Cocktail #33: Corn and Oil

Corn and Oil. Not a terribly evocative or attractive name for an exotic cocktail is it? But this one goes back a long time, long before Donn the Beachcomber or Trader Vic set up shop in the 1930s. Corn and Oil is a traditional drink from Barbados, and the version I present below is adapted from the traditional recipe by Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove.

There are numerous recipes online for Corn and Oil with differing proportions of ingredients. Many use a very dark or Black Strap Rum, and Cruzan offers a version which seems popular. However, I stuck with a Barbados rum (Mount Gay) since this purports to originate from Barbados. It doesn't get much more simple that this (you don't even need a cocktail shaker!):

0.50 oz. John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum
2.00 oz. blended aged rum (Barbados) - I used Mount Gay - not aged - see below
2 - 4 dashes Angostura bitters

Add all the ingredients to an old fashioned glass and fill with crushed ice. Stir to combine until frost forms on the outside of the glass.

Cate notes that there should be no garnish with this one, but I couldn't resist adding a lime wheel, a couple sprigs of mint, and a pink flamingo straw.

Given the simplicity of this drink, the rum that you use becomes more important. Hence why Martin Cate suggests using not only a Barbados rum, but one that is aged. The Mount Gay Eclipse I used in this cocktail was probably not an ideal choice - it felt a little sharp. Using a longer aged, darker rum like an El Dorado 5 or 8 Year or a Mount Gay Black Barrel probably would have been a better fit (add one of those to my shopping list!). The falernum and Angostura bitters I felt enhanced the sharpness or spiciness of the drink which made it a little less palatable. After I had drank about half of it, I squeezed a quarter of a lime into the glass and that bit of citrus took the edge off a bit and made it more enjoyable (though obviously less traditional).

Given how simple this cocktail is, this is worth a try if you have the right rum for it. I'll revisit this one after my next trip to Binny's! Cheers, and happy holidays!


Cocktail #32: Juan Ho Royale

I'm a sucker for blue drinks, I admit it.

Blue curacao has such a bad rap in some exotic cocktail circles. And probably for good reason - it conjures images of really crummy, watered down, artificial drinks you might see served on a cruise or at a Sandals resort. But used sparingly, I kind of love it. There's something very fun about a shockingly blue drink. So, when I was paging through Martin Cate's wonderful Smugger's Cove book and came across a drink that not only seemed relatively straightforward, but also contained all ingredients I had on hand including blue curacao, I figured I'd give it a try. It's also the first drink I've made in this series that uses tequila, which is a welcome change.

The Juan Ho Royale was created by Martin Cate himself, for the tiki bar Hula's in Santa Cruz, CA, in honor of a surf spot called Steamer Lane. Cate notes, on his use of blue curacao, "To capture the azure seas, I make a rare exception for blue curacao." Here's Cate's recipe:

2.00 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine
0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. orgeat
0.50 oz. blue curacao
0.50 oz. John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum
1.50 oz. tequila blanco

Pour the sparkling wine into a chilled coupe. Add the remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake with cracked or cubed ice. Double-strain into the chilled coupe.

He notes, "garnish - none" but I thought a lime wheel pinned to a cocktail cherry with a flamingo pick dressed this drink up nicely.

This was a nice departure from rum, which dominates many of the 31 previous drinks. As you can see, I used regular old Trader Joe's tequila blanco - nothing too fancy. Tequila blanco is tequila that has little or no aging so the alcohol presence or "burn" is felt a bit more than an aged tequila, as is the agave flavor. It might not be the best quality tequila, but mixed in this cocktail it was just fine. The agave and slight smokiness of the tequila are the most noticeable flavors, and the falernum adds a nice hint of spiciness. The sparkling wine's carbonation is also a nice feature, not something you get in many tiki drinks. And of course it's electric blue! This would be a really nice, simple cocktail to serve at holiday and New Years parties, the sparkling wine adding a bit of festivity.

A Note About Photography

Apart from wanting to learn more about exotic cocktails and their history, the other reason I started this project was to force myself to take more pictures and get better at it. I use a Nikon D300 DSLR for all the photos on this blog and lately, I've been experimenting with off-camera flash techniques for lighting. Of course there's plenty of inspiration for nicely photographing cocktails on Instagram, etc. which has been helpful. If  you're also a photography geek who's been experimenting with off-camera flash, I'd love to hear from you. Tips? Tricks? Cool effects? Let me know!

I'll probably have at least one more post before 2016 comes to a close, but I'd like to wish you all a very mele kalikimaka and a fabulous New Year! Be safe, and enjoy.


Cocktail #31: Flaming Coffee Grog

This is without a doubt the most complicated drink I've ever made. I originally stumbled upon this cocktail in Jeff Berry's Grog Log. Given that the temperatures here in Chicago are starting to dip into the teens and single digits, and partly inspired by my blogger friend The Meek Tiki who recently conquered Hot Buttered Rum, I thought it was high time I tried a hot tiki drink.

There's not much background by Berry on this one other than, "circa 1950s." I assume this would have been served as an after-dinner drink in a 1950s tiki palace after a few too many Zombies and pu-pu platters. It's a showpiece, and would have been finished tableside to show off the flaming effect.

Before I go any further, whenever you're messing around with fire and alcohol, use extreme caution. Do not make this after you've had a few, and do not light anything up near anything flammable like tiki bar decor. I literally had a fire extinguisher right at my feet ready to go, and you should too. Please read Crikiti's post on home tiki bar fire safety.

Ok, back to the drink. After reading Berry's recipe and Googling around a bit, I ended up using parts from two different recipes (possibly a mistake).


3.00 tsp. Lopez coconut cream
0.25 oz. Grand Marnier
Hot black coffee (about 6 oz. should do it)
Twist of orange peel
Twist of lemon peel
2 whole cloves
Eight inch cinnamon stick
0.75 oz. 151 Demerarra rum

I found what purports to be the "ancestor recipe" (attributed to Don the Beachcomber's book, Hawaii Tropical Rum Drinks and Cuisineon the Atomic Grog blog:

2.00 cups hot Kona coffee
3.00 teaspoons honey cream mix*
1/2 tsp. teaspoon cinnamon
1.00 oz. dark Jamaican rum (Kohala Bay or equivalent)
1.00 oz 151 rum (Lemon Hart Demerara recommended)**
6 strips of lemon peel
6 strips of orange peel

The ingredients in light blue are the ones I used. Here's the method I used (largely the same between the two, and largely copied from Atomic Grog):
Combine the rum, cinnamon, cloves, and citrus peels in a heat-proof pitcher or pot. Stir, set aside and let the rum soak into the peels.
Into a small pan, pour the hot Kona coffee and add the honey mix. Slowly heat. Pour heated (but not boiling) mixture into a coffee grog mug. Take the pitcher and coffee mug to a serving table.
With chopsticks, remove a piece of the orange or lemon peel and set afire. Plunge the peel back into the pitcher, setting the rum mixture ablaze.
If possible, pick up the flaming citrus peel pieces and drop them into the coffee grog mug. Pour the flaming rum into the glass, stir with chopsticks and serve.
* For the honey cream mix: In separate small bowls, heat equal parts sweet (unsalted) butter and honey (I also added a dash of half and half). Then combine and whisk until well blended. Use immediately

** Since I did not have 151 Demerara, I instead used regular-proof Hamilton Demerara, and 151 Don Q.

Still with me?

Unfortunately I do not have a flaming skull mug that this would normally be served in, so I used a rum barrel from the Tonga Hut. I carefully set the contents of the pitcher ablaze and did my best to pour a stream of flame into the coffee. Doing this, and photographing the spectacle yourself is a bit of a challenge, so the photos could be better (I should have turned down the lights, naturally). But you get the idea.

How does it taste? Well, given all the effort I put in, I wish I could say I enjoyed it more. For me, the orange/citrus aroma dominated the drink, even when bringing it near my nose to take a sip. I definitely used too much orange peel and should have only used one. I just couldn't get past the citrus/coffee mix, and I ended up only drinking about half of it. With a reduction in citrus, I can see how this would be a fairly pleasant after-dinner drink, and I have to think that most of the alcohol gets burned off during all the flaming, so it's not very potent.

If nothing else, it's a real showstopper if you do it right for your guests (safely!).

For your holiday viewing pleasure, I give you the wonderful Judy Garland Christmas Special from 1963. Enjoy!