Cocktail #46: Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail

This week's drink, the Queen's Park Hotel Super Cocktail, may be one of the oldest of the previous 45 that I've made. Dating back to at least 1932, this drink originates from -- you guessed it, the Queen's Park Hotel, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. I found it in Jeff Berry's Potions of the Caribbean, and he notes 1932 as the year that "British travel writer Owen Rutter coaxed this recipe out of the hotel bartender and published it in his book, If Crab No Walk: A Traveller in the West Indies."

This cocktail is featured in Chapter 3 of Berry's book, in a section that details the colonial history of Trinidad, and in particular the fact that the Angostura company (of bitters fame) had a strong presence in Port-of-Spain in the early 20th century, after relocating from Venezuela. It's therefore fitting that this cocktail makes heavy use of Angostura bitters - a full four dashes. Here's the recipe:

1.50 oz. gold Trinidad rum (I used Plantation 3 Stars, a white rum, which is a blend of rums from Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad - perhaps not really correct being that it's not a gold rum ...)
0.50 oz. Italian vermouth
0.50 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. grenadine
4 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake with ice cubes. Strain into a cocktail glass (I ended up using a coupe instead of the glass pictured since the volume of this drink is fairly small).

 The Angostura bitters figure heavily in this cocktail. I usually love the addition of Angostura for an added spicy/bitter note, but 4 dashes' worth seemed a little heavy handed to me. It made the cocktail veer off into medicinal/Robitussin territory, which for me is pretty hard to do. My first impression was a "medicinal-tasting daiquiri." I didn't dislike it enough that I didn't finish it, but this is not a cocktail I'd be rushing to make again. That being said, if your taste generally veers towards that type of flavor, by all means give this one a go. From the little knowledge and experience I have of early cocktails (say, from the 1890s - 1930s), I'm not altogether surprised that this drink is from that era, and of course being from Trinidad, they would be keen to feature Angostura bitters heavily in a locally created and served drink. So, it's definitely worth trying just to appreciate for where it came from and the history behind it.

I found this interesting short film produced in the 1930s as a sort of travelogue featuring Trinidad - it's got some great footage. Skip to 2:22 to see people checking out the "world famous Angostura bitters factory, invariably the first stop on a sight seeing tour!" Until next time - cheers!


Cocktail #45: Beachcomber's Gold

Ice can be just as an important part of a tiki drink's garnish as a lime wheel or pineapple leaf. Back in the day, Don the Beachcomber had a lot of fun with different ice garnishes. The Navy Grog and Captain's Grog ice cones are great examples. Another fun trick that Don did with ice, was the ice shell. This is a garnish where you mold ice inside the cocktail coupe, in such a way that a layer of finely crushed ice coats the inside the the glass as well as rises above the edge of one half of the glass, forming a "hood." I noticed this cocktail, Beachcomber's Gold, in Jeff Berry's Grog Log recently and thought I would give it a try (the Colonial Grog in Berry's Potions of the Caribbean also employs an ice shell - my fellow tikiphile and pal The Meek Tiki made this one a little while ago, ice shell and all).

Using a large blender, I created "snow ice" - very finely blended ice - and then used the handle of a wooden spoon to help mold the snow ice inside a cocktail coupe that had been sitting in the freezer. It was a little tricky to get the "hood" to form, but with enough pressure you can basically force the ice over the edge and with any luck it will stay in place. Once I got a good ice shell in place, I quickly placed the glass back into the freezer to firm it up. Mine ended up staying in the freezer for a couple days, which worked well.

As for the drink itself, there seem to be quite a few versions of this one floating around. In the end, I actually went with a recipe I found on the wonderful site, Atomic Grog, which purports to be the "ancestor recipe" of a drink called Liquid Gold. It differs significantly from the version printed in Jeff Berry's Grog Log. Apparently Berry himself was perplexed by the many versions of the Beachcomber's Gold, as the Atomic Grog notes that Berry "devotes five pages in his 2010 book, Remixed, to this dilemma and explores three different recipes." Since Remixed is a more recent printing than my Grog Log I decided to go with the Atomic Grog's version of the cocktail. It is as follows:

0.50 ounce fresh lime juice
0.50 ounce sugar syrup (I used Demerara syrup since I already had a batch made; this will change the flavor a bit)
1.00 ounce gold Puerto Rican rum (I used Bacardi)
0.50 ounce gold Jamaican rum (I ended up using Mount Gay, which is from Barbados)
0.50 ounce dark Jamaican rum (I used the darkest rum I had, Black Seal, which is from Bermuda)
6 drops (about 1/8 teaspoon) Pernod
4 drops almond extract

Blend with around 1/4 cup of crushed ice and strain into a champagne saucer or cocktail glass lined with an ice shell.

As the Atomic Grog goes on to note, "This is the 'Hollywood and Palm Springs' version of the Beachcomber’s Gold, which Berry traced back to 1937." The Grog Log's version is much different, employing French and Italian vermouth, as well as bitters along with rum, and Pernod. It also omits lime juice and simple syrup, and uses only one kind of rum.

Even though there are only six drops of Pernod in this cocktail, it is a dominant flavor in the drink, along with lime and the scant amount of almond extract. The rums, in a way, almost take a backseat to the Pernod. This was unexpected but not altogether a bad thing -- in fact, this is one of the more unusual, interesting drinks I've made during this project. It doesn't shine though as a favorite, but I did enjoy this cocktail. One issue with it -- well, with the ice shell -- is that after about 3-5 minutes, the ice will start to melt and eventually the drink becomes a slushy, as the melted ice slides down into the drink itself. Not a deal breaker, but slightly annoying.

Bottom line, if you're having a couple people over, this is sure to impress (but only a couple - too much effort for a big gathering, at least for me). And it's a creative, interesting cocktail for sure. Definitely worth the try. Cheers!

Since this is apparently the "Palm Springs" version of this drink, I'll leave you with a Palm Springs tourism video from the 1950s. Until next time!


Cocktail #44: Callaloo Cooler

I'd seen a few exotic cocktails in the books I've been using that incorporate the liqueur Cherry Heering (the classic, most well known being the Singapore Sling). As Imbibe Magazine notes, Cheery Heering is "a ruby-red liqueur made by soaking lightly crushed Danish cherries and a blend of spices in neutral grain spirits, then cask-maturing the mixture for up to five years, adding sugar during the aging process." This liqueur didn't sound particularly appealing to me, nor particularly versatile. And it is probably yet another $25+ bottle that would barely see the light of day. So, I usually skipped those drinks.

But the other day I was visiting my trusty suburban Binny's Beverage Depot, and took a gander at the airplane bottle section (not available in Chicago city limits locations due to blue laws). Sometimes you can find weird spirits in the airplane bottle section - spirits that you don't normally use, and certainly don't need an entire bottle of - for a couple bucks. As I spun the rack, I noticed a cherry liqueur (though not the actual brand, Cherry Heering). Price: $1.99. Done. I took it home, and looked it up online to compare it to the genuine article. Turns out this version - Montmorency - is made in Bosnia-Herzegovina (rather than Denmark), has an ABV of 25% (rather than 21.8%), and, like Heering, is made from real cherries. Not bad.

I then set out to find a cocktail recipe that incorporated it, and found one in Smuggler's Cove - the Callaloo Cooler.

Created by Melissa Garcia, the recipe is as follows:

1.00 oz. seltzer
0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. cinnamon syrup
0.50 oz. Cherry Heering
2.00 oz. blended lightly aged rum (I used Mount Gay)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Pour the seltzer into a Collins or highball glass. Add remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker with cubed or cracked ice. Shake and strain into the Collins or highball glass. Carefully add cubed or cracked ice to the glass to fill and garnish with grated cinnamon and a mint sprig.

This cocktail could easily go into Robitussin territory. But, the proportions are just right. I can imagine that some folks might get a taste of the cherry liqueur and immediately associate with a cough syrup flavor, which obviously would be a turn-off. So you want to measure carefully. For me, I tend to go for spicier, drier cocktails and even though you wouldn't think that cherry fits that description, for me, that is the general profile of this drink. The cinnamon and bitters temper the cherry liqueur in a really nice way, and all the flavors, including the rum, meld together really well. Maybe not one of my absolute favorites, but I did really like this drink and would easily make it again. 

And here's why I love YouTube - the person who posted this writes, "Probably never used commercially this jingle came from a demo record that was found in a job-lot of 78s. The record had 2 versions, this 'cha cha' version and a beat version on the other side."

So, I leave you with a Cha Cha Cherry Heering jingle. Until next time, cheers!


Cocktail #43: Q.B. Cooler

This week I was in search of a pleasant sounding drink that used passion fruit syrup, since I made a batch a couple of weeks ago with some very expensive fresh passion fruits. I'm not sure how long this stuff keeps (perhaps the splash of vodka I added will help?) so I wanted to make use of it while it was still good.

Paging through my tiki drink companion, Jeff Berry's Grog Log, I came across the Q.B. Cooler. Berry doesn't provide much background on this one, other than to say, "by Don the Beachcomber, circa 1941, when the house rule was "a limit of two to a customer." It was only after I made and consumed this delightful cocktail that I did a little Googling to see if I could find more info on it. As it turns out, it seems that Berry himself may have updated the recipe in a later version of this book (Beachbum Berry Remixed). I'll provide both - the one I used from the Grog Log as well as the seemingly updated version I've found online.

Grog Log version:

0.50 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. orange juice
0.25 oz. passion fruit syrup
0.25 oz. sugar syrup
2.00 oz. dark Jamaican rum (I used Plantation Original Dark)
1.00 oz. light Puerto Rican rum (I used good old Havana Club)
Dash Angostura bitters
1.8 tsp Pernod

Blend with 12 oz. crushed ice for 5 seconds and pour into a double old fashioned glass. Add more crushed ice to fill. Garnish with mint sprigs.

I garnished with a long orange peel, mint, and a cocktail cherry speared to a lime wheel with a plastic flamingo pick, naturally.

My Googling led me to this version, on the lovely site, Chemistry of the Cocktail:

1.00 oz orange juice
0.50 oz lime juice
0.50 oz honey syrup
0.25 oz falernum
1.00 oz soda water
1.00 oz gold Jamaican rum
1.00 oz light Puerto Rican rum
0.50 oz Demerara rum
2 dashes Angostura bitters
0.25 tsp ginger syrup

As you can see, this version removes passion fruit syrup completely, uses some different types of rum, adds falernum, honey syrup, and ginger syrup, and removes Pernod. So, quite a different drink, it seems. I've found similar versions with ginger syrup in my Interweb travels, so it would seem this is the ultimate Q.B. Cooler recipe - I need to try it soon to compare! Many writers seem to compare this version, and in fact claim it was the inspiration for, Trader Vic's Mai Tai.

I did find one little nugget about the origin of its name - according to Kindred Cocktails, the "Q.B." stands for "Quiet Birdmen," which, according to Wikipedia, is "a secretive club in the United States for male aviators" and was originally founded in France in 1919 (and then in the USA in 1921) as a sort of drinking club.

Anyway ... my verdict? Wonderful cocktail. It has the potential to taste too "juicy" or "punchy" - like some nebulous "tiki drink" one might get at a cheesy Florida beach bar. But what saves it, in my opinion, is the Pernod and the Angostura bitters. These two ingredients - scant as they are - add an important spicy/dry note to the drink which gives it a bit more interest than it otherwise would have. Considering the second version, I can only imagine that aspect of it is enhanced by ginger syrup, which I've never tried, as well as the falernum.

I'll leave you with something that a good friend of mine recently turned me on to. Korla Pandit was a midcentury performer who played eerie organ music with an "Indian" twist. He purported to be a Hindu, despite the fact that Hindus do not wear turbans (Sikhs wear turbans, and do not wear jewels in them). In reality, he was an African American man from St. Louis, a secret that he kept to himself until nearly the day he died. He actually made an appearance as himself in the wonderful Ed Wood in the party scene.

His music has sort of an "Indian Esquivel" feel to it. If you like that sort of thing, check out Korla Pandit! Here he is playing Miserlou. Cheers!