Tough Nut

Piña Coladas with actual coconut

Putting coconut in cocktails can be challenging.

Our viewpoint on avoiding artificially sweetened and processed ingredients doesn't leave much room for discussion about things like Coco Lopez, but we harbor quite a soft spot for Piña Coladas and their kin, particularly in the dead heat of summer.

Luckily, there are an increasing number of ways to inject your cocktail with tropical brilliance.

Coconut Water: The health-food obsession has found a role in the bar as well. At ABC Cocina in New York City, coconut water is mixed with gin, lime juice and ginger for a simple but compelling drink. In London, Mixxit bartender trainer Wayne Collins makes his rum Old Fashioned served over coconut-water ice cubes.

Coconut Cream: Because nothing can compare to a sticky-sweet Piña Colada, bartenders have been getting crafty by making their own coconut cream, or doctoring up existing versions for maxed-out flavor. At Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Oregon, owner Daniel Shoemaker cracks whole nuts and simmers freshly grated flesh in its own water (with a dose of heavy cream), then strains and stirs in sugar for the house coconut cream. And at Bida Manda in Raleigh, North Carolina, Thai coconut cream is mixed with sugar and boiled down until it reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.