Earlier this week during a midday downpour, David Perez and Caitlin Vann of Lei Low showed us two versions of one of the most popular drinks of the summer. (To see our previous recipe posts on piña coladas, click here.) If you’re wondering where the best place to be is during one of Houston’s random summer thunderstorms, it’s definitely a dark and delightful tiki bar like Lei Low, with glowing blowfish pendant lamps and a thatch roof over the bar service area. When the weather suddenly shifts back to overcast and 100°F, you’ll be content to stay inside the well air-conditioned bar and avoid the sticky humidity.
We asked tiki technician Caitlin to make us the Lei Low standard for a piña colada – the recipe was developed by Lei Low owner Russell Thoede – which isn’t on the menu but certainly available upon request. In fact, Lei Low’s menu features dozens of classic tiki spin-offs. If you’re looking for their spin on the piña colada, try the Barefoot in the Sand.
Caitlin told us that on busy weeknights the kitschy bar blends up about 40 piña coladas, but on a busy weekend they sometimes churn out 80. “Sometimes a big group will come in and order 10 piña coladas because they’ve been talking about them all week,” she said, while we nodded knowing that Lei Low is certainly a destination spot for all types of rum cocktails in Houston. “When the blenders are going and people see them going out, then they want them, too.” There is a lot of showmanship to Lei Low’s drinks, with several of them fantastically garish, served in mugs for three to five people, complete with flames and bananas made to look like dolphins.
Looking for a coconut mug cup to add to your barware collection? We’ve got them in our online store.
Lei Low’s Piña Colada
1 whole egg
a generous squeeze of tiki butter, made in-house
3/4 oz. banana rum, infused in-house
3/4 oz. Parrot Bay coconut rum
1/2 oz. almond orgeat, made in-house
3/4 oz. fresh pineapple juice
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
4 chunks of pineapple
2 cups ice
Angostura mist (save this ingredient for last)
METHOD: Combine all ingredients except angostura mist in a blender and blend well. The egg and chunks of pineapple will create an especially frothy piña colada. Pour into the glass of your choice and spray 1 to 2 pumps of angostura mist on the surface.
Caitlin explained that one of the reasons why Lei Low’s piña coladas are so revered by enthusiasts is ingredients that are labor intensive, like house-made orgeat, tiki butter (which is vanilla ice cream, brown sugar and butter) and specialty infused banana rum that the staff and Elizabeth Theode, co-owner of Lei Low, make in a tiny kitchen next to the bar’s service area regularly. It’s not a diet drink.
On the lighter side is another version of the piña colada that David made for us in seconds. The “junior colada,” he called it, is lighter in ingredients, booze and effort. “It’s sessionable and easy to drink. It’s for customers who say they want something that isn’t too sweet, or regulars who have made their way through the menu and want to try something new.”
Lei Low’s Junior Colada
1/2 oz. Clément rhum agricole
1/2 oz. Plantation pineapple rum
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
coconut soda, made inhouse
METHOD: In a glass, swizzle together rhum agricole, pineapple rum and lime juice. Fill with crushed ice and top with coconut soda of your choice. (Lei Low makes their own, but you can use something like Coco Rico, found in Asian grocery stores, or Goya Coconut Soda, available at most H-E-B locations.)
The temperatures through next Tuesday are expected to feel 7 to 10° higher than the actual outdoor temperature. Find a shady place to hang out and drink plenty of water. If you’re hosting or attending a festive shindig for the Fourth of July weekend, make sure everyone has a sober ride home.
Lei Low Rum & Tiki Bar, 6412 N. Main, 713-380-2968, leilowhtx.com
Hours: Tues. to Sat. 4 pm-2 am, Sun. 2 pm – midnight, closed Mon.