It’s been a great time here in sunshiney Portland, welcoming in some of the greatest bartenders and imbibulous personalities in the cocktail realm for the first Portland Cocktail Week.
I had the great opportunity to be part of a bartending team keeping the imbibers imbibing during the Shipwrecked with DonQ Rum Party at Glowing Greens here in Portland. Glowing Greens is certainly one of the most unique places to host a group of mezcal and rum filled rabble rousers, being a mini-golf course deep in the basement of a building in SW Portland. If that weren’t interesting enough, it’s entirely lit with blacklights, to show off the dayglo pirates and skeletons that haunt its realm. I set up a station in the middle of the course… it wasn’t the first time that my makeshift bar was two barrels set together, but it was the first time that they were glowing orange.
I was offering tall drinks to refresh the mini-golfers, and those who might’ve wandered over from the wonderful cocktails being offered by Allan Katz of Caña and Esteban Ordonez.
The first drink on offer at my station was just a combination of DonQ Añejo, Falernum Bitters, and Fentiman’s Tonic. It’s been on my mind lately that I often just want a nice tall refreshing drink. In this day of classic cocktail recreations and new cocktail developments with such full-flavored and booze-heavy ingredients, the focus on drinks being actually thirst-quenching has been lost. Plus, did you know that tonic water glows under blacklight? It’s kind of awesome.
Second, well, this being an opportunity to promote the syrups, I thought I’d offer my favorite drink, the Nui Nui. If you haven’t had one, you really ought. It’s one of the first drinks I had that introduced me to the spicier aspects of tropical cocktails. The combination of lime, orange, cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, bitters and some good rum was just incredible. Since I’ve been making Nui Nuis, I’ve been searching for just the right rum. It’s amazing how much the rum, even good rum, can fall flat in this drink. The drink, per Jeff Berry’s Sippin’ Safari, calls for gold puerto rican rum. I’ve used DonQ Gold before, and found that it worked, but wasn’t necessarily astounding. Even some of the finer Jamaican rums coming out these days, such as Appleton Extra, just didn’t work with the spice components in the drink. Well, I got a chance to make a Nui Nui trying each in the DonQ line, and I am finally extremely happy with the use of DonQ Añejo as the rum. It supports and encourages the flavors to come out of the syrups, and provides that rummy goodness that completes the drink.
- 1/2 oz lime juice
- 1/2 oz orange juice
- 1/4 oz Don’s Spices #2
- 1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
- 2 oz DonQ Añejo
- dash bitters
Put ingredients into a mixing tin with 1/2 cup crushed ice. Use top-down mixer or quickly pulse in a blender. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with an orange horseneck.
Both drinks were very well received. They have to be when they’re this simple and tasty! Do you have a favorite tall refresher? Talk about it in the comments!
During a recent talk here in Portland at the Great American Distiller’s Festival, I shared a few stories and told of the time when Stephen Crane’s Luau coming into town began the “Big Showdown” of the Exotic restaurant chains. Stephen Crane’s Luau had been a big hit in Beverly Hills, and when he joined forces with the Sheraton to help them compete against Hilton and Trader Vic’s Outrigger chain, he found himself opening restaurants in Montreal, Chicago, and here in Portland.
With this chain, known as Kon-Tiki Ports, Stephen brought all his best bartenders and their recipes to help open each location. One of the drinks developed and served at the Luau was their own version of the famed Scorpion Bowl from Trader Vic’s. One of the first known communal tropical drinks, Vic had been slinging this “thing” since at least the early 1940s, having written about it in his Book of Food and Drink. Stephen Crane’s version takes a few liberties, changing Lemon to Lime and omitting one of the ingredients from Vic’s version, an ounce of white wine.
A single-serving Scorpion these days is a bit… okay, a lot like a lightly tamed FogCutter, with a bigger dollop of Orgeat and omitting the Sherry Float. This version from the Luau, circa 1958 is… well, one of the best. It was served at the recent Tiki Night at Teardrop Lounge, and I see little reason not to serve it again at the next one! The Volcano effect wasn’t on the original recipe but… hey, if Stephen Crane can embellish his restaurant with $1,240 door handles, I think I can embellish the drinks with a splash of 151.
- 1oz Lime juice
- 2oz Orange juice
- 2oz Gold Puerto Rican rum
- 2oz Gin
- 1oz Brandy
- 3/4oz Simple syrup
- 1oz Orgeat
- 8oz Crushed ice
Donate everything to a blender. Spin up like the devil for 3 seconds. Pour, unstrained, into a wisely sized bowl. Drink by yourself or with friends.
When one is serving tropical and exotic libations, as one is wont to do, it is best to have a “safe bet” on the menu. For all the Zombies and Jet Pilots we know and love, the idea of a potent blend of rich and funky rums doesn’t always appeal to every customer (just our favorite ones).
I’ve been putting this drink on my Tiki Night menu for the past few years, and it’s always an easy sell. Fruity, elegantly sweet, and a beautiful shade of pink, it’s one of the few drinks I always get asked “What’s that!” that doesn’t come with a backscratcher or in a flaming volcano bowl.
- 3 oz Guava Nectar
- 1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice
- ¾ oz Lime Juice
- ¼ oz Rock Candy Syrup
- 1 ½ oz Coconut Rum
Combine ingredients in mixing tin and shake with 1 cup crushed ice, or use a handy dandy top-down mixer for 3 seconds. Pour into your nearest coconut shell or chimney glass.
As I like to say on the menu, despite being developed at Disney’s Polynesian resort, this ain’t no Mickey Mouse cocktail. For all the fruit juice and flavored rum, that lime cuts through like a knife, adding balance to all the flavors. It’s certainly still on the sweeter side, but will certainly please even the most refined tropical palates.
They told me the camera was on standby!
But seriously folks, as part of the “make great cocktails done right” sort of outreach I’ve got going here, I decided to take on the task of Tiki when asked to do some video for the Oregon Bartender’s Guild. This is one of a series of two so far, with more on the way.
In this video, I put together a Mai Tai, using a blend of Appleton Extra and Rhum Barbancourt. It was a damned tasty blend, and that I got to share it with some friends afterwards made it even better. The edits leave out a bit of info, but I don’t blame anyone, I sure can blather. And for those pickers of nits out there, yes, the I misstated the Orgeat measurement, the lime shell wasn’t shown going into the shaker and yes, the mint garnish (necessary for a proper Mai Tai) was left out of the recipe at the end. Please forgive me, I offer only my knowledge, my love, and my stash of rum.
The Orgeat, if you were wondering, is from a test batch for… well, I’ll be discussing that later. The mug comes from Portland’s own Thatch, and the shirt… is just awesome!
2 ounces 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum*
1/2 ounce French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 ounce Rock Candy Syrup
juice from one fresh lime
Hand shake and garnish with half of the lime shell inside the drink and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.
* – no longer available. Try a blend of Aged Jamaican Rum with an Amber Martinique for some depth and funk.
A lot of drinks come with some form of goofy garnish, whether it be a Menehune in the Menehune juice, or Trader Vic’s Potted Parrot. Garnish can, in some instances, really sell a drink. One is ordered, and patrons ask “What is that!?!”, particularly with something garishly garnished, or even better, set on fire. This next drink was something I only recently tried, but fell entirely in love with due to its combination of wonderful flavor, and unique, overdone garnish. As written in Jeff Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari, I present to you, from Steven Crane’s Kon-Tiki, the Tropical Itch.
- ½ oz Lime Juice
- ¼ oz Cinnamon Syrup
- 1 ½ oz crushed mango (sub mango puree)
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum
- 2 drops almond extract
Blend quickly in a top-down blender for three seconds, serve tall, and garnish with a backscratcher, and kumquat and pineapple slice.
Sadly, Kumquats were a bit out of season while I was serving those, so a cherry did quite nicely. The backscratcher, oh the backscratcher. Give people something fun to play with while drinking, and funny things will happen (and, hopefully, noone’s eye will get poked out). The Mango adds a nice, and frankly, rather rare touch to the drink. Fresh Mango has a nice sweet but mostly tart flavor, and was a joy to use in this drink. If you happen to run out of Almond Extract, a few drops of Orgeat adds a nice touch, without being overpowering.
The Tropical Itch is, however, one of “those” drinks, in the same vein as the Mai Tai and Zombie, invented at one place by some grand mixologist, in this case Harry Yee, and imitated over and over until it became a shadow of its former self. Luckily, Crane’s version is still damned tasty, and just a joy to make, and to drink!