This all started on the night of Saturday June 12. I was making an Old-fashioned and when I pulled out the bitters I found the bottle was empty. So I went to the corner store looking for some. I live in a neighbourhood immediately adjoining a university and the convenience stores here cater to university students' needs. That means lots of bar supplies and sometimes you can get a bottle of Angostura bitters there.
Unfortunately, I could not get any that night.
What I could have purchased if I'd wanted to, however, was Pina Colada mix. There were more than twelve quart bottles of mix from three different makers. There was more Pina Colada mix than there was milk at that store! And if you were too proud to use a mix, there was Coconut cream and pineapple juice.
And I regretted not having rum at home. I don't like to admit I like Pina Coladas but I do like them. I always have. By the time I had my first, it was already much sneered upon. I remember that a woman named Nadia and I were in a bar together when I had my first. It may have been her first too. I certainly lied when I implied I'd had them before.
The thing was, we both had to make a point of being ironic when we ordered it. Admitting that we actually wanted it wouldn't have done. It had to be a joke.
I also remember her advancing a theory that you might get herpes from bar mints. In those days, many bars and restaurants would have a little bowl of after-dinner mints near the door and I scooped some up and ate them on the way in end Nadia said, "Aren't you scared of getting herpes?" That struck me as bizarre but she went on to outline her theory of how it could happen. I'll save it for some other place.
In any case, it was a fern bar and we sort of had to have a Pina Colada because they were the fern bar drink.
Purists sometimes say that the only thing a Pina Colada is good for is getting alcohol into the bloodstream of young women who do not like the taste of alcohol. That may not be the only thing but it certainly is one of their uses. I can tell you, however, that in the years I worked as a bartender I never saw a man encourage a woman to order one. That is significant (to me anyway) because the purists often suggest that it is evil men seeking to get women drunk who buy them.
As near as I can tell, however, it is the women themselves who choose the drink. Back in the day, if the woman you were with ordered white wine you knew you had to work to get into her good graces. If she ordered a Pina Colada your attitude was more, as the old song had it, "if I don't do it somebody else will". The Pina Colada is a form of self-medication favoured by young women seeking to lower their inhibitions.
I'd bet it still is. It's hard to think of anything less cool than a Pina Colada and yet the students at this campus obviously drink a lot of them. And I imagine that when young men in my neighbourhood see a group of young women showing up at a house party with a bottle of Pina Colada mix and a bottle of rum, they still think the kinds of thoughts we thought back when.