Category: 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
Tiki Month 2016
Orange Liqueurs

Tiki Molecular Mixology

Keeping with the theme for this year's Tiki Month of "Modern Tiki", I'd like to present what has become a staple when I entertain during Tiki Months: Mai Tai Gels. These are cool for a variety of historic, philosophical, and practical reasons. When you consider truly 21st Century trends in the cocktail world over all, none is more truly such than Molecular Mixology in general and especially solidified cocktails. I like these treats in particular, as they combine perhaps the perfect classic early Tiki Cocktail with modern technique, all in a kitschy late-era Tiki look. And as an added bonus, they are bog easy to make. [caption id="attachment_10943" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Yummy... Yummy gummie[/caption] Rather than use any of the fancier liquid solidification techniques, I simply use gelatin. The result is sturdier than other methods, and since they are meant to be eaten as candies, that is a good thing. Aside from said gelatin, the recipe is exactly the same as the Mai Tai recipe that I believe to be closest to Trader Vic's original cocktail superweapon.
  • 1 oz. Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still rum (alternatively Smith & Cross)
  • 1 oz. gold or aged rum (e.g. Appleton V/X, Coruba, etc.)
  • 0.75 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz. Dry Curaçao (or Cointreau)
  • 0.5 oz. orgeat
  • 0.25 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 packet Knox Gelatine
  • 1.5 oz. water
The water is about the amount of melt you'd get from the ice if you were drinking it. It makes the gels taste right, and helps the gelatin bloom and set. Pour the gelatin into the water and stir. Let sit for five minutes to activate, then stir again. While this is blooming, heat the lime juice, orgeat, and simple syrup in your smallest pot to almost a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and scrape in the bloomed gelatin. Stir until the mixture is clear. Remove from heat and add in the rums and curaçao. Stir some more. Moai Ice Tray Set aside and prepare your molds. I use this cool moai ice tray. It has the virtue of being nearly the exact size needed to accommodate this recipe, with but a drop or two of waste. Before filling, simply give the tray a light spritz with Pam, and wipe off all excess with a paper towel. You will want to fill each mold to the brim, so I advise setting the mold on a tray or piece of cardboard. The molds are very flexible, and without support, you will spill some. Once you pour, carefully place in your fridge for at least three hours, preferably more. When you are ready to serve, peel the gels out of the ice tray with your fingers. Flexible silicone ice trays like the one I linked make this process easy. It will look like you are going to squash or tear the gels, but go slow and they will peel out perfectly. They are quite sturdy while chilled and can be eaten with you or your guests' fingers. Garnish as befits a true Mai Tai by laying each on a large mint
Lime Juice
Other Liqueurs
Tiki Month 2011

Tiki Drink: The Duval Cream

Duval Cream an original key lime pie cocktail (Note: The tone of this post is silly... the drink I'm presenting is serious.) While sampling various desserts at a recent local event, Maggi and I ran across an interesting new cream liqueur called RumChata. It's a cream liqueur with a rum base... an Hispanic-inspired Bailey's if you will. The name is a play on horchata, which is a milk analog made from oils expressed from Chufa nuts (in Spain) or rice (in Latin America). If this sort of thing sounds familiar to cocktail geeks, especially during Tiki Month, it's because it is similar to almond milk, and its related sweet partner, orgeat. In fact, horchata is often called rice orgeat. Even the names, orgeat (oar-zha) and horchata (oar-Cha-ta), sound similar. Popsynth has an interesting article on horchata including an interesting tale of how the name originated. Since it's Tiki Month, a time of glorious inauthenticity, I shall refrain from calling the tale the bullshit it obviously is. Anyway, a single sip of this tasty, low proof liqueur got the wheels spinning in my head. And in one of those rare moments where true inspiration strikes, I knew by the time I finished my sample what you could make with this stuff. Maggi and I had been kicking around a number of cocktails calling themselves a key lime pie, and finding every recipe lacking and unfixable. I somehow knew this stuff was my ticket. Key lime pie is important to me, because it is important to my wife. (Pegu ProTip for cocktail geeks: When something cocktail-related appeals to your long-suffering wife, it goes to the front of the experimental line!) In fact, the only post she's done on this sorry blog was a brief hit on the importance of doing key lime pie right. Three takeaways from that informed the rest of my decisions on this cocktail. First, key lime pie should not be green. Second, it is better frozen. Third, it is best dipped in chocolate and served on a stick. So, a frozen drink it is, and blended smooth for a creamy texture. Swift experimentation led me to a 1 to 1 ratio of RumChata to key lime juice. It still wasn't working quite perfectly, and I paced my bar. All my research into horchata's origins combined with my Hawaiian shirt and all the Tiki mugs lying around for an inspiration: Orgeat! Perfection attained. The resulting drink is a smooth, creamy, dead ringer for Key West's signature culinary contribution. As I mentioned at the start of this post, this is a serious concoction worth keeping the ingredients on hand for.
  • 1 1/2 oz. RumChata
  • 1 1/2 oz. key lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. Trader Tiki's orgeat
  • 6 oz. crushed ice
Combine all ingredients in a blender and hammer until smooth as silk. Use Nellie & Joe's bottled juice, since squeezing tiny key limes is one of those things for which life is truly too short. Garnish with a squirt of CREAM chocolate alcohol-infused whipped cream for general awesomeness and because key lime pie is better dipped in chocolate.
The final touch is the name. Duval Street is the spine of the central entertainment district on Key West. If you are careful, you can possibly get a drink there. If you are not careful, it is impossible not to get a drink there. It is also where we first discovered the added glories of frozen, chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick. So why do I call this a Tiki drink? Because I want to. But I have plenty of justification. It's a rum drink. It uses Tiki icon ingredient, orgeat. It is inspired by Key West, America's gateway to the Caribbean from whence most original Tiki drinks drew their real inspiration. And while Key West is not exactly the epicenter of Tiki, it does share a major salient characteristic. Remember the aforementioned "Glorious Inauthenticity"? Key West does that... really well. For example, feast your eyes on these two natural beauties. On Duval Street, I doubt they drew much in the way of stares at all....
Key West Drage Queens on Duval St. with a bicycle built for two
"You Got It Girlfriend" by Henry M. Diaz
Political Controversies
Roger Federer

The TSA’s New Policy Hits Roger Federer

With the vagaries of my business schedule, I haven't had to travel by plane to kill anyone since the controversial new TSA policies came into effect. My grace period ends after Thanksgiving when I fly to Houston, so I've had it on my mind. Lindt Chocolate Company is really very lucky. They did an ad earlier this year with Roger Federer, which most people haven't seen since it only runs during tennis events. It was funny when they did it. Now that the TSA procedure manual is starting to read like a Linda Blair prison movie script, it seems not only more funny, but also prescient. I wonder if it will start getting play beyond Tennis Channel (There's a 30 second version that's a little tighter, but less effective in light of recent events.) I'll update if anything happens on my next trip, but somehow I don't think I present the same motivation as the
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