dark rum brings in a molasses note that supports the pumpkin flavor in the caramel well. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you where you can pick up this caramel (which, incidentally, is made with real pumpkin), you can approximate it by adding pumpkin pie spice to a regular or salted caramel sauce and you’ll still get a nice holiday spice infusion in your drink.
Pumpkin Caramel Piña Colada
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
3/4 oz. Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Caramel Sauce
3 /4 oz añejo rum (such as Appleton X/V)
3/4 oz dark Jamaican rum
Combine all ingredients in a blender with about 6 ounces of ice and blend until very smooth. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and additional caramel.