• On the Menu: Tiki Cocktails

    No matter what the season, tiki always has its place. In the dead of winter, a rummy libation can transport the coldest of souls to the tropics and in the dog days of summer, a frozen tiki drink can make even the landlocked feel as though they're bobbing on a boat in the Caribbean. The trick to tiki is to set the scene: accessorize your bar with tropical leaves, exotic glassware, garnish liberally, and don’t be afraid to light things on fire.
    Photos and recipes by Emily Arden Wells

    Mai Tai
    Makes 1 Cocktail

    Mai Tai comes from the Tahitian phrase Maita'i roa a'e meaning "very good". The original Mai Tai cocktail was created by Trader Vic in the 1940s, a recipe that many have tried to re-invent, usually to no avail. The magic of the Mai Tai lies in its simple ingredients - the rum, the sugar, and the orgeat syrup. Orgeat is an almond syrup that can be arduous to make but can easily be found online - just make sure you use one that is of high quality. I modified this recipe a bit, using a mint-infused simple syrup to add a bit of freshness to the cocktail, and then topped the finished drink with a dark rum floater – an extra pour of extra dark rum that packs a serious, rummy punch.

    -2 oz Jamaican rum, such as Appleton Reserve
    -½ oz Orange Curacao
    -¼ oz mint-infused Demerara simple syrup
    -½ oz Orgeat Syrup (recipe below)
    -½ oz fresh lime juice
    -1 oz dark rum such as Lost Spirits Cask Strength Rum

    Directions: Add Jamaican Rum, Curacao, Simple Syrup, Orgeat, and Lime Juice to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously with ice. Fill a brass pineapple with crushed ice, and strain the cocktail into the pineapple. Using the back of a bar spoon, gently float the dark rum on top of the cocktail. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint or a few pineapple leaves and a fresh orchid.

    Orgeat Syrup

    -1/2 pound almonds
    -1 1/2 cups sugar
    -1 1/2 cups water

    Directions: Crush almonds either in a food processor or place in a bag and crush with a hammer. Add to a small pot and simmer with sugar and water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, and let cool. Transfer cooled mixture into a non-reactive container such as a glass jar and let sit overnight.

    The next day, set up a strainer over a large bowl with cheesecloth large enough to contain all the almonds. Place mixture into the strainer with the cheesecloth and let strain into the bowl below. When enough of the syrup has strained out, use the cheesecloth to press more syrup out of the nuts. Transfer syrup into a small bottle and refrigerate. Syrup will keep in the refrigerator for 4 weeks.

    Piña Colada
    Makes 4 Cocktails

    In my opinion, there is nothing more refreshing than a Piña Colada on a hot summer day, and I need barely an excuse to make them for friends. I enjoy a traditional Piña Colada made with Pineapple, Creamed Coconut, and Rum, another drink that benefits from a float of dark and m oody black strap rum. Skip the maraschino cherries of your youth and upgrade to the Luxardo cocktail cherries, and for even more cherry sweetness in your Piña Colada, add a bar spoon or two of the cherry syrup to your cocktail. You can thank me later.

    -2 cups chunks of pineapple
    -2 tbsp Demerara sugar
    -4 tbsp coconut cream (Coco Lopez)
    -6 oz white rum such as Bacardí Superior Rum
    -6 oz pineapple juice
    -4 oz dark rum such as Lost Spirits Cask Strength Rum for floating
    -Luxardo cocktail cherries for garnish

    Directions: Add rum, pineapple chunks, pineapple juice, sugar, and coconut cream to a blender. Add ice and blend until completely mixed. Pour evenly into 4 tumblers, and garnish with a pineapple slice, two Luxardo cherries, and a fresh orchid or a cocktail umbrella.

    Optional: Using the back of a bar spoon, gently float the dark rum on top of the cocktail.

    Optional: Drizzle a bar spoon of Luxardo Cherry Syrup on the surface of the drink.

    Fire and Ice Watermelon Punch
    Serves 4

    When one traditionally thinks of tiki drinks, the iconic ceramic tiki mugs covered in mermaids, tiki gods, and seahorses often comes to mind. Today, there are so many more options to tiki-flair, and a tiki punch is always a hit. This Fire and Ice Watermelon Punch is an easy recipe to make for parties, and the best part is that the watermelon itself is the vessel with the help of a watermelon tap. Every good host loves a drink that serves itself. The fire in this recipe is 151 Bacardí Rum, a high octane rum that packs serious punch, and the ice is a heavy dose of fresh mint. Serve in small skull shot glasses with a flaming garnish!

    -1 small seedless watermelon
    -¾ cup simple syrup
    -1 cup fresh lime juice
    -1 cup 151 Bacardí Rum
    -1 quart fresh watermelon chunks (from the seedless watermelon)
    -2 droppers full Memphis BBQ Bitters
    -1 bunch fresh mint

    Directions: Cut the top off of the watermelon, and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Using the watermelon tap coring tool, carefully cut a hole in the watermelon 3 inches above the bottom of the watermelon. Screw the two sides of the tap mount together, and insert the tap on the exterior of the watermelon. In a blender, add 1 quart watermelon, simple syrup, lime juice, rum, a handful of mint, and bitters. Blend until smooth. Fill the watermelon until ¾ full. Reserve the leftover for later in the party.

    For the Garnish:
    -Lemon extract
    -Sugar cubes

    Cut limes in half and hollow out part of the fruit making a lime bowl. Rest on top of the filled shot glasses and place a sugar cube in the lime. Add a tablespoon of lemon extract and ignite with a lighter. For more impact: dim the lights and watch your guests swoon!

    Emily Arden Wells is the editor and founder of the cocktail and travel blog Gastronomista. Follow her at @xxGastronomista
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