Is there anything more tropical than rum? It’s been almost 8 years since my honeymoon in Hawaii, but nothing takes me back to the feeling of sitting on the beach in Kauai more than sipping on a Mai Tai. Throw on a little Martin Denny, and I can almost feel the sun on my face. Since the 60s, most tropical “Tiki” drinks were bastardized by overly sweetened mixers and cheap ingredients. Now, however, the original mid-century recipes are back in vogue, and they boast a level of flavor and sophistication not to be missed.
I’m going to get a little preachy here. I work in Michigan’s best produce market. We have the freshest mint, citrus, and grocery that any mixologist could ask for. So please, I beg you, make your cocktails fresh! Don’t use a mix! Some of the worst offenders are classic rum-based Tiki drinks. Here is the proper way to make some of my favorites:
Before I begin, there are a couple of easy steps to take to make preparing Tiki drinks easier on you:
Simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil and stirred until sugar is dissolved and then cooled.
Sour mix is simple syrup with lemon and lime added to it. Here is a great recipe from SeriousEats.com.
Orgeat is almond-flavored syrup. If you cannot find it, substitute almond syrup or ¼ teaspoon of almond extract combined with 2 tablespoons simple syrup. Amaretto can be used in a pinch, but it’s not recommended.
Falernum is a mixer that can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. It tastes of almond, lime, and ginger and can be substituted with Orgeat.
Crushed ice is better for these drinks because there is more surface area to chill the drink quicker and keep it colder longer.
Little umbrellas are a necessary garnish for keeping your maraschino cherry dry.
The ultimate classic created by Tiki legend Trader Vic Bergeron should only have one fruit juice in it, and if grenadine is anywhere near it, run! The color should be golden brown like a good suntan.
1 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 1 oz. Rhum Clement VSOP Ru 1 oz. Myers’s Dark Rum ½ oz. Orange Curacao ¼ oz. Simple Syrup ¼ oz. Orgeat
Shake all ingredients with ice and pour over crushed ice into an old fashioned glass.
Created by Trader Vic’s contemporary, Don the Beachcomber, this recipe was almost lost due to Don’s intense secrecy. The amount of rum in it got it banned in many cities and was said to reduce you to one of the living dead, stumbling around grunting, “Rummmm, RUUUMMMM!!!” Though I have never been driven to such a state, I highly recommend this drink, as long as you only have one.
3/4 Cup Crushed Ice 1 1/2 oz. Aged Jamaican Rum, such as Appleton Estate V/X or Extra 1 1/2 oz. Gold Puerto Rican Rum 1 oz. 151-Proof Lemon Hart Demerara Rum 3/4 oz. Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice 2 tsp. White Grapefruit Juice 1 tsp. Cinnamon Syrup 1 tsp. Grenadine 1/2 oz. Falernum 1/8 tsp. Pernod (or Absinthe) 1 Dash Aromatic Bitters, such as Angostura Ice Cubes 1 Mint Sprig for Garnish
Shake all ingredients, except for crushed ice and mint, in a shaker with ice. Then pour over crushed ice in a tall Collins glass or Tiki mug. Garnish with mint sprig.
A grog was a mix of rum and water that would be given to Navy personnel starting in the mid-17th century. The fresh water on ships would become stagnant and slimy from algae growing. Over time, citrus fruits would be added for flavor. Though both Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic had a version, Don’s is the more traditional one. 1 oz. Light Puerto Rican Rum 1 oz. Dark Jamaican Rum 1 oz. Demerara Rum 3/4 oz. Fresh Grapefruit Juice 3/4 oz. Honey, warmed 3/4 oz. Fresh Lime Juice Club Soda
Combine all ingredients into a shaker and shake vigorously. Pour contents into a double old-fashioned glass, and add an Ice Cone. If you don’t have the traditional ice cone, pour over crushed ice.
We’ve all ordered rum and coke–or a Cuba Libre if you want to be technical, but rum can be so much more when blended with fruit juices and a little TLC. These drinks highlight the flavor of the rum. When building your bar you should have three types of rum:
– Light rum, clear in color, and aged in barrel for 2 years
– Recommended – Bacardi or Cruzan
– Aged golden rum aged in barrel for at least 2 years but normally much longer Recommended – Appleton V/X or Clement
– Dark Rum, richer and more molasses-like the previous 2 because it is normally made with caramelized sugars
– Recommended – Myers’s or Goslings
Over proof rum and Demerara rum are good to have but not always necessary.
These drinks are fun to serve up for summertime Tiki parties and backyard get-togethers.