Pina coladas have evolved beyond a beach beverage to year-round bar staple around DC. Recently, they’ve also been showing up with a new ingredient: matcha.
Subterranean cocktail bar Destination Wedding, island-themed Coconut Club, and modern Latin restaurant Seven Reasons are among the hotspots adding the green tea powder to their tropical drinks. Matcha tea and soft-serve purveyor Bon Matcha also serves non-alcoholic matcha coladas at its downtown walk-up window.
“A lot of how cocktails work is by reference to other things. You have matcha lattes that were taking the world by storm, and so it’s kind of a natural hop and skip to start putting it with coconut,” says Destination Wedding barman Lukas Smith. Plus, the seemingly weird flavor combo actually makes sense: Pina coladas are often super sweet, and the bitter, earthy matcha helps counterbalance that for a more well-rounded drink.
Smith initially put his matcha colada, which uses a fermented coconut milk, on the menu as part of a “Destination Osaka” pop-up celebrating cherry blossom season, but its popularity has caused it to linger on the spring menu. In general, chefs and bartenders have been crushing on Japan for a while now, incorporating the country’s ingredients and techniques in unexpected ways. (Think yuzu kosho “special sauce” in Estuary’s burger or kombu-enriched French onion soup at Primrose.)
For Coconut Club bar manager Dave Lanzalone, a love of matcha ice cream was the initial inspiration for “Waking Up From a Disco Nap,” a matcha colada for two (or an ambitious one) served in a disco ball. “Since pina coladas sort of have that sort of dessert-y, creamy texture, I figured the two would be a great pairing,” he says. (The Union Market-area restaurant also has coconut matcha soft-serve for dessert.)
The addition of matcha isn’t the only tweak to the coladas. Coconut Club incorporates rye whiskey, which Lanzalone says has some coconut and dill notes that match well with the tropical fruit and the grassy, herbal matcha. Destination Wedding adds some further Japanese flare with sake, while Seven Reasons incorporates sake and cachaça.
Smith is also riffing on pina coladas at other bars around town. For the rooftop of Foggy Bottom’s Hotel Hive, he created a lychee and pandan colada. But his favorite? A cola-colada at Shaw’s Broccoli City Bar—a hybrid between a Cuba Libre and pina colada inspired by Coca-Cola Slurpees.