Cocktail #50: Daiquiri

They say that sometimes the simplest drinks are the most difficult to master. Look at the martini. With just three ingredients, it's one of, if not the, most "famous" and well known cocktail in the world, and yet people still keep trying to master it. I suspect the daiquiri is in the same league, in a way. Three simple ingredients, dozens of versions over the decades, and yet with small tweaks it can be endlessly improved. I couldn't let 52 exotic cocktails go by and not give this classic a shot.

There is much written about the daiquiri and its origins. There are daiquiri recipes in the books I have by Jeff Berry, and in Martin and Rebecca Cate's Smuggler's Cove. At the end of the day, I decided to go with a version of Jeff Berry's recipe I found online, which sounded like the real deal. I made one modification with the rum I used - instead of Berry's recommended Cana Brava or Bacardi 1909, I used the white rum I had on hand, Plantation 3 Stars. Obviously, the rum you use here can make or break this drink. Personally, I feel like the Plantation 3 Stars worked very well - the drink was immensely enjoyable - but then again, I am not a daiquiri connoisseur. Sure, I've had a few here and there, but they were usually frozen, probably made with a mix, and not memorable.

Berry worked on this recipe for over a year, and the main thing to keep in mind is his use of a sugar blend of white and Demerara or turbinado sugars, in place of what has become the standard simple syrup, to cut down on dilution.

Here's his version of the daiquiri, from Punch:

2 level teaspoons sugar blend*
1.00 oz. ounce lime juice
2.00 oz. white rum, preferably CaƱa Brava or Bacardi 1909 Superior Limited Edition
Garnish: lime wheel

* To make the sugar blend, combine 4 parts organic white cane sugar to 1 part turbinado or demerara sugar.

Combine the sugar blend and lime juice in a mixing tin. Stir until the sugar has fully dissolved into the lime juice. Add the rum to the sugar and lime mixture, along with large cubes of ice, cracked with a bar spoon. Quickly shake and strain the drink into a coupe.

This is not going to be news to anyone who regularly enjoys daiquiris, but this was absolutely lovely. Sweeter than I expected (2 teaspoons!), the sweetness cut the tart citrus of the lime. And the Demerara component of the sugar complements the white rum with a very slight but noticeable hint of molasses. As someone who does his best to avoid added sugar except for a half-teaspoon in coffee, this was slightly too sweet for my taste, so if I made it again, I might cut the sugar back by a half-teaspoon. I'll be interested to try this with different white rums, including Berry's recommended Cana Brava, to see the differences. And I will say that *this* is the perfect drink to offer guests at cocktail parties - tiki themed or not. So simple, easy to make, and so enjoyable - this is a real winner. It doesn't have the over-the-top kitsch and garnish of many of the other tiki drinks I've tried over the last 49, but sometimes that's ok!

Mix one up today, sit back, and enjoy the simplicity. Cheers!

Given the daiquiri's Cuban origins, I'll leave you with some interesting 1950s/pre-Castro Cuba footage.


Cocktail #49: Pearl Diver

I'm not sure how I overlooked the classic Pearl Diver cocktail over the last 48 drinks. I'd read about it many times, was aware of the special glasses used for it, and seen it on tiki bar menus. I paged through my three main sources of recipes looking for it recently and came up blank, so I turned to the internet and voila - naturally.

We seem to - yet again - have cocktail historian, tiki bar owner, and writer Jeff Berry to thank for unearthing yet another classic, and otherwise forgotten tiki drink recipe with the Pearl Diver. According to Berry, this one was created around 1937 by Don the Beachcomber. I wouldn't be able to put it any better than Mr. Berry himself so here's his take on this drink:
"A Hot Buttered Rum is lovely. But an Iced Buttered Rum is genius. Anybody can come up with a batter for the former, but only a mad soused scientist like Don The Beachcomber could think up a batter that not only liquefies in a cold rum punch but transforms it into an utterly unique experience, with a luxuriant flavor and silky mouth-feel. That he did this in 1937, over 60 years before the advent of molecular mixology, makes his Pearl Diver even more of a marvel."
This is one of those cocktails that contains a mysterious concoction, in this case, called "Don's Gardenia Mix" necessitating a recipe within a recipe. I used Imbibe's version of both, which is sourced from Berry:

1.00 oz. gold Puerto Rican rum (I used Mount Gay, despite it not being from PR)
0.50 oz. Demerara rum (I used Hamilton)
0.50 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. fresh orange juice
0.50 oz. Don’s gardenia mix*
1 dash Angostura bitters
½ cup crushed ice

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend on high for 20 seconds. Strain through a mesh strainer into a Pearl Diver glass (I used the closest I had) and add fresh crushed ice to fill. Garnish.

*Don's gardenia mix: Using a spatula or an electric kitchen mixer, cream 1 oz. of honey with 1 oz. of softened, unsalted butter; add 1 tsp. of cinnamon syrup, ½ tsp. of vanilla syrup and ½ tsp. of allspice liqueur. Refrigerate the remainder for up to 1 week.

One quick note is that I cannot overstate the importance of straining this through a fine mesh strainer. Don's gardenia mix, while adding a lovely flavor to the drink, will most likely contain butter fat solids (at least it did the way I made it); using the strainer will catch most of them (as well as any pulp, etc.). Over on A Mountain of Crushed Ice, there's a post about making drinks with honey cream in them, and you might find a method to try to reduce the butter solids with one of those recipes; personally I didn't find it problematic.

The cocktail is really nice. I found it smooth, with the Demerara rum playing a large role with a sort of smoky flavor to it, set off with hints of spice and citrus, and Don's gardenia mix. Despite honey being one of the main ingredients in the mix, I personally couldn't really taste much honey, but did get hints of cinnamon and allspice. Overall, I really liked this drink, and I'd love to get to Berry's Latitude 29 one of these days so I could taste a Pearl Diver made by a pro.

I've probably posted this one before, but it's a goodie and especially appropriate. The tiki bar scene, featuring Nat King Cole singing "Blue Gardenia" in the film of the same name from 1953. They are drinking "Polynesian Pearl Divers" apparently, though they look more like Navy Grogs what with the ice cone. Regardless, pretty neat (though Anne Baxter should have gone a little easier on them). Cheers!


Cocktail #48: Banana Boat

This past weekend, when I made this cocktail, it was hot. Very hot. 90s F and humid. Not my kind of weather. So, when looking for a drink to make, I was looking for something very refreshing that I could use to cool off. When I stumbled upon this one in Jeff Berry's Intoxica!, it seemed to fit the bill. Pineapple-y, banana-y, coconutty, and frozen. Yes please! Berry doesn't give any backstory to this cocktail except to say it is from the 1970s.

Here's the recipe:

1.00 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
0.50 oz. banana liqueur (I used 99 Bananas, found in the airplane bottle section at Binny's)
0.25 oz. Lopez coconut cream
0.25 oz. milk or half and half
1.00 oz. light Puerto Rican rum (I used Plantation 3 Stars)

Blend well with one cup of crushed ice. Pour into a small tiki mug.

I roughly doubled this recipe because the overall volume is quite low and the tiki mug I wanted to use is pretty large. Doubling it will not knock you on the head with booze since you would turn it into a drink with roughly 2.5 oz. of alcohol in it, which not outside the norm for a modern cocktail.

I'd never had 99 Bananas before, but I'd heard of it. Many moons ago, when Jen and I were living in Queens, there was an Irish pub right around the corner from our apartment that quickly became our local. It was largely staffed by a career Irish bartender, who would discreetly sip half-pints of Guinness all night. I never once saw him very drunk, but there were a couple times towards the end of a late night where he would get down a dusty bottle of 99 Bananas from the shelf and would extol the virtues of the stuff to anyone who would listen. I'm not sure if he drank it straight or what, but it seemed to be one of his favorites, apart from Guinness.

I'm also glad it comes in airplane bottles since this is not a spirit I'd be likely to use that frequently. I found the banana flavor dominated this cocktail; there may be other banana liqueurs out there that might work better for you if that would be troublesome in your drink. But honestly, this drink was exactly what I was looking for. A banana slushy with a rum kick. I must say, it was really lovely.

I used my trusty Moai tiki mug I found at a thrift shop in Minnesota a couple years ago, along with a lime peel/homemade maraschino cherry garnish. This one went down easily! My better half even enjoyed it!

Speaking of whom, I'd like to take a moment to let you know that my wife, Jen LiMarzi, has a new short collection of three very funny essays called "Pop-Ups, Paneling, & Pontiacs: Adventures in 1980s Suburbia (Vol. 2)." It's less than three bucks on Amazon, and I guarantee you will laugh. Show her some support and buy this thing now! Three bucks! Less than a PBR!

So - I'm nearing the end of this little experiment - only four drinks left! Thanks for reading for the last year+ and I'll be back next week with something new. Cheers!

Since we're talking bananas, I'll leave you with this enjoyable little video from 1958 - the McGuire Sisters and Steve Allen, doing their "Banana Split" number. Enjoy!


Cocktail #47: The Twenty Seventy Swizzle

I decided to change things up slightly this week by trying out a contemporary cocktail, which I found in the wonderful Smuggler's Cove book by Martin and Rebecca Cate. Cate describes how he and one of the "Masters of the Cove" created this cocktail in the quest to make the ultimate swizzle cocktail. The name of the drink was inspired by numbers contained in the names of two of the rums Cate used to create this drink: Angostura 1919 and Lemon Hart 151. Alas, I didn't have Angostura 1919 rum, nor did I even have any other column still aged rum on hand (this obviously needs to be remedied in short order!), so I did my best with what I had. I used Mount Gay Eclipse, a rum somewhat similar in color, and with some of the same flavor notes that Cate describes the 1919 of having - particularly the vanilla, which is also present in the Mount Gay.

Here's the recipe:

0.50 oz. fresh lime juice
0.50 oz. Demerara syrup
0.50 oz. honey syrup (I used equal parts water and a wonderful macadamia honey a friend got for us)
0.25 oz. St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1.00 oz. column still aged rum (I used Mount Gay, which is not the type of rum specified)
1.00 oz. black blended overproof rum (I used Lemon Hart 151)
1 dash Herbstura (equal parts Herbsaint or Pernod and Angostura bitters)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Add all the ingredients to a Collins or highball glass, then add crushed ice until the glass is 3/4 full. Use a bar spoon or lele to swizzle. Top up with additional crushed ice as needed to fill the glass and garnish. I garnished with mint, a lime wheel, and cocktail cherry.

Cate also recommends using a swizzle napkin wrap, which I used back on cocktail #24, the Chartreuse Swizzle. He learned how to do this when he worked at Trader Vic's and made the Queens Park Swizzle. Basically, you unfold a cocktail napkin, fold it in half diagonally making a right triangle, then fold over in about 1.5" sections. Then, wrap around the glass, and knot. This gives the drinker something to hold other than a very cold, frosty glass. 

This is a really wonderful cocktail. It hits all of my favorite notes - first, the bouquet of mint as you pull the glass up for a sip, then the richness of the black rum, a hint of vanilla from the lighter rum, a savory spiciness from the Herbstura, allspice dram, and nutmeg, all kept in check by the sweetness of the syrups, and citrus of the lime. Absolutely wonderful. This ranks up there in my Top 10 for sure. I found that it got even more enjoyable as the ice diluted a bit, taking away the slight burn of the 151 that was there on the first sip. I can only imagine that using an aged rum would only improve this drink. Give it a try!

This week I leave you with some very interesting footage from 1956 - vacation footage from someone's trip to Bermuda! Ok, so maybe other people's vacation films can be boring, but this is actually worth a skim if, for nothing else, the cars, Bermuda short-wearing sailors, and lots of people who, on a tropical vacation, are dressed better than most people dress to go to work in 2017. I really wish I had a reason to purchase and wear a white dinner jacket ... sigh. Enjoy!