Cocktail #20: Dr. Funk's Son

Last weekend we had the pleasure of visiting the great city of Milwaukee, WI just 90 minutes north of Chicago. The highlight, at least for me, was visiting the venerable tiki bar, Foundation, which may be one of if not the best tiki bar I've ever been to. Upon entering, you are immediately transported to an exotic, tropical fantasyland.

The fishtank at Foundation, Milwaukee, WI
The decor is amazing, the drinks are fantastic and well priced (most around $8; a few $12 ones include the tiki mug!), and the folks working there friendly and accommodating.  We also had the pleasure of checking out a great store called the Tip Top Atomic Shop, which has a great selection of mens and womens vintage clothes and decor. It is where I purchased the Fu Manchu tiki mug seen below (it should be acknowledged that the whole "Fu Manchu" character has been widely criticized as being a racist stereotype that fed into the "Yellow Peril" racist color metaphor in books, films, and television that, in less enlightened times, depicted Asians as a race to be feared. I mean no disrespect by referring to it here; I see it more as a cultural artifact).

I thought I remembered seeing a specific cocktail that made use of this mug in either one of Jeff Berry's books or in Martin Cate's Smugger's Cove book. Paging through Smugger's Cove there it was on page 256 - a menu from the Hu Ke Lau restaurant in Bloomfield, CT showing the Fu Manchu mug listed as a "Doctor Funk of Tahiti." Cate includes the recipe on page 266, and credits it to Trader Vic, 1946:

0.50 oz. fresh lemon juice
0.50 oz. fresh lime juice
0.25 oz. grenadine
0.50 oz. Demerara simple syrup
0.25 oz. Herbsaint*
2.25 oz. black pot still unaged rum
1.00 oz. seltzer

* Cate goes on to note that, "if Herbsaint is not to your taste, the Trader also made an alternate version called the Dr. Funk's Son, in which the Herbsaint is dropped, and 0.50 oz. of the black pot still unaged rum is substituted with 0.50 oz. of black blended overproof rum."

Since I did not have Herbsaint or Pernod on hand, I opted to go the Dr. Funk's Son route. But still, I have broken one of the tenets of my original aim when I started this project which was to stick to the recipe without modification. I had neither black pot still unaged rum, nor black blended overproof rum on hand. So, I used what I thought was the closest - good old Myers's and Don Q 151. So it goes ...

Cate always uses a drink mixer, but absent that, I added all the ingredients except the seltzer to a cocktail shaker half filled with crushed ice, and shook vigorously. I added some crushed ice to Mr. Fu Manchu and then open-poured the contents of the shaker into the mug.  Then, I topped with the seltzer. I garnished with a homemade maraschino cherry speared to a lime wheel with a cocktail sword. As you can see, I also used a really neat new "ice cube" I got at Foundation (it was included in a drink that included the mug, so I assumed it also included this really neat glowing "ice cube" too; hopefully they didn't want it back ...).

The effect this little glow emanating from your cocktail has in a very dark tiki bar is fantastic. Of course, you can get them on Amazon for a song. These would be great for a tiki cocktail party!

As a cocktail, Dr. Funk's Son was good, but not great. Perhaps it was because I didn't have the "correct" rums, who knows. The first sip hit me like a ton of bricks, with lots of sourness and and almost a spiciness. After some ice had a chance to melt to dilute the drink a bit, I found it more and more pleasant.

Cate has an interesting history behind this drink, which apparently started out as a cocktail featuring absinthe, lime, and seltzer and may have originated in the 1920s in Tahiti. Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber both had a version of this cocktail, and they added the rum making it closer to the drink we know today.

My lovely better half getting into the spirit of things

For some excellent exotica with an Asian flavor, check out this Tak Shindo album from 1959:



Cocktail #19: Cesar's Rum Punch

I'm starting to get behind if I am going to achieve 52 exotic cocktails and blog posts in 52 weeks. Guess I need to make more drinks ...

This week we have a cocktail from Jeff Berry's brilliant Potions of the Caribbean book - Cesar's Rum Punch. This cocktail hails from the Grand Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince Haiti, c. 1947/1973*. Slightly coincidentally, I happen to currently be reading Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana - the coincidence being that Greene was somewhat of a regular at the Oloffson, and after a number of vists which began in the 50s, was a big fan of Oloffson barman Joseph Cesar's rum punches.  Apparently Greene talked Cesar into giving him the recipe for his famous rum punch, based around Rhum Barbancourt. 

*There's some contention about what the "real" rum punch recipe is; Trader Vic published a recipe purporting to be Cesar's rum punch recipe in his Bar Guide. However, in a 1973 issue of Playboy Oloffson owner Al Seitz "dismissed Vic's recipe ... and revealed Joseph's actual recipe" which I present below, per Jeff Berry:

2.00 oz. Rhum Barbancourt**
2.00 oz. fresh lime juice
1.00 oz. grenadine
3 drops Angustura bitters (you'll be hapier with 3 full dashes)
Teaspoon / two cubes white sugar

Dissolve sugar in lime juice. Add to other ingredients and shake well with ice cubes. Strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge, speared to a cocktail cherry, and lime and orange wheels. Finish with a sprig of mint.

** Berry advises, "you cannot substitute another brand of rum for Joseph's punch." Luckily Rhum Barbancourt is fairly easy to find at your better liquor stores.

To be quite honest, I found this cocktail to be fairly mediocre. Not bad, not great. Certainly refreshing. Given the relative ease in putting one together, I can certainly recommend it if you have the Barbancourt on hand. Not bad to keep one in one hand with Our Man in Havana in the other on a hot summer day.

Cocktail with my summer reading list - Our Man in Havana and Tales of the South Pacific

I haven't seen the film yet, but here's a fabulous Tropicana scene from the film version of Our Man in Havana:



Cocktail #18: Three Dots and a Dash

A lot of preparation went into this week's cocktail (more on that in a minute). I first had this cocktail at the eponymously named tiki bar here in Chicago, Three Dots and a Dash. It's the name of the drink invented by Donn Beach in the 1940s and is also Morse code for the letter - symbolizing victory in World War II.

While reading the Smugger's Cove book by Martin Cate, I noticed that he had a version of this drink, with the recipe as follows:

0.50 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. fresh orange juice
0.50 oz. honey syrup
0.25 oz. John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum
0.25 oz. St. Elizabeth allspice dram
1.50 oz. cane AOC Martinique rhum agricole vieux
0.50 oz. blended aged rum
1 dash Angustura bitters

Cate always recommends mixing in a drink mixer, but absent that contraption, I filled a cocktail shaker with about 12 oz. crushed ice, added all the ingredients to the shaker and shook for about 30 seconds. I then poured everything unstrained into my trusty tiki mug (Cate recommends using a Pilsner glass).

Garnish with three maraschino cherries and either a pineapple chunk speared on a cocktail pick or three cherries and a pineapple leaf (to symbolize the three dots - cherries, and dash - pineapple).

A couple of notes: the closest rums I had were a 4-year rhum Barbancourt (closest to the Martinique rhum agricole) and a Hamilton Demerara. St. Elizabeth allspice dram is notoriously difficult to find (though if you're in Chicagoland Binny's carries it at some locations), and also costs a pretty penny (considering how little of it is called for in recipes and how rarely it would probably be used) so I decided to make my own - click through for more info on that. The falernum I made a few months back finally took a turn for the worse about a month ago so I just bought a bottle of John D. Taylor's - which seems great. Finally (and I really got lazy here) I was out of honey syrup and didn't feel like making another batch so instead I just used a couple drops of honey - sue me.

In addition to making my own allspice dram, I also utilized the maraschino cherries I made myself for the garnish. If you're interested in that process - check it out. Bottom line on that is the expensive Luxardo ones are probably better; grocery store ones would also do just fine. Mine were also very spicy and cinnamony.

The first sip was a little overwhelming in the spiciness department. I've never had allspice dram before, so I have no idea how my homemade DIY version stacks up to the St. Elizabeth commercial version. So, that could have thrown things off a bit. I spent about another five minutes taking pictures of the cocktail and then started drinking it again, and by that time some of the ice had melted diluting it a bit which greatly improved the drink, in my opinion. It was still spicy with strong notes of cinnamon, clove, and allspice, but only just on the verge of being too much. Next time I might use a hair less of the allspice dram due to its strength, but I think it turned out quite well. As I kept sipping this cocktail, I enjoyed it more with each sip and it seemed quite close to the drink I remember having at its namesake. Not quite there, but close.

If you can find or make allspice dram, and you've got some falernum, I highly recommend giving this one a try. Play with the amount of allspice dram and start easy with it - you can always add another dash or two.

Given the World War II era provenance of this cocktail, I'll leave you with one of my favorite WWII era songs, which is odd, endearing, and will get stuck in your head for hours (and is also in a hilarious scene in Twin Peaks!). Cheers!

DIY Allspice Dram

Due to the difficulty and expense in buying commercially available (though hard to find) St. Elizabeth allspice dram, I decided to try to make my own since it is called for in quite a few exotic cocktails.

After a little research online, I settled on this recipe on Serious Eats (original is below; I halved mine):

1 cup light rum
1/4 cup whole allspice berries (you can find these in the whole spice section at the grocery store)
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 cup water
2/3 cup brown sugar

1. Crush the allspice berries in a mortar and pestle or grind them in a spice grinder. You want coarse, large pieces and not a fine grind.

2. Place the crushed allspice in a sealable glass jar and pour the rum on top. Seal the jar and shake well. Let this mixture steep for 4 days, shaking daily. On day 5, break up the cinnamon stick and add it to the mixture.

3. After 12 days total steeping, strain out the solids through a fine-mesh strainer. Then strain again through a coffee filter into your final bottle or jar.

4. Heat water and sugar on medium until boiling, stirring to dissolve, about 5 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then add it to the strained allspice infusion. Shake and then let rest for a minimum of two days before using.

The result seems perfectly usable, though since I have no idea what "real" allspice dram tastes like, I can't say how close my version comes. I used it for the first time in a Three Dots and a Dash and it worked well, though was on the verge of overpowering the drink. For any other cocktails that call for it, I will use about half of what's called for as I suspect my version is a little stronger/spicier than what you would buy in a bottle.

Got a favorite allspice dram recipe? Let me know!

Making Maraschino Cherries

As you know, I love a good garnish. Many exotic cocktails are traditionally garnished using maraschino cherries. I've been getting tired of using the neon dyed artificial jarred grocery store ones lately and considered splurging on a jar of those wonderful Luxardo cherries. But, at $20+ I would rather put the money toward another interesting bottle of rum, rather than spending that cash on what is basically a decoration (though I do like to eat them while I enjoy my cocktail). So, I began looking into making my own - especially given that we are at peak cherry season at the moment.

I searched and found this recipe on a Chowhound thread about Luxardo cherries, posted by a user "StriperGuy":
- Blanch cherries in very Salty boiling water for 4 minutes
- Rinse and soak for a few minutes in cool water to get rid of salt
- Place cherries in large jar
- Add healthy amounts of the following: star anise, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, allspice, anise seed, fennel seed
- Make some REALLY concentrated red hibiscus tea (this is to help the cherries keep their color) and add 1/2 cup to the bottle
- If you can find some good cherry juice add a cup to the jar
- Fill the rest of the jar with vodka or cheap brandy
- Add sugar to taste
- Wait at least a month

I made some modifications. First, of all I only had a pint sized mason jar on hand and given this is my first time trying this, I am not making very many cherries - maybe two dozen at the most. I used about 2-3 ounces each of brandy, cheap-ass Trader Joe's rum, bourbon, and Maraschino liqueur. I also omitted the hibiscus tea and just used about 3-4 ounces of cherry juice. I added a vanilla bean split in two and some fresh ginger. I didn't use allspice, anise, or fennel because I just didn't have them on hand. I imagine you can really use anything that you want to - some people in the thread mention using habanero peppers for a kick. I added back into the mason jar all the pits and any juice from my pitting exercise, which is described below.

So, I pitted my cherries before blanching them. Some people said they did not pit them at all, but I wanted mine pitted. To do so, remove the stem. Get a chopstick and insert the small end into where the stem was and go in until you hit the pit, then wiggle it around a bit to dislodge it. Then, in the other end of the cherry do the same thing except try to make a slightly bigger hole. Then go back to the stem end, and grasp the cherry between your thumb and index finger and gently push the pit out the other end with the chopstick. It's a pain, but once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty quickly. I tried my best to keep the cherries whole and not have the pit blow out one of the sides.

I put the cherries away for a month and recently used them in a Three Dots and a Dash. They were ... interesting. They did not end up with a really concentrated flavor that the Luxardo cherries have; they just sort of taste spicy and boozy. I think they could have used another tablespoon of sugar, and maybe fewer cloves. Their appearance isn't fantastic either - they got a bit bloated and their color turned a little purpleish-gray. That said, they are perfectly fine to eat and use as garnishes and they aren't loaded with a bunch of artificial crap.

Give it a try if you're curious! Cheers!


Cocktail #17: Halekulani Cocktail

It was time for a change of pace.

My love affair with rum is nowhere near close to ending any time soon - it's just beginning. But, I was in the mood for a change this week. When I happened upon the Halekulani Cocktail - which uses bourbon rather than rum as its spirit - in Martin Cate's Smuggler's Cove book, I thought I would give it a try.

Cate credits the cocktail to Waikiki's House Without a Key lounge at the Halekulani Hotel, and dates it back to the 1930s. Looks like the House Without a Key has been absorbed by what is today the 5-star Halekulani Hotel. (It's also the title of a Charlie Chan mystery.)

Cate's recipe is sourced from good old Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's Sippin' Safari, which I don't yet have. It is as follows:

0.50 oz fresh lemon juice
0.50 oz. fresh orange juice
0.50 oz pineapple juice
0.25 oz. demerarra syrup*
0.50 teaspoon grenadine
1.50 oz. bourbon (I used Bulleit)
1 dash Angustura bitters

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and double-strain** into a cocktail coupe and garnish with an edible orchid (I had neither a cocktail coupe [it's on the list] nor an edible orchid so I chose to use a vintage rocks glass and garnished with a pineapple slice and a cherry). Also, Cate seems to serve this up, but I went ahead and added two large ice cubes after the fact.

What a great departure from rum-based cocktails this was. Really well-balanced, the demerarra syrup adds a nice note that syncs well with the bourbon. The grenadine is on the verge of being a little too powerful so watch your measurements with it (Cate uses house-made grenadine, so perhaps it is less so in his by the book version). The only other way I can describe it is that it tastes like a Hawaiian old fashioned, the old fashioned being one of my favorite cocktails. If you like bourbon, give this one a shot. Cheers!

* To make demerarra syrup, use demerarra syrup (sometimes called turbinado - see my friend the Meek Tiki's post on it here) and do the following:

Boil 1/2 cup water and add 1/4 cup demerarra sugar after it boils and whisk very fast until it dissolves (about a minute). Then add 3/8 cup granulated sugar and whisk again until it's dissolved - another minute. Turn off heat and let cool. This will yield about a cup. I toss in an ounce or two of vodka to increase shelf life.

** To double-strain, use your cocktail shaker's strainer and pour the cocktail through a wire mesh strainer placed over your cocktail glass. This will stop any pulp or ice shards from getting into your cocktail.

For your listening pleasure, and something that really has nothing much to do with tiki culture or the 1930s, I give you a collection of songs by Little Willie John, a fantastic 1950s/60s R&B singer: