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A Tiki Drink for the Ages

As those that have read this rag for any period of time already know, The Ace is a lover of the Tiki cocktail.  And as a resident of Oakland, that means that The Ace loves to hang out at Forbidden Island in Alameda.  Oh sure, The Ace will occasionally darken Trader Vic's door in Emeryville (just for nostalgia's sake) or that of Kona Club on Piedmont Ave. (in theory at least I could crawl home from the joint).  But there's no beating Forbidden Island for legit Tiki drinks made the way they were intended to be - served in an awesome retro oasis complete with wall-to-wall Tiki kitsch.  

Years ago The Ace was perched at the bar on the Island when I found myself face to face with a drink that had been a winner in a customer recipe contest.  Rich with the warm spice of grapefruit and cinnamon, this cocktail still retained a strong, reassuring kick in the butt from its rhum spirit. This was one amazing drink.  

As luck would have it, the creator of this fine drink was a fellow cocktail blogger, so I was able to add this fine cocktail to The Ace Saloon's stable of Tiki drinks.  A special thanks to Craig Hermann of for creating his Gantt's Caipirissima cocktail and for graciously sharing the recipe on his fine site.  You can click here to see Craig's original post about this cocktail.  

It is really fascinating how well cinnamon and grapefruit work together in this and in many other cocktails. This combination is a remnant of one of the true legends of the Tiki genre - Donn Beach.  Donn (born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) is most famous for his showmanship and his chain of Don the Beachcomber bars/restaurants - but he was a genuine cocktail innovator as well.  He created countless code-named mixes which were used in many of his bar's cocktail recipes.  These pre-made mixes doubled as mixology time-savers and also as a way of masking the cocktail ingredients from patrons as well as bartenders (which were prone to be hired away by competitors) in the cutthroat world of Tiki in the 1950s.   

One of the most famous of these mixes was simply named "Don's Mix."  It was comprised of 2 parts grapefruit juice to 1 part cinnamon-infused sugar syrup.  This simple, unlikely combination of flavors make give this drink its outstanding qualities and make it a true crowd-pleaser for any setting.   

Gantt's Caipirissima

2 oz. Rhum Agricole* 
1 oz. cinnamon simple syrup (see below)
1/4 white grapefruit** - cut into 3 to 4 pieces

Muddle the grapefruit and the cinnamon simple syrup in the bottom of a double old-fashioned glass.  Add crushed ice up to 3/4 of the height of the glass, then pour the rhum over the ice.  Stir to mix the drink and serve with a cinnamon stick garnish.  

* Clement VSOP is optimal, but I have used La Favorite Rhum Vieux with success.  In a pinch (and when hosting larger parties) I have even substituted Rhum Barbancourt 8 in the place of the Agricole Rhum.  This is clearly more than a little sacreligious, but this makes for a great "well" version of this cocktail when you are serving 50-75 of these drinks per night, and it is still a huge crowd pleaser even in its well variety.

** White grapefruit is clearly preferred over the ruby red variety in this drink.  Here in California that limits this drink to a wintertime cocktail - when the famed Oro Blanco becomes seasonally available.  Trust me - it's worth the wait... 

Cinnamon Simple Syrup

2 parts granulated cane juice (sugar)
1 part water
3 cinnamon sticks, crushed

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the sugar and stir to combine.  Add the crushed cinnamon sticks to the syrup and lower heat, allowing the syrup to simmer for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for around 2 hours.  Once cool, strain to remove the cinnamon and pour into a squeeze bottle for storage.  Syrup will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.


Mixology Monday: Some Like it Hot

This month's Mixology Monday is hosted by The Backyard Bartender, and the theme is Some Like it Hot. As Nancy writes in her promo post, "make anything you want to, as long as its served hot."

I was a bit confounded by this one, to be honest - hot cocktails are a bit outside of my comfort zone. The Ace has tried a number of hot cocktails at various wintertime parties the past several years, but none were big hits with partygoers. I personally love a good mulled wine, but generally I am left with a bowl three-quarters full of tepid booze at the end of my holiday gala. Sure, there's the possibility that I just plain suck at making cocktails - but people seemed to enjoy all of the chilled drinks on the menu just fine. So what the hell - I figured I'd just go for it and have some fun with this while I am at it. 

In reading some of David Wondrich's writing about late 19th- and early 20th-Century cocktails in his excellent book Imbibe!, many of America's hot cocktail recipes come from way back in it's mixology history. Unfortunately, many of these drinks don't translate all that well today. The Hot Toddy, for example, is a drink of spirit (pick one, but Islay malt scotch was a favorite in Jerry Thomas' day) plus citrus peel plus water plus hot iron out of the fire. Oh - and if you're not man enough you might add some sugar. I whipped up a Hot Toddy with Scotch the other day - just as research - and all that I can say is that this flavor profile has officially exited the American palate. Something along the lines of drinking hot bong water...

So where to go from here? I thought about the hot drinks that I have liked in the past. Most of them were comprised of rum, a sweetener and hot milk or butter. Something about the dairy seems to calm down the acidic burn that spirits tend to develop when served hot. It needed to be a sweeter rum - perhaps a demarara rum. And not many things go with demarara rum better than falernum and allspice dram. Then it dawned on me... Hot Tiki. Huzzah!!!

I dug into the Tiki archives and found a source of inspiration in Donn Beach's classic Hot Tiger's Milk recipe. The Tiger's Milk batter is pure genius - who doesn't love butter, honey and coconut? Just add some falernum for its herbal sweetness and allspice dram for its warmth and voila - you've got a drink! 

So for The Ace Saloon's maiden MxMo voyage, let's do a hot Tiki-inspired drink designed to leave your punch bowl empty at the end of the evening. Okay okay - so KISS released Heaven's on Fire well after they lost their makeup (why, oh why?) and after Ace's departure. But the name still works for this hot little number. 

Heaven's On Fire (a.k.a. Hot Ace's Milk)
Adapted from Don the Beachcomber' Hot Tiger's Milk cocktail - circa 1937 
Special thanks to Jeff Berry's fine book Sippin' Safari (2007) 

1 1/2 oz. El Dorado 5-year demarara rum
1/2 oz velvet falernum
1/4 oz. allspice dram
3 tsp. Donn's Tiger's Milk batter (see below)
5-6 oz. milk, brought to just below boil 

Place the milk in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until just below boiling (be careful not to overcook the milk and get those nasty milk curds on top of the drink). While the milk is heating, combine the rum, falernum and allspice dram and Tiger's Milk batter in a coffee mug. Pour the hot milk into the cup over the mixture, stir the drink to combine the ingredients and serve.

Donn's Tiger's Milk Batter
Also from Don the Beachcomber circa 1937 (thanks again Bum)

1/4 oz. (say 1/2 tbsp or a 1/4" slice from a stick) soft butter
1/4 oz. honey 
1 oz. Coco Lopez

Combine ingredients in a small bowl or ramekin.  Measure out for drinks.  Makes about 3 drinks. 

So there you have it - February 2011's Mixology Monday theme Some LIke it Hot. Special thanks to The Backyard Bartender for hosting this month. Be sure to check out her wrapup post to see what all the real mixologists come up with.  Enjoy and stay hot!


Super Bowl Drinks - Round 2

So as I wrote about here, The Ace is giving you some Super Bowl-themed cocktail recipe ideass that you might want to try at your big game party this coming weekend. Given that Green Bay and Pittsburgh are both beer towns, this can be a little tough. My last post focused on Pousse Cafes for the two teams - which are basically colorful shooters for the event. Not exactly the most impressive drinks from a mixology perspective, however. This post attempts to give you some more interesting and tasty options for your soiree. Here goes...

Packer Paloma
Adapted from Boozehound (2010) by Jason Wilson 

3 oz. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
2 oz. blanco (silver) tequila
1/2 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 to 3/4 oz. agave nectar (to taste)

Fill a cocktail shaker 1/2 full of ice. Add the grapefruit and lime juices, tequila and agave nectar to the shaker. Shake well and pour directly into a tall collins glass. Garnish with a slice of lime and a slice of grapefruit.

George Baker was a Packer fanThis an alliterative take on the classic Paloma cocktail - which is kind of a grapefruit margarita.  Grapefruit is a very good mixer with tequila, and this drink is very bright and refreshing. In fact, the Paloma is much more common in Mexico than is the veritable Margarita. It is also comprised of ingredients that you can squeeze and prepare in advance - allowing you to prepare this drink quickly at your party. 

I like to use white grapefruit in this drink (in fact I used fresh local oro blancos) - and I think the 3/4 oz. of agave nectar just offsets the bitter qualities of the white grapefruit. If you use ruby grapefruits then stick closer to the 1/2 oz. I also sometimes like to mix a little Cointreau or Combier into this drink.  

Oh yeah - and drinks on the house to patrons singing Una Paloma Blanca

Corn n' Steel
Adapted from recipe on back of John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum bottle

2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap rum
1/2 oz. velvet falernum
Dash of Fee Brothers' aromatic bitters (recommended for its heavy cinnamon flavor)
1/2 lime
pineapple for garnish 

Combine the rum, falernum, bitters and the juice from the lime in a shaker with lots of ice and shake for at least 20 seconds to chill. Pour (including the ice) into a highball glass and garnish with a slice of pineapple on the rim of the glass.

Polamalu's secret to shiny hair... Velvet Falernum!This drink is really just a regular ol' Corn n' Oil - with pineapple garnish for flavor and to adapt the coloring in honor of the Steelers. The Corn n' Oil is also a great little drink, one that has enough sweet to make almost anyone happy.

And best of all the pineapple adds a some extra tropical flavor to help you stay warm on a chilly Super Bowl day.  


Mean Joe Greene's Pina Colada

1 1/2 oz. dark rum
2 oz. Coco Lopez
2 oz. pineapple juice

Pour all ingredients into a blender with lots of ice and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve. Garnish with a cherry soaked in the tears of a Packer fan.  

Okay, okay - so this is just a Pina Colada. But it has black rum and yellow pineapple in it - and it may be the best money drink of all time. So serve it at your party - for cryin' out loud!

The Black & Gold Flip
From Scofflaw's Den website - from Mixology Monday LIV

2 ounces Kraken spiced rum
1 ounce Strega
1 whole egg
Put the ingredients in a glass without ice. Shake for 60-90 seconds to emulsify the egg. Add ice and shake again to thoroughly chill the drink. Strain into a chilled glass, top with some fresh grated nutmeg.

An interesting take on the classic flip recipe - SeanMike uses Kraken (which is very dark to the point of being black) and Strega (which is brilliant yellow) to make this drink. Of course, the black and gold are lost in the process of shaking the flip - but nevertheless this drink was a hit at MxMo a few weeks' back. The drink itself was all right - I have never been a fan of Kraken, but honestly the Strega actually kinda works with it. The biggest barrier for most people will be the spectre of the whole egg. But maybe you can trick people into watching the game while you make this drink for them. 

So there you have it - four cocktails that you can serve to people that you LIKE at a Super Bowl party this weekend. Best of luck, and may the Steelers cover the 2.5!!!


Super Bowl Party Drinks - Round 1

The past couple of years The Ace has worked Super Bowl parties, making cocktails for a small group of family & friends. Last year, with New Orleans - one of the truly great cocktail cities in America - represented in the big game I decided to do team-themed cocktails for the first time. Sure, it was impossible to find a viable cocktail for Indianapolis - in the end I had to do a half-assed Boilermaker cocktail (which is really nothing more than a shot of whiskey and a beer). But hey - the New Orleans side of the ledger was outstanding (Sazerac, Vieux Carre and Ramos Gin Fizz were amongst the favorites) and obviously this good cocktail karma carried the day for the Saints on the field.  So why not do the same this year for the Packers-Steelers tilt?

Well as it turns out, there is a pretty good reason why not. Both Green Bay and Pittsburgh are pretty much beer towns. Not to say that the denizens of these two fine cities won't have a shot of whiskey here and there - but the overarching drinking culture in these two towns revolves around beer. 

So what to do? Well, it was time to improvise. If I couldn't find cocktail favorites from the two cities, I figured that I would at least go for color combinations that could represent the teams. In some cases, this simply meant adapting a couple classics to capture the colors of the teams. But in other cases I broke down and made drinks using ingredients that The Ace would normally never allow to darken it's door. Don't worry folks, it will be obvious. 

So for those of you that are planning to host a Super Bowl Party this weekend, here are an assortment of cocktails that you can have some fun with for your party. Throughout the week I'll introduce a number of drinks that you can mix in alongside a rotation of legitimate party cocktails to get your party going this weekend!

Pousse Cafe a la Green Bay or Pittsburgh

Two Teams Shooting To Win It All This WeekendIf you are from France then you probably know the Pousse Cafe as a legitimate digestif that "pushes the coffee" after a meal. But if you are from the States then you most likely know it as that kinda cool-looking but thoroughly undrinkable shooter with all those layers of colored liqueurs from that lousy college bar that you still... errr... used to patronize. If you still have no idea what I am talking about, see at right. 

Well, chalk this down as one of those drinks that you pull out only for this kind of occasion. But these drinks are visual crowd-pleasers, and if made with certain ingredients they do not have to taste all that bad. Don't get me wrong - these drinks are never seeing the light of day at The Ace outside of this party. But they are kinda fun for just one day. 

Packer Pousse Cafe
Okay, Okay - I dreamed this up myself...

3/4 oz. Finest Call Banana Puree
3/4 oz. Midori melon liqueur

Pour the banana puree into a shot glass (there are actually pousse cafe glasses in France - go figure). Pour the Midori into a jigger, then hold a small bar spoon or baby spoon against the inside of the shot glass and just above the surface of the banana puree. Pour the Midori over the back of the spoon so that the spoon slows down the flow of the Midori enough to keep it from breaking the surface tension of the banana puree, thus keeping the Midori floating on top of the banana stuff. Serve.

Luckily for you, the banana puree has a specific gravity something like that of mercury - so it is very easy to float nearly anything on top of it (bowling balls, your barspoon, etc.). So this is a nice forgiving process even late into the evening. If you're feeling adventurous (or if your good taste won't allow you to pour Midori - good on you) you could try floating green chartreuse on top of yellow chartreuse - or possibly Strega. These will take more of a steady hand, however. Obviously, you will want to test these in advance and make sure that you pour the heavier spirit on the bottom and then float the lighter one on top. 

And now for the Steelers' version...

Pittsburgh Pousse Cafe
Yes, this one was my idea too

3/4 oz. Finest Call Banana Puree
3/4 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap Rum 

Pour the banana puree into a shot glass. Pour the rum into a jigger, then hold a small bar spoon or baby spoon against the inside of the shot glass and just above the surface of the banana puree. Pour the rum over the back of the spoon so that the spoon slows down the flow of the rum enough to keep it from breaking the surface tension of the banana puree, thus keeping the rum floating on top of the banana stuff. Serve.

This one actually tastes kinda good. The banana puree and the molasses of the blackstrap rum actually do pretty well together. 

Stay tuned later in the week. More team-themed drinks coming!


Molasses in Your Cocktail

Maybe I should have been a pirate. On second thought - I would have been lousy at the killing and the swabbing of decks and the constant sunburn... I should have been a Purser in the British Navy. You know - the guy that doled out the rum rations to the the sailors - and who therefore sat on one of the most prized possessions in the British Navy - the rum. Oh sure, there would have been the occasional mutiny and perhaps a watery grave along the way - but the RUM! I do love that rum. 

Dark and StormyI have always been pretty much a sucker for the flavors of Caribbean rums. The beauty of them is that they are so varied - nearly every island in the area has its own distinct rum culture and rum flavor profile. Today I wanted to talk about two rum cocktails that use a traditional strain of rum that is distilled from the molasses that is a by-product of sugar cane production. The viscous, dark brown qualities of the molasses itself are passed down to the rums made from molasses. The resulting rums are dark in color and sweet yet grassy on the palate.   

One of these cocktails is very easy to find on many bar menus - so much so that it is somewhat passe today. 


Dark and Stormy
Adapted from the Barbados Buck cocktail of Jigger, Beaker & Glass by Charles Baker (1939)

2 oz. Dark rum (Gosling's Black Seal 151 rum is the standard - I have also used Cruzan Blackstrap with great effect)
3 oz. ginger beer (I strongly recommend Bundaberg or Fentiman's)
1/4 oz. lime juice
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir gently (don't abuse the bubbles in the ginger beer) for a few seconds to mix the ingredients. Fill a tall collins glass with ice and pour the drink over the ice to serve. Garnish with a slice of lime. 

This is by now a standard at many bars, but it is still one of the most basic and tasty of the rum cocktails out there. You get the fresh lime and the ginger beer on the nose, and the spicy characteristics of the ginger beer offset by the molasses flavors of the rum at the end. Straight-laced and tasty.

Note that the choice of ginger beers is important. I enjoy the flavors of Reed's or The Ginger People ginger beers on their own, but i find that they do not mix as well in a Dark & Stormy as Bundaberg or Fentiman's do. I also like Cock & Bull here, and use it when I do not have my preferred ginger beers in the house. 

The other recipe is a Corn and Oil - an obscure drink that has started to catch on in hipster circles but that still lingers in the shadows of most of America's cocktail menus. It features an amazing spirit called velvet falernum, which is actually a flavored rum product distilled from sugar cane and infused with a number of botanicals such as almond, ginger, cloves and lime. 

Corn & Oil
Adapted from recipe on back of John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum bottle

2 oz. Cruzan Blackstrap rum
1/2 oz. velvet falernum
Dash of Fee Brothers' aromatic bitters (recommended for its heavy cinnamon flavor)
1/2 lime

Combine the rum, falernum, bitters and the juice from the lime in a shaker with lots of ice and shake for at least 20 seconds to chill. Pour (including the ice) into a highball glass and add the spent 1/2 lime in the glass as a garnish.

Corn and OilThere is quite a bit of variation with respect to the proportions of rum to falernum to be mixed in this drink. Mr. Taylor clearly wants to sell a lot of falernum, as he recommends mixing 3.5 parts falernum to 1 part rum (ick) - and on the other side of the spectrum I have seen ratios of 6 parts rum to 1 part falernum. It's really just a style preference for you. I have chosen 4:1 ratio of rum to falernum to ensure that the falernum flavor comes through without overpowering the rum with its sweetness. There is also some disagreement on whether the lime is needed - but I hold steadfast that the lime is essential to the drink.  

So there you have it - two cocktails that serve as good starters into the dark side of the rum world. These drinks will help you decide for yourself if the molasses-based rums are for you or not - the rich, dark flavors of these rums are not for everyone and are just now beginning to enter the American flavor palette. But if these rum flavors agree with you then perhaps you have a future in the pirate industry.