The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday, hosted by my great friend (and nearby neighbor) Craig over at Tiki Drinks and Indigo Firmaments, is Spice! What a time for it too, with all the weather we’ve been having here in Sunny (snowy) Portland, there’s no better time for a bit of hot mulled something.
Though, if you’ve got a Tiki bar in the basement, and a decent furnace, then it’s a quick jot downstairs to create a tropical escape from the winter weather. Crank up the thermostat and close all the windows, next thing you know it’s time for a tall, cool, and spicy one.
Since this is such an all-encompassing MxMo topic, I thought I’d not focus on not just one or two spices, but Five Spice! Yes, the lack of pluralization is correct. I got turned on to Five Spice syrup thanks to Martin Cate, who uses it in the Forbidden Island specialty drink, the China Clipper. I twisted it a bit with a darker sugar. We all gotta make it our own, eh?
Five Spice powder, bought or freshly ground, is generally a mix of Cassia, Cloves, Szechuan Pepper, Ginger, and Anise. There appears to be a bit of here and there regionally, with the ingredients, omitting ginger, adding cumin, adding Cassia Buds, but the overall approach is a sort of all in one flavor profile. This spice hits all five points of flavor (omitting Umami), and is usually used for meats and stews in Chinese Cuisine.
These flavors are already used separately in drinks, and apply themselves quite well combined with a a nice blend of rich dark rums. I utilized these flavors for these extremely inspired drink that I can barely take credit for, which I like to call, FIN.
- 4 drops Falernum Bitters
- 4 drops Hebsaint
- 3/4 oz Pineapple Juice
- 1 1/2 oz Lime Juice
- 1 1/2 oz Rich Five Spice Syrup
- 3/4 oz Coruba
- 3/4 oz Lemon Hart 151
- 2 oz Soda Water
Place ingredients with 1 cup of cracked ince in tin shaker and mix with top down mixer for 3 seconds, or pulse blend for no more than 5 seconds. Serve in a tall tiki mug, with an orange spiral.
It’s hard to recognize the juices in this, as they almost reach an orange flavor, aided by the cassia in the five spice. There is no burn to the drink, but an overall smoothness that is almost unsettling. There is a note of the peppercorn in the end flavor, but not enough to recognize it if you didn’t know it was in there. It’s spicy and mellow, and I like this drink a helluva lot, you should too.
I suppose you want to know how to make Rich Five Spice Syrup, eh?
Rich Five Spice Syrup
- 1 TBSP Five Spice Powder
- 2 cups Natural Cane or Demerara Sugar
- 1 cup Water
Combine Dry Ingredients. Bring Water to a boil, add sugar and spice, and reduce heat. Stir until clear and take off of heat. Strain through a fine metal strainer to remove any of the larger bits of five spice powder, let cool, and refrigerate. Makes about 24 ounces, and can keep for a damn long time.
First things first, I’ve got to give Rick over at Kaiser Penguin what the kids are calling “mad props” for coming up with this doozy of a Mixology Monday. And let me tell you, after a week of testing, my liver is well versed in exactly how much of a doozy it is.
So, here’s a bit of a historical take on this. The limit one per customer, as far as has ever been told, started with Don the Beachcomber. His menu, shown below, has a number of drinks with special “restrictions” on them. This is a 1956 souvenir menu mailer from Hawaii. Mahalo to Mimi at Arkiva Tropika for the imagery.
As you can see, there are quite a few drinks there with a bit of a limit on them, and for some damned good reason. These drinks are killer-dillers in the literal, or LIVERal sense. Oh ho, fun with words.
Anyhow, one of the Beachcomber’s most famous stories comes from the time a man wagered Don, betting he could down 5 Zombies (limit two) without breaking a rum-soaked sweat. So, they both put 100 bucks in the kitty, and agree to the challenge the next night. The man shows up, Don starts mixing, One Zombie, two Zombie, and as he’s sucking down the third, the fella’s head hits the table with a mighty thump. Don won that wager, but not without a trick or two up his short sleeves. Don had mixed some glycerin, a sugar alcohol, into the drink for its property of hitting the system mighty quick. Never bet on another man’s game, Don’s saying goes, and I can’t find a better example of it.
Moving onto the now, seeing the potential for this Mixology Monday, the question that came to my head is, how many Zombies are we going to see? I’ve actually been rather surprised by the innovation, after reading posts and talking with a few bloggers and bartenders. There are some great, full to the brim with booze drinks out there I hadn’t seen covered before. In the hopes of avoiding wearing the same dress another belle at the ball, I decided to whip up this little concoction. This thing’s the real deal, and as I’ve certainly discovered, as Don and Vic once did, it all begins with the right Rum.
Okay, so I put a few too many ingredients in. It’s tiki, things like to get complex. This drink is worth the effort, smooth as silk, and hits like a sledgehammer. This is definitely a onesy, maybe even for the whole evening, and not just because the bartender had a hell of a time putting the damned thing together. Like I say, it’s all thanks to the rum. The rest of the stuff is just notes taken from what the rums were saying… and yes, a few tests into this the rum started talking (maybe literally, it was a lot of rum). Yes, the booze outweighs the others with this one, but it goes down like Polynesian lightning.
The Wisdom of PelÃ©? That comes the morning after having two of these. I’ve got a punch version I’ll be putting on the site soon as well, the Wrath of PelÃ©, as soon as I can get a few more “volunteers”.
When celebrating Don the Beachcomber’s legacy, or his recent birthday (Feb. 22d), what better way to remember the man than through his signature 1-2 punch of Bitters and Pastis (Herbsaint preferred, Pernod in a pinch), and the drink I think really brings it out best, the Test Pilot.
The bitters/pastis combination adds a lot of complexity and roundedness to the drink. Pastis, Herbsaint in particular (drop the R, rearrange the letters to find the origin), in small amounts, adds the strange sweetness of anise, while extending the life of the flavor. For my palate, it’s almost like an envelope, wrapping a bit around the rest of the flavors, keeping them together. The bitters, in this case Angostura, gives a nice spicy start and clove and sarsaparilla-like depth to the drink. Combined, the two are a bit of a circle and spike to the drink, if I can be allowed to make such a visual example of the taste.
The Test Pilot, according to the Grog Log, is by Don the Beachcomber circa 1941, and for my money, is one of the top examples of Don’s mastery of mixology.
Test Pilot (source Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log)
- 1/2 ounce Lime
- 1/2 ounce Falernum
- 1/2 ounce Cointreau (3 tsp in Grog Log, same measurement)
- 3/4 ounce Light Puerto Rican Rum (Don Q Cristal recommended)
- 1 1/2 ounce Dark Jamaican Rum (Coruba recommended)
- dash Bitters
- dash Herbsaint
Mix/Blend with 1 cup crushed ice, pour into Double Rocks glass. Add crushed ice to fill.
One thing I notice while making this drink is that it really makes the falernum shine. Using more of a sweetening falernum, like Velvet Falernum, makes a very good drink, but using a spicy homemade, like Paul’s Falernum #8 really brings out all the spice and complexity the drink has to offer. My last batch of Falernum, similar to Paul’s but double the spice, and adding one whole star anise, comes heavily and heartily recommended.
And of course, this will be on the menu for the March 18th Tiki Third Tuesday at Teardrop Lounge! Shameless self-promotion? You got it!