Author: Doug Winship
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Tiki Drink: Opaka Raka

In casting around for some new recipes to try, I found myself in a section I have left pretty much unexplored in Beachbum Berry's Remixed: the second appendix (modern creations). As I perused this area of the book, I stumbled upon the Opaka Raka, from Brian Miller of Manhattan's Death & Co.
OPAKA RAKA
  • 1 1/2 oz navy strength gin
  • 1 1/2 oz Donn's Spices #2*
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1/4  oz simple syrup (omit)
  • 1 dash Elemakule Tiki bitters
Shake all with ice, and strain into an elegant old-fashioned glass with fresh crushed ice. Garnish exotically....
Berry notes in his recipe the importance of the gin in this drink, and how it needs to be at least 94 proof to stand up to all the heavy Tiki flavors. For my taste, that wasn't quite enough, and I think the cocktail benefits from a full navy strength bottling. I used Hayman's Royal Dock, which is far and away my favorite gundeck-compliant gin. I also omitted the quarter ounce of simple syrup. I don't think it is necessary, but be aware if the drink is too tart for your palate at first taste, you can splash it in. As you might expect with an ounce and a half of Don's Spices #2*, allspice is the Mick Jagger of this little band, with vanilla as it's Keith Richards. You end up with a rich, dark, exotically unctuous sip that is right at home with the 30's and 40's era drinks that are my personal favorite in the Tiki oeuvre. * Don's Spices #2 is one of Don the Beachcomber's premixed ingredients that he made as a way to speed drink production, and more importantly to slow down recipe theft. Today it is well known to be a simple 1 to 1 mix of vanilla syrup and allspice dram. Should you have or have access to both, it is simple to make. Should either be difficult to obtain, Portland Tiki god and member of the Board of Tiki Idols B. G. Reynolds makes a commercial version that has the added virtue (?) of being non-alcoholic. abc
Tiki Month 2018
Rum
Rule 2
Brandy

Tiki Cross-Post: In Which Joe Garcia Fixes the Scorpion Bowl

Joe Garcia is a blogging compatriot of mine from Florida. That makes him a Florida Man, but don't worry, he's not one of those Florida Men, just a Florida Man. I actually have a number of friends who are Florida Men, including my brother, none of whom have joined the ranks of Florda Man. Yet. To my knowledge.... Anyway, Joe and I share the same blogging work ethic.
Oh, really? As in none at all?
I'm saying, as in posting about 20 times a year these days... though his are more evenly distributed.
So you are saying you have much to learn from him?
I'm saying, why are you still here? I'm trying to do a simple Rule 2 link post, but if you keep trying to pick a fight, this post will be two pages long!
Hey! By your own admission, you don't blog often. And you let your's truly out of the drawer in an even smaller number of posts...
Ok. Ok. I get it.
A sock's gotta play while the sun shines, is all I'm saying.
Thank you. Your cogent and insightful remarks are well taken. [Quietly but firmly closes sock drawer.] Anyway, Joe is always great about doing a Tiki Month post or three himself every February. In his first of #TikiMonth 2018, he addresses the classic "Scorpion Bowl". The accompanying photo is glorious, and you can see lots more of his work at his blog Same Thing, But Different, and on his Instagram feed. In his post, Joe identifies the same problem I have with this "classic", i.e. it is an utterly undrinkable citrus bomb. I've made them before and never liked them. It makes me wonder if the well-known recipe, as published by Trader Vic himself, is really some kind of counter-intelligence ploy to damage bars that try to copy his drink. But Joe claims to have through the redacted portions of the memo to unlock how to Make Scorpion Bowls Great Again. It's his research, so I'm going to make you click through if you want to see how he does it. Cheers! And Happy Tiki Month 2018!abc
Garnish
Sweets
Tiki Month 2018

Battling the Dragon (Fruit)

Ye gods, Doug! What the hell is that? If Trader Vic and H R Geiger laid an egg, it'd look like that...
That, my fine, knitted friend, is a Dragonfruit, er, a Dragon Fruit. I'm still learning about this awesome bit of produce. Dragon Fruit, or Pitaya, is a cactus berry originally from Mexico, but is now cultivated throughout Central America, the US, and much of Asia. The plants look like giant aloes, and the flowers are as gorgeous as the berries.  And it is an awesome Tiki multi-tasker. It is gorgeous, delicious and can be put to use as a garnish in an extraordinary number of ways. It is also tasty as a snack with tropical drinks. Like a pineapple, there are a helluva lot of ways that you can butcher a Dragon Fruit. I'd like to go over a few that I've worked out for myself, which work well for both garnishing and eating. What is inside this pink demon berry is pretty cool. If you just slice off the top (it cuts smoothly, easily, and cleanly with a sharp knife), this is the cross section: The white stuff is a relatively dry (by berry standards), stiff pulp with edible black seeds evenly distributed throughout. The peel is a thick, leathery pink that peels easily away from the fruit underneath, as easy if not easier than a tangerine. You cannot peel a Dragin Fruit like an orange or tangerine though, as the peel is tougher, and doesn't tear easily. This is a good thing, as we will see. The first thing I tried was simply slicing the fruit into thin circles. It cuts really quite easily, and looks gorgeous. You could also cut them length-wise, or on an angle, and get different shapes for your slices. You can use these slices just like an oversized, exotic lime wheel. A single slit along a radius, and they perch happily on a glass in the same way. A downside is that they are not terribly flexible, so you can't bend them around the inside of the glass like a pineapple wheel or half wheel. They snap if you try. Regardless, this simple garnish element is hard to beat for color and contrast. The next thing to try is using the fruit in smaller bits, without the peel. As I said, the upside of Dragon Fruit is that the pulp cuts exceptionally easily and cleanly. I did not want to go digging through the PeguWife's candy and cookie cutters, so I just used my Leopold jigger to cut out circles from my quarter inch thick slices. Unlike most nice jiggers, with their thick rims, the Leopold actually makes a perfect cookie cutter, but whether you use the one or two ounce side, you will only get one Dragon Berry disk out of a typical cross section. You could use the disk with the hole missing in some other garnish application, I suppose, but I haven't tried that one yet. Next fruit, I'm going to get out the smallest round and star-shaped cookie punchers we have, and hopefully get three pieces from each cross-section. These look fabulous on toothpicks or other thin skewers, by themselves or especially stacked with other items like cherries, lime wheels, or kiwi slices. Be careful with the Dragon Fruit pieces during assembly, as without the peel, they are fragile. While fussing with the photo below, I broke a couple of disks while playing incessantly with the skewer. A more sturdy way to use the pulp is in thicker chunks. You can get quite a few cubes or wedges out of a single fruit, and they take skewering much more reliably. They also are great laid out for snacking, or nestled beside a drink on a nice coaster as a side garnish. You can even skewer several with other fruits like kiwi or pineapple and serve grilled. As soon as I buy more Dragon Fruit this weekend, that's going to be my first experiment. By themselves, raw, the fruit is hard to describe. Unlike every exotic meat, which you can just say "tastes like chicken", you can't say Dragon Berry tastes quite like anything common. I will say that it has a soft, subtle flavor that is sweet, but not strongly so, and the texture in your mouth is lovely. It also is less of a mess than lots of other, especially tropical, fruits like pineapple that tend to drip or bleed all over the plate and everything around it. So the fruit is great, but it would be a shame to just throw away that lovely, pink, leathery skin unused, right? If you slice your Dragon Fruit thin to punch out disks, you can remove the ring of skin with virtually no effort. Hang that ring off a swizzle stick, or with a single cut, turn it into a lovely ribbon garnish for up-style cocktail glass drinks, as I did below. The peel doesn't express oils, or hold a curl as well as a lemon zest ribbon, but it is stiffer. And it's neon pink! My final experiment was with the peel from the section of the fruit I cut for chunks. I simply cut a slab of it into a rectangle and slit in onto the rim of another up cocktail, though this would work as an understated garnish for any drink in a glass with a thin rim. Dragon Fruit (Pitaya) is really delicious, beautiful, and easy to be creative with behind the bar. I admit, it is hard to get started with your first, but a little willpower will get you over the fear of a Tiki-themed face-hugger popping out of it if you touch it, turning you into some horrifying moai. There are only three genuine drawbacks to Dragon Fruit that I have found. First, they are hard to find. They are seasonal, expensive, and quite thoroughly absent from almost all mainstream American supermarkets. But I have found them in international grocery stores (Hispanic and Asian), as well in a few larger supermarkets around town that carry more exotic varieties. Second, they are expensive. Let me know if you come up with a solution to this besides making more money... Third, they don't keep. I bought one last year to play with for Tiki Month. It was so pretty, I left it out to decorate my bar, and by the time I got over my fear of this alien berry, it... stopped being so pretty. I'm not going to let the peel go nasty with any of these that I buy this year, but can any of you tell me if the pulp goes bad as quickly as the peel? And what else do the rest of you do with Dragon Fruit? Let me know. I suddenly love these things.abc
Garnish
Gin
Recipes
Rule 2
Rum
Tiki Month 2018

Tiki Drink: Monkey Pilot

The Monkey Pilot is a quite new Tiki cocktail, as in last month new, from Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin Fame. Fred has begun to present a problem for me the last year or so of Tiki Month. The chance of re-blogging someone else's drink can be expressed in the following formula: Chance = Frequency of Posting X Percentage of Posts about Tiki Drinks. If you plug in the values for the Cocktail Virgin Blog, you get: Chance = Yarm's Work Ethic X Fred's Increasing Interest in Tiki. Chance is a big number, folks. Any way, I'm leaning into the issue by choosing the Monkey Pilot today. Not only did Fred blog it, he created it. If you want to learn about his development process and the drink's ancestry, click the link. I was wasting time on Twitter today, and saw Fred mention his recent post on the Monkey Pilot. To which my friend Jordan (@Cocktailchem) felt the need to poke the official illustrator of the Cocktailosphere... It is time to convince Craig to do this, so please RT this tweet, if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from TwitterAccountosis, and maybe we'll shame Doctor Bamboo into drawing some monkeys. Now, I already had Fred's Monkey Pilot recipe sitting downstairs in my Basement Bar, waiting for me to make cinnamon syrup. The exchange got me off of my computer and into the kitchen. This evening, first on agenda was this drink. It's lovely. A truly traditional Tiki drink, in all the best ways.
MONKEY PILOT
  • 1 oz dark Jamaican rum (I used Blackwell's)
  • 1 oz London Dry gin
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1/4 oz grenadine (I used POM Wonderful straight)
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz Velvet falernum
  • 1/2 oz cinnamon syrup
  • 7 drops absinthe
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters
Combine in a shaker with ice and put your monkey shoulder into it. Open pour into a whimsical mug and top with crushed ice. I for one am always one to follow garnish instructions like Fred's, "garnish with Tiki intent." I went with a lime wheel, homme-made brandied cherry, and a custom engraved orange zest.
As I said, this is a classic Tiki-profile cocktail. The aroma is exotically redolent. As you first draw on the straw, it feels but doesn't quite taste sweet. There is quite a bit of acidity, even into the finish. But the finish is mostly aromatics from absinthe, gin, and cinnamon, all of which linger beautifully. It is refreshing, but in no way thirst-quenching, leaving the drinker wanting something else to sip immediately after. If you were serving it in a commercial establishment, I think that would make Donn Beach smile. abc
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