Category: blogging
Recipes
Rule 4
Syrups
Tiki Month 2018

So What’s Up With Fassionola?

Toward the start of this year's Tiki Month, I got an email from a man in California named John Malloch, who wanted to send me some bottles of Fassionola to play with over Tiki Month. Most people have never heard of Fassionola. Most who have are Tiki-philes who have seen the name listed in very old versions of Tiki cocktails from back in the early Golden Age of Tiki. I've seen mention of it every year I've done Tiki Month, but had given up bothering to try to find any meaningful information on it, much less getting my hands on any. I've been missing out, and in a number of ways. First off, Fassionola is a cool syrup, with interesting flavors, that goes a very long way. Secondly... there's a great story behind it, and a bit of modern controversy over the name. What more could I ask for? For the uninitiated, Fassionola is a bar syrup that comes in three "flavors": Red, Gold, and Green. All are extremely sweet and viscous. It was a big favorite of Don the Beachcomber in particular, but as far as I can tell, most of his original recipes that used it have long been updated to use alternate ingredients. The original Fassionola was not and is not a modern, organic, artisinal, hipster product. The ingredients start with high-fructose corn syrup, throw in a bit of fruit for flavor, add some citric acid, then all the usual suspects for preservation, texture, and color. I'm certain the stuff originally used cane sugar, but hey with Federal fat cat carve out tax codes being what they are, HFCS just makes more sense in the modern world.... If your passion is "healthy living", original Fassionola is probably not for you. But if your passion is healthy living, why the hell would you even look at almost any Tiki drink? If your passion is historical authenticity in your Tiki drinks, then you need some of this Fassionola.
Disclaimer: The use of the phrase "historical authenticity", when referring to anything Tiki, may result in gales of laughter. Please remember that virtually nothing about Tiki, much less the whole, is in any way authentically Polynesian.
The Johnathan English Co. is the original maker of Fassionola, producing it for going on a hundred years now. They are a small food service company in California. They have an information-free website that is buried so far down in Google search results I can't find it. That website doesn't even mention Fassionola (or any specific product). And Jonathan English sports no social media presence at all. Let the Fassionola saga be a lesson to all small, sleepy, getting-along-just-fine-thank you companies out there like this: Intellectual property issues are a bitch.
Alright kids, this is about to be a parable!
For decades, J. English sold limited batches of Fassionola through distributors like John to various bars who used it largely as a bit of a "secret ingredient". You can get it by the bottle from a store on eBay that has it regularly (Red, Gold, and Green) But for most of the last 30-50 years, 99.9% of the planet had no idea of Fassionola's existence. Even as Tiki began to rise from the dead, even most tikiphiles had no idea what it was. And almost no one who had heard of Fassionola was aware it was still made. As Tiki became more and more of an elaborate modern day obsession, people began looking into what Fassionola was, and if it could be still obtained. A journalist went searching for the maker, and checked in at the address listed on the old labels. Jonathan English had recently moved to new digs practically next door, but the new tenant at their old address said they'd never heard of J. English. A web search still pretty much fails to find any trace of the company (at least for me), and between these two items, the writer seems to have assumed reasonably that the company had gone the way of all flesh. This sort of Lost Ingredient story is catnip for the craft cocktail crowd. A small, go-getter craft syrup company decided to try to re-engineer Fassionola and market it. J. English did notice this, and now there appears to be a dispute ongoing. I can see arguments for both sides, and since IP disputes are as much catnip for me as Lost Ingredient stories, I will watch interestedly to see how it all works out. In the meantime, I now know (as do you, Dear Reader) where I can get original Fassionola. If you are interested in the modern contender, it's also red. It's made by Cocktail & Sons and features hibiscus and strawberry flavors. I haven't tried it, as it is out of stock currently, but I don't see those two ingredients resulting in a flavor very similar to Fassionola Red. Have you tried the C&S syrup? If so, I'd love to hear your take on it. So, what does one do with this new product information? Here are two ideas. The first is a recommendation of my source John, the Cobra's Fang. It is an old Don the Beachcomber original, and an ancestor of the Lion's Fang, another drink I didn't get around to writing up this Tiki Month. Here is the best version I have found:
COBRA'S FANG
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 1 oz Velvet falernum
  • 1/2 oz Fassionola Red
  • 1 oz dark Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz 151 Demerara rum
  • 1 splash grenadine
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Flash blend all ingredients with 8+ ounces of small ice. Pour into a pint or hurricane glass, and top with more ice. Garnish with mint and lime.
This is a big, tart drink. It is strikingly red, so I recommend a clear vessel to show it off. Second, Fassionola makes an excellent non-alcoholic addition to your Tiki menu. Given the name ends in "-ola", I would bet it was originally a soap pop syrup. It is easy to employ in that capacity.
FASSIONOLA SODA
  • 1 oz Fassionola syrup (Red is again my favorite)
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • Seltzer water
Add syrup and juice to a pint glass. Add a couple of ounces of soda water and stir well. (It will take a while to emulsify the Fassionola). Add ice, and top with more soda. Finish with a final stir and garnish with lime and cherries.
The resulting soda is really quite good. It's nice without the fresh lime, but I think it's more balanced and more refreshing with a splash of fresh citrus. It's good both for teetotalers and designated drivers at your party, and just as a nice evening extender. Fassionola is also interesting in a Hurricane. I much prefer my passion fruit syrup over it in mine, but for someone who wants something that tastes like a modern Pat O'Brien's Hurricane (except palatable) this is your choice.abc
Tiki Month 2018
Rule 4
Clothing

Tiki Month Editorial: We Have a Problem in Aloha Shirt City

We have a serious problem, folks. A problem with... Hawaiian shirts! I know... how can there possibly be a problem with aloha-wear? The whole point of tropical pattern shirts is to live the no problem life. This is factual. But as the whole tropical/Tiki lifestyle becomes more popular once again, corporations do what they do: Screw things up for everyone through ignorance, avarice, or laziness. (Usually all three.) Aloha shirts (for men at least) have specific look, buried under all that incredible variety of pattern, that is designed to deliver the required comfort and insouciant air that you look for in such garments. They are loosely constructed of woven fabric, button all the way down, and have an open, unconfining collar. The construction design style is called the Camp Shirt. Now, look at this next shirt. Young man, You. Are. Doing. It. Wrong. This is unfair of course. I'm sure this professional model was happy to pop on whatever shirt he was paid to wear. He didn't choose to wear it.
Sure, but I am going to go ahead and hold that hairstyle against him....
Look, the real problem here is this whole idea of aloha print Polo-style shirts. There is nothing wrong with pullovers. I wear them all the time. The problem is companies thinking you can make an Hawaiian shirt with this construction style. Remember my comment about modern businesses screwing things up through ignorance, avarice, or laziness? This trend hits all three. Ignorance: Clothing exec reads a trade article in Vogue that says Aloha is back in a big way. Exec asks himself, "What's Aloha?", does a Google Search, and exclaims, "Oh, it's Hawaiian prints!" He then asks Marjorie to have the plant run off five floral prints in their basic knit.... Avarice: Marjorie tells her boss that she always remembers Magnum wearing camp shirt styles. He replies that knit pullovers use a lot less fabric than woven camp shirts, and he'd rather make an extra buck-seventy five per unit sold. Laziness: Exec goes home and mentions the new Hawaiian Polo to his wife. She starts to go on about Magnum as well. Exec considers dimly that all the women around him seem damned impressed with young Tom Selleck. He decides to call the plant manager and ask about camp shirts. The manager notes that it is a lot of work to match those complex parrot and surfboard pictures across a two piece shirt front, and he'd rather not bother. Exec agrees, and we get the monstrosity above. Listen to the women, Mr. Executive. The chest hair is optional. The comfy, casual camp wear construction is not. Ideally, you match the pattern. In practice, you get it moderately close. Half the time, your customers will wear it over a t-shirt and not even button it at all.abc
Recipes
Rule 4
Tiki Month 2018
Whisky

Tiki Drink: London Sour

The London Sour and I were born in the same year. What year? Never you mind, buster. Suffice it to say that it was a tumultuous year, where American military aggression stained our souls and the rest of the world was damned ungrateful for what we did for them, civil rights were torn by controversy over whose inalienable rights were more inalienable, there were violent clashes in the streets between groups of citizens who for the most part didn't know what the hell the other (or indeed, their own) side was talking about, and the Russians were making trouble.
So, you were born in 2016?
1965. Jerk. Anyway, the London Sour is a Trader Vic original, which you can find in Beachbum Berry's Intoxica. I want to blog about it for two reasons. One, it is a Tiki drink that uses scotch as the base spirit. Scotch! And two, it is instructive about the progression of Tiki historically. Please note that neither of those reasons is that the London Sour is good. Because, spoiler alert, it isn't terribly. It is quite drinkable, of course. Vic didn't make crappy drinks. But by 1965, he seems to have clearly been coming to the end of his powers. The Tiki drink oeuvre was similarly reaching its senescent phase as well. The dark, exotic, unctuous... unfamiliar profile of the early work was sliding into a more modern, lighter flavor palate.
LONDON SOUR
  • 2 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz orgeat
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz blended scotch
Shake well with small ice, and pour unstrained into a lowball glass. Garnish with leftover citrus.
This is a pleasant, utterly unchallenging drink. The scotch comes through, sure, but manages to be blandly unremarkable, despite being scotch in a Tiki drink. There is far more orange juice than should be present in any drink beyond a screwdriver, which the London Sour tastes mostly like. What is missing in this drink is the flavor alchemy that I so love in early Tiki drinks. You can pick out every ingredient in this drink from the sip. That's not a bad thing in many cocktails, but I think an important part of a Tiki drink is the creation of new, unidentified flavors. abc
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