Corner-booth Blog #3 - Fist full of swizzles and a Tropical Drink Primer.

Posted by Jonathan Chaffin on

I recently had the pleasure of introducing one of our customers, a lifetime horror fan, to tropical mixed drinks.  He wanted to know where to start.
This was my advice, presented here with footnotes:
The first Beachbum Berry book (the Grog Log) is what got me started on historic mixology, because we wanted tropical drinks for our wedding.  It is a fun damn hobby.  We often have a buncha folks bring parts of a new or favorite recipe and have an evening of it (like having folks over for original Pat O'Brian recipe Hurricanes for Fat Tuesday *1).
So, first thing if you want to get into accurate tiki drinks for your mug,
Berry researches his recipes and can be considered a definitive
authority on the "right" way to make these drinks.
Stocking your first tiki bar?  Here is a great resource for a traveling or initial "basic" bar to have on hand if you want to min/max your drink options by Tim "Swanky" Glasner Traveling Tiki Bar Needs
Here are some quick guidelines to 100% improve your cocktails:
1. Use fresh lemon and lime juice. Get a hand juice squeezer. (for OJ something like Simply Orange Juice is ok…any high end good juice will do.)
2. Measure correct amounts if you want the accurate taste. Don't free pour.
3. Learn a bit about rum, and realize that, if a recipe calls for a Martinique gold rum, it will taste different if you use a Puerto Rican gold rum. (Probably not bad, but not as originally developed).
If you change an ingredients you should change the name of the cocktail, and that is a good thing. 
Remixed will have a good primer for rums.  If you want to go down the
rabbit hole on rums check out Ed Hamilton's Ministry of Rum *4 and Paul Senft's Rum Journey.
Off hand, I'd make sure you have: Puerto Rican white (Bacardi *5), Jamaican dark (Meyers or my fav, Coruba), a nice gold (some variety of Appleton's always works for me), a demerara (a very molasses-tasting dark rum), and Lemon Hart 151 (a dark overproof) *6.  Also; you can spice your own rum; it is fairly simple and fun and I prefer it to any prepackaged spiced rum. 
4. Realize these drinks are about mixing and balancing and tasting the
flavours of the rums; some of them are pretty damn heavy
handed/strong. Just be aware. (Note, you can ruin yourself for
"normal" tropical drinks you get at bars...they start to taste like weak
chemical garbage).
5. Learn your syrups, and love to make them *7.  Rose's grenadine is
pathetic; once you have real homemade grenadine I will be amazed if
you can go back.
6. Have a simpler drink to sip on while mixing your complicated concoctions.  Dark and Stormies are delicious, as are Cuba Libres (a proper rum and coke).  The way I make either: get either a real coke (mexican coke with sugar and no high fructose corn syrup) or a nice strong ginger beer (not ginger ale)*8 and add 2 shots of dark rum and the juice of half a lime.  (I like to add a splash of bitters, because it ain't a cocktail without bitters.) Make it over crushed ice.... put rum in glass, then ice, then pour in the soda to keep the most fizz. Delicious!
*1 Hurricane recipe: (1 part lemon juice, 1 part passion fruit syrup, 2 parts dark Jamaican rum).
*2 Passion fruit syrup (see below)
*3 The brand of passion fruit pulp I like: CANOA' Maracuya Passion Fruit puree/pulp
*4 Also kiss his boots for getting Lemon Hart 151 into wide circulation again!
*5 In general, Bacardi is popular because it has a fairly neutral flavor (meaning it hides in drinks) and because they spent a lot of money hosting cocktail contests back in the day. Doesn't mean they are the best.
*6 Can you tell I love dark rum? 
*7 A few words about syrups (see below)
*8 I love Blenheim's Old #3 Hot.
please note: I researched these off
the internet when I got into cocktails years ago; my tweaks and
commentary are rife below but I don't claim original authorship.
If you think Rose’s makes grenadine, you’ve been lied to (my opinion only).
I also wanted to wax evangelical about falernum if you haven't tried it.
I strongly recommend making yourself a batch for fun at least. Nothing else really tastes like it. And then invite me over to help you try it out, of course. (Note; can be alcoholic or not).
I always use Paul Clarke's Falernum #8 Recipe. It produces a very limy falernum. While Beachbum
recommends the milder Fee Brothers (which can be bought at some liquor store and on the internet) I don't really like it, preferring the stronger, more gingery taste of the above.
Buying list for Falrenum #8
From Liquor store
6 ounces Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
gold Puerto Rican rum (Bacardi gold?)
From Grocery Store
almond extract
From Trader Joe's (or a grocery store)
100% white grapefruit juice / white grapefruits to squeeze
From somewhere 
Microplane grater
Here's the instructions again. Paul Clarke's Falernum #8 Recipe.
Some non-tropical falernum drinks to try (you should be able to google
these up; I don't remember where I found them and don't want to
irritate anyone)
"Cognac Misty", Albert Carillo (1965)
"Frosty Dawn", Albert Carillo (1954)
"Golden Wave", Jose C. Yalco (1969)
"Cogna Perino", Anthony Cordero (1973)
"Prestige Cocktail" Dale DeGroff
"Corn n Oil" 
Crush 3 cinnamon sticks, place in saucepan with 1cup water and 1 cup sugar.
Bring to boil and stir until sugar dissolves.
Lower heat, cover the saucepan, and simmer for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and, keeping covered, let sit for 2 hours before
straining and bottling. 
Make by bringing 1 part water to roiling boil and mixing that with 2 parts sugar until the sugar is dissolved, and mixing THAT 1:1 with passionfruit pulp.  I use CANOA' Maracuya Passion Fruit puree/pulp -
you can get it at mexican groceries/farmers market. 

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