Cocktail #4: Navy Grog

One of the things that's so much fun about exotic cocktails is the garnishes and other odd flourishes that are often used in them. The navy grog was invented by Don the Beachcomber and it incorporates a flourish not often seen in other drinks: the ice cone. The idea is to sip the drink through a cone of shaved ice which is partially submerged in the drink, with a straw running through the center of the cone. Jeff Berry actually sells a navy grog ice cone kit for $17.95, but not wanting the spend the cash on what would probably be a rarely used accessory, I decided I would try to make my own.

Berry has instructions for making your own in his book, the Grog Log. They are as follows:
To prepare cone, pack 10 oz. pilsner glass with finely shaved ice. Run a hole through the center with a chopstick to make passage for a straw. Gently remove cone from glass and freeze overnight.
I attempted this a couple of times. After a failed attempt, the second time I used parchment paper to make the cone inside the pilsner glass, both to enable me to make it a bit smaller (my glasses are more than 10 oz.) and because I thought it would be easier to pack and then to remove and use. Apparently I did not pack the ice densely enough, because when I added the cocktail to my glass containing the ice cone, it immediately melted away and lost its shape. So, no ice cone. Perhaps if I had run a bit of water over the shaved ice while it was still in the freezer, it would have created almost an ice shell that would have sealed the shaved ice bits better. Anyway, you can definitely still enjoy a navy grog with no ice cone. Here's what you need:

0.75 oz. lime juice
0.75 oz. grapefruit juice
0.75 oz. honey (I used honey simple syrup)
1.00 oz. light Puerto Rican rum (I used Virgin Islands Cruzan rum)
1.00 oz. dark Jamaican rum (I used Myers's)
1.00 oz. Demerara rum (I used Hamilton)
1.00 oz. chilled club soda

Put the juices and honey syrup into a blender and mix for a few seconds (if using raw honey, heat it until liquid beforehand). Stir in the rums and soda. Pour into a double old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice, or sip drink through ice cone.

I chose to garnish mine with a lime wheel, maraschino cherry, sprig of mint, and drink umbrella.

The drink itself is fairly typical for a tiki drink - a little sour, a little sweet, a nice combination of rums. I don't think my rum palette is refined enough to appreciate the qualities that say, the Demerara rum brings to a cocktail (rum taste test anyone?). So, I still have lots to learn. But it is a perfectly enjoyable cocktail. Making the ice cone work would be great, and it would be an excellent novelty to serve to guests. I'll just have to keep trying, which is a nice problem to have with exotic cocktails.

For your listening pleasure this week, I give you the great album, Hawaii on the Rocks by Georgie Auld and His Hula-Gans. It's a really fun record from the 60s with great versions of some classic Hawaiian standards (Hawaiian War Chant, Lovely Hula Hands, Blue Hawaii, etc.).

Until next week! Cheers!


Cocktail #3: Puka Punch

A couple of weeks ago I tried my hand at making a small batch of falernum, so I came to this weekend's cocktail looking for a drink which called for falernum so I could try it out. Thumbing through Beachbum Berry's Intoxica!  I came across the recipe for Puka Punch. Berry credits the drink to the Tiki-Ti, a classic tiki bar in L.A., circa 1960s. Ray Buhen opened the place in '61 after three decades of working in some of L.A.'s original tiki bars including Don the Beachcomber's (starting in '34), the Seven Seas, and The Palms. The others have long since closed, but the Tiki-Ti is still going strong. I've never been, but the next time I'm in L.A. it'll be a must see.

The Puka Punch is a cocktail to be reckoned with. Weighing in with nearly 4 ounces of rum (including 3/4 oz of 151), this drink can pack a punch. Some of the old time Polynesian Palaces used to print "Limit: 2 per customer" next to some of their supposedly stronger drinks on the menu and this one falls into that category. Here's the setup:

The recipe is as follows:

1 oz. fresh lime juice
.75 oz. orange juice (I had some clementines on hand so I just juiced those)
.75 oz. pineapple juice
.75 oz. passion fruit syrup
.75 oz. honey
.25 oz. falernum
dash Angustura bitters
1 oz. white Puerto Rican (I used Virgin Islands) rum
1 oz. dark west Indies rum
.75 oz. Myers's Rum
.75 oz. 151 Demerara rum

For the honey, I actually used a honey simple syrup I made a couple weeks ago - basically heating equal parts honey and water until combined. I added a splash of vodka to the honey mixture to make it last a little longer - it should keep in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.

Combine all the ingredients except the 151 rum into a blender with one cup of crushed ice. Blend thoroughly (I made the mistake of blending only for a few seconds with the result of chunks of ice left that were too big to make it through my straw, so make sure you really blend it).

The original recipe calls for serving this in a clear chimney glass, but I chose to pour this sucker into my vintage black Maoi tiki mug that I found for $5 at an antique store in Minnesota (apparently it's from an establishment call the Fireside in Ft. Atkinson, WI - so says a label on the back of the mug). Float the 151 on top of the slushy goodness, and garnish however you like - I speared a clementine wheel, lime wheel and maraschino cherry to a paper umbrella.

What really comes through in this drink is the passion fruit syrup - be careful to use the correct amount. And despite the hefty pour of rum present, it's not at all overly boozy. It is a big drink, however, so nurse it and make it last and savor every drop! Cheers!

Since this weekend is the venerable Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender, I've been listening to a lot of 50s-60s rockabilly and surf music, so I recommend checking out The Astronauts, a great surf band from the 1960s. Here's about an hour's worth of their instrumentals to get you going:

Falernum: To Buy or To Make?

Once you start getting into making tiki drinks, you'll undoubtedly notice that many recipes call for falernum. Falernum is a cordial made from infusing water with almonds, cloves, sugar, and spices. There are many recipes for falernum. You can also buy bottled falernum at your better liquor stores or online. I decided I would take a shot at making my own.

I largely stuck to this recipe from Imbibe Magazine. I made some modifications. First, I made about 1/3 of the amount that the recipe calls for, resulting in a small bottle, or about 1.25 cups of falernum. I  also omitted the star anise. There are a few steps to it, but it's pretty easy. From my limited research on making the stuff, I did see that several recipes called for lime juice. However, there were usually comments that followed saying something along the lines of, "No! You should never add lime juice -- just the zest -- to falernum. Fresh lime juice will make it spoil!" Not wanted my work to go bad within a couple of days, I omitted lime juice (the Imbibe recipe calls only for zest).

The resulting concoction was a fragrant, sweet batch of goodness that I look forward to using in the weeks to come. Got any tricks for making falernum? Let me know!

1. Buy some pre-blanched, pre-skinned, and pre-chopped almonds from a place like Whole Foods. Throw them in a glass jar (I used a pint-size mason jar) and cover with water. Shake occasionally. Let sit for 30 min, then strain and discard the water. Wash jar.

2. Give the wet almonds a rough chop, put them back in the jar, cover again with water, seal up, shake, and let sit for about 4 hours. Shake occasionally.

3. In a sauce pan on medium heat, add a Tbsp. of whole cloves, a Tbsp. of allspice and toss frequently for a minute. Then, add the contents of the jar to the sauce pan.

4. Add a quarter-cup of peeled, roughly cut fresh ginger and about 3/4 cup of sugar to the sauce pan. Stir continuously until it boils, then turn down the heat and let simmer for 15 min, stirring every so often.

5. Remove from heat and let cool. When it cools, add the zest of one lime and stir. Clean the glass jar, and then add the contents of the sauce pan back into the jar. Seal, and refrigerate overnight.

6. The next day, use a strainer and cheese cloth to strain the contents of the jar into a large measuring cup. This takes a few minutes. For every 5 ounces of resulting liquid, add 1 oz. of 151 rum. Stir.

7. Once combined, use a funnel to pour into a swing top bottle and store in your fridge.


Cocktail #2: The Royal Hawaiian

This week's cocktail may be a departure for many people who have come to expect rum in their tiki drinks (I was one of them!). Also, it's incredibly easy to make with relatively easy-to-find ingredients (the orgeat being the most obscure, but even that is getting easier to find these days). The recipe is as follows:

1.5 oz. pineapple juice
0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of orgeat syrup
1.5 oz. gin

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker that's filled halfway with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. I've chosen to garnish mine with a lemon slice and maraschino cherry speared by an umbrella.

This is the first time I've tried this cocktail, and I quite enjoyed it. I'm a sucker for sour - which this drink is - but even if you're not, the lemon is not overpowering here, as it's tempered by the sweetness of the pineapple juice, and orgeat. The drink will form a thin layer of sweet foam on the top, which is really nice before the more sour liquid beneath hits you.

Beachbum Berry has a short history of this cocktail:
"From the Moana Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii, circa 1948. Webley Edwards' then-famous radio program Hawaii Calls, featuring the Singing Surfriders and the Waikiki Maidens, was often broadcast live from the Banyan Court of the Moana; up to 3,000 middle aged tourists at a time would pack the courtyard to hear Edwards open the show with his trademark 'Aloha,' to which the crowd would always respond, 'a-LO-ha!'"
As you mix up  your own Royal Hawaiian, throw on these Webley Edwards records from YouTube:

Cheers, and enjoy!


Welcome, and Cocktail #1: the Mighty Mai Tai

Welcome to Garnishes The Size of Your Head where each week for a year, I will explore, mix, photograph, and drink a new exotic cocktail. As a lover of exotic and tiki cocktails, I actually don't know much about them, and have not expanded my horizons beyond a few staples (like this week's Mai Tai). So, this blog is a little project where I hope to learn more about classic tiki cocktails, their origins, ingredients, and how to mix a better cocktail. My guide in this journey will primarily be the highly regarded Beachbum Berry's Grog Log, written by Jeff Berry - an expert in exotic cocktails. Unlike what I usually do when mixing a cocktail that has slightly unusual ingredients (do I really need passion fruit syrup?! Nah!), I'm going to do my best to stick strictly to the recipes as I make these cocktails. Along the way I hope to also explore and set the mood for your exotic cocktail mixing and drinking with some of my favorite exotica, surf, and space age pop from the 1950s and 60s. Thanks for checking it out, and let's get it started!

Cocktail #1: The Mai Tai

As I looked into making this drink, I found that it has a dramatic and varied history. I'm not going to repeat it all here, so if you're interested read about it here. There seem to be endless versions of mai tai recipes in books and on the web. But I'm going to stick with Beachbum Berry's version, with which he tries his best to stick to the Trader Vic original from 1944:

1 oz. fresh lime juice
0.5 oz. orange Curacao
0.50 oz. orgeat syrup (you can get the mass market stuff here, or Beachbum Berry's version here.)
0.25 oz. rock candy syrup
2 oz. aged Jamaican rum (I used Myers's)

Add at least two cups of crushed ice to a cocktail shaker, and add the above ingredients, and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Serve in a double old fashioned glass filled with crushed ice and the spent lime shell. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Cheers!

Making this according to the recipe, using the correct type of rum, the correct measurements, etc. really made a difference. It wasn't overpoweringly boozy, sweet, or sour - hence why the mai tai is such a great drink. Using the mint, you get a nice bouquet of mint scent when you take each sip -- absolutely delightful.

On the hi-fi today, I've got some Martin Denny spinning. Here's his Quiet Village record in its entirety: