Category: Recipes
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
Rum
Recipes
Other Liqueurs
Barware

Original Tiki Drink: The Red Tide

I'm actually fairly proud of this one. My little Red Tide has evolved a lot since I first started nurturing it, and I am happy with the result. I started out with the not-terribly-original idea of crafting a Tiki version of the Negroni. The web is full of attempted Tiki variants of the Negroni, but none quite pull off the trick in the way I was looking for. I wanted to retain the Negroni's simple construction and bitter character. However, a drink as fully herbal and bitter as a Negroni would be too much on a Tiki menu along side drinks with the sweet, unctuous, spicy profile from the 30s and 40s that I like so much. Finally, I needed a garnish that wowed. After much experimentation, I replaced the gin with silver rum, the vermouth with pomegranate juice, and (critically) the Campari with a wine-based apertivo called Cappelletti. The Cappelletti is gentler, lower in alcohol, and oddly nuttier than Campari. The result is nicely balanced, still bitter, but less autocratic than Count Negroni's creation. The passion fruit foam garnish is essential to the drink. It isn't Tiki without it, and frankly, it is not completely delicious. I highly recommend you give this guy a try. Not only is it delicious, pretty, and a welcome low-alcohol addition to a Tiki menu, it's a real crowd-pleaser to make and present.
RED TIDE
  • 1 oz Plantation 3-Star rum
  • 1 oz Cappelletti Apertivo
  • 1 oz POM Wonderful
Combine in a shaker with large ice and shake lightly. Fill a coupe about two-thirds full with the Sea Foam (see below). Strain cocktail over one side of the foam.
SEA FOAM
  • 6 oz passion fruit syrup
  • 2 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz water
  • 5 oz pasteurized egg whites
Combine ingredients in a cream whipper, and shake for about 5 seconds. Charge with a nitrogen charger. Shake some more. Charge again with a second capsule. Shake again. Refrigerate before use. Shake again when serving.
Here's a look at how to serve the Red Tide. 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
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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