This week I’ve been thinking a lot about rum, a spirit I enjoy, but one that I haven’t experimented with much. After checking out the tiki cocktail scene in New York on Monday, I’ve developed a mini obsession.
It all started with a trip to The Happiest Hour to drink island-themed and influenced cocktails made with Santa Teresa rum. There was a punch, a Painkiller, and a daiquiri that was old-school classic but killer. The bartenders were killing it, the rum was complex but smooth. Next stop was the legendary Tiki Monday with Miller night at Pouring Ribbons. The brainchild of the tiki pirate god, Brian Miller, Tiki Monday is a bacchanal celebrating the island-themed drinks such as the Mai Tai, Zombie, Scorpion, Hurricane, Rum Runner, various punches (Planter’s, Rum) and Bahama Mama. Although there is no universally agreed upon definition of a tiki drink, they feature fruit juices, spices, lots of flavor and at least one type of rum (although most seem to feature at least two types). Things you see at Tiki Monday events: Men in facepaint, pirate headscarves and sarongs, women wearing Carmen Miranda-esque hats, Hawaiian shirts, leis and at least one flaming drink.
That night served to whet my appetite for rum-based drinks, and lucky me had a few good bottles of the spirit at home. Why not whip up a tiki drink myself? I set about researching tiki recipes and discovered that things weren’t as simple as I had hoped. Having a variety of rums, dark, gold, white, spiced and overproof is just the start.
Complication #1: There’s the fruit. It had to be fresh, but most many tiki drinks call for both the whole fruit and a fruit puree or a syrup. All I had on hand were some lemons, limes, and strawberries, and no purees or syrups. I could have gone out and buy a ready-to-pour mix, but that idea was a non-starter. Living the LUSHious life is all about utilizing fresh ingredients as much as possible. Flavor and quality matter.
Complication #2: Tiki drinks can be quite complex, utilizing lots of liqueurs like curacao, grenadine, falernum, creme de banane and the like that I don’t have.
So much for my plans to tiki at home. I stared forlornly at my little collection of rums and considered just making a Dark & Stormy for old-times sake. Then I remembered My Sharona, a rum cocktail recipe by Kenneth McCoy, proprietor of NYC’s Ward III and Rum House. McCoy’s recipe calls for fresh raspberries, which I didn’t have, agave syrup, which is easily made (Just stir equal parts agave nectar and warm water until well-mixed), lemon juice, and ginger beer. The star of the show, however, is Brugal Extra Dry white rum.
6 fresh raspberries
2 oz Brugal Extra Dry (or other white rum)
1 oz fresh juice from 1 lemon
1 barspoon agave syrup (see above)
3 oz ginger beer
Muddle raspberries in a mixing glass. Add ice, rum, lemon juice, and agave syrup. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and top off with ginger beer. Stir gently before serving.
I swapped in fresh strawberries for the raspberries. The result was perfection. Was it a tiki drink? Well, no. But did it satisfy my craving for a refreshing rum cocktail. Oh yeah.
Moral of the story: If you find a bar that makes authentic tiki drinks, count your blessings and enjoy. Don’t be fooled by the umbrellas and plastic palm trees and fruity garnishes—they take time and effort to make—tip your bartenders accordingly!