“Darker Magic” sketch in the works

March 28th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

Here’s a sketch of something I’m working on – I’d love notes, opinions and ideas about it!

1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz coffee syrup
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
2 oz Coruba
1 oz 5-star Rhum Barbancourt
dash Herbsaint

Shake with crushed ice and pour into small goblet or large snifter glass. Garnish with lime and pineapple wedge.

It’s dark and mysterious with a hint of bright flavors. That’s the flavor profile I was going for, at least. I am intrigued with how the pineapple’s flavor is modified in the Penang Afrididi (Sippin’ Safari): All the middle round flavours are enhanced. I wanted to meld that middle aspect of the pineapple with the coffee notes of the Mai-Kai’s Dark Magic. Give ‘er a go, see what you think!

Mixology Monday March 2008 — Limit One (per customer)

March 17th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

Limit one Is it Monday again so soon? With the upheaval and changes going on with this Monkey’s household and work schedules, I just barely squeaked out an entry for this Month’s MxMo. My workstation may still be unconnected and in a box, but the Liquor has been unpacked. Priorities, people.

Kaiser Penguin hosts this month and the topic is fantastic: Limit one per customer. The theme implies a drink so full of booze it warrants the management to limit the purchase. There is another aspect, however. Making a strong drink is easy. Making a balanced and tasty strong drink is more difficult. However, creating a concoction so delicious as to drive a drinker to order successive rounds (and being denied on the face of the menu)? Pure genius.

And for this month’s genius, I turn again to Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry. I’m a lover of the short hoist: a 4oz or less cocktail to be taken as a pick-me-up or before-meal refresher or in-between-meal constitutional. I’ve long been in love with the Von Tiki, The bum’s own original creation at the end of the Grog Log. I also continually sub- and consciously refer to it as the “Baron von Tiki.” I’m sure it’s because of the German honey liqueur Bärenjäger1 . Austria helps out this aristocratic drink with Stroh 80, a 160-proof rum. This is widely used in Austrian and German baking. I like it daintily sipped with a Coke Chaser2. The Barbados rum is there because at the heart, this is a modified Daiquiri. Rum, Gum, and Lime strikes again.

I change the recipe a bit for my own taste: I triple the Stroh and add Fee Brothers Lemon Bitters to balance. I’ve tried replacing the Lime for lemon, but it ends up tasting more like a cough-drop. Lime is perfect for the base, with a lemon hint to match the honey.

With great respect to the Bum, I present:

(baron) Von Tiki – limit one per customer, please
(Baron) Von Tiki

1 oz Bärenjäger
½ oz Stroh 80 160-proof Austrian Rum
1 oz Barbados Rum (I use Cockspur)
¾ oz fresh lime juice
3 dashes Fee Brothers lemon bitters

Shake with crushed ice and strain into 4-oz cocktail glass.

  1. A linguistic aside: Bear comes from the Germanic Beor or Beorn. This translates to Bee-Wolf, a kenning that in Old English translates as Beowulf. The kenning here relates to the bear’s love of honey. He is a bee wolf. A lovely self referential name for a honey liquor: the Bee-Wolf-Hunter []
  2. Cane Sugar only, not High-Fructose Corn Syrup, please []

Mixology Monday Feb 2008 — Variations: Rum, Gum & Lime (+Mint)

February 11th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

Mixology Monday February 2008 — VariationsAfter missing last month’s MxMo due to the Death Flu, I’m damned determined to get back in the saddle and on the horse and other metaphors as well. This month is “Variations” hosted by the indefatigable Jimmy Patrick over at Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour. Thanks for hosting, Jimmy!

The Caribbean Rim & trade area presents a great puzzle to armchair historians, specifically those who tipple. I’ve been fascinated not only with the classic Tiki Cocktails, but their common history in Rum production and dispersion. For this Mixology Monday, I present variations on Rum, Gum & Lime (+Mint).
Mixology Monday Feb 2008: Variations
From left to right: Grog, Caipirinha(fore), Daiquiri(back), Julep, and Mojito.

Limes came to the Caribbean (florida) in the 1500s. Rum (and aguardiente) production soon followed in the middle of the 1500s. In 1655, William Penn took Jamaica for the British. Rum soon replaced beer for British ships due to their newly opened Jamaican market.

Ships would carry beer and water for their long voyages. First they used the beer until it turned sour – at that point the men would turn to the water: stale and slimy from algae. The leftover beer would be used make the water a bit more palatable. Limes were also sometimes used to de-dankify the water supply. After 1655, however, rum replaced beer. by the 1750s, The entire British navy ran on rum. They watered down to 1:4 ratio, with lime juice added for better taste. Admiral Vernon is the man behind the order here, called “old Grog.” The popular history involves him and his cape creating the name for the beverage. Nonsense. Grog predates him in literature for at least a few decades. His title of “old Grog,” is after his use of the drink, not the other-way-round. My version is 1:2 – I guess you’re the Captain here.

Grog (1700s: Caribbean Seas)
1 oz Rum
2 oz Water
1 oz Lime
½ oz Simple Syrup

Mix all together without ice and serve in a copper cup.

The Portuguese came to what would become Brazil in the 1500s and brought their distilling skills with them. By 1650, they shipped their aguardiente for trade to Africa, used as ballast. We now know this rum-like product as the Brazilian Cachaça: Fiery, smoky, delicious. Slaves and peasants alike throughout the region were taking their rum, gum, and lime: Cane juice served as the sweetener. It may have been the 90′s that brought the Caipirinha to our shores, but it’s been around for a few centuries.

Caipirinha (1700s, Brazil)
1 lime, cut into eight wedges
1 tbsp evaporated cane sugar
3 oz Cachaça

Muddle the lime and sugar in a double rocks glass until the sugar has dissolved. Fill the glass with crushed ice, pour the Cachaça and stir.

Leave it to us humans to take something that already exists, re-brand it and pretend it a novel invention. Cubans had been drinking rum, gum & lime for a few hundred years before the War for Cuban independence brought the U.S. into Cuba. The war won the U.S. a source for natural resources. When Admiral Lucius W. Johnson brought back mine engineer Jennings Cox‘s version, named after the nearby port of Daiquiri, Grog got fancy. When Prohibition hit, It’s no wonder Cuba became a popular travel destination.

Daiquiri (1905, Cuba)
2 oz light rum
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup

Shake with cracked ice and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

The first mention of Julep is in a 1803 travel book by John Davis as a “dram of spirituous liquor that has mint steeped in it, taken by Virginians of a morning.” Eleven years later in 1814, William Wirt quotes a 25-year-old book in The Old Batchelor “… A man in this line rises about six o’clock; ” He then drinks a Julip, made of rum, water and sugar.” Note the lack of mint.

Julep comes from the Arabic Julab, a sweet drink to which medicine is added. One history has it spreading through Europe in the 1700s, then to the colonies. Others have it coming from Spanish refugees traveling to Louisiana in the late 1700s. Both used Rum. European and Caribbean ships unloaded their ships and men at the Virginian port of Jamestown as well as New Orleans. They also unloaded their rum and recipes.

Julep (1803, Virgina/New Orleans)
8 Mint leaves
1 tbsp evaporated cane sugar
3 oz light rum

Muddle sugar into mint leaves in mixing glass until you have a nice slurry. Add crushed ice to lip of glass. Add rum and swizzle mixture until glass frosts. Garnish with mint sprig.

Legend has it that in the late 1500s, Richard Drake, first cousin of Sir Francis Drake invented a drink called “The Draque.” It consisted of aguardiente, sugar, lime and mint. What a load of rubbish. Never mind the Aguardiente of the area started shipping in the 1650s, and that Richard Drake died in 1603. It’s a nice marketing story. I’ve read that some Cubans claim Ernest Hemingway invented the drink in the 1930s as a Caribbean Julep. Further primary research is needed, but I’m guessing the locals have been drinking their rum, gum and lime with mint since the 1800s.

Mojito (1800s/1930s, Cuba)
8 Mint leaves
1 tbsp evaporated cane sugar
1 lime, cut into eight wedges
2 oz light rum
1 oz charged water

Muddle lime, mint and sugar until you’re sick of muddling. Add 6 oz of crushed ice and rum. Shake and pour into Collins glass, top with charged water and stir to combine. Garnish with mint sprig.

Mojito & Julep with Cachaca in the background

I’ll come back to these and other drinks, such as bumboo, corn & oil, Rum & coke in later posts and as research allows. I might even have a flowchart.

Cheers!

-=C

p.s. Great thanks to Tikimama for her photography skills and to Trader Tiki for the on-location use of Reynoles’ Galley.

Rum Barrels and Rumination

February 5th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

I have a particular personal philosophy concerning functional art. In this specific case, the collecting of Tiki Mugs. I deeply feel that when functional art ceases being used, it ceases having relevance. It becomes less powerful; it becomes a memory. The idea of keeping a mug (no matter how ‘priceless’) that was made to be drunk from behind glass and unused is anathema to me. To me It’s perverting the item for one’s own personal fears (of it breaking, of it losing value) in favor of its spirit.

This is not a judgement against others who may differ: It’s your mug, do with it what you will. It’s my philosophy and there is no concrete aesthetic. My mugs, however, will be used. If it becomes damaged? If it breaks? Good. The Mug is already broken. All things are impermanent and eventually end: Such is the beauty of existence. I would rather celebrate these tokens full of the drinks they were made to hold than look at it with worry on the shelf, supposedly out of harm’s way.

I bring this up because when I make Rum Barrels, I use our two Rum Barrel mugs. One of which happens to be the Aku Aku Rum Barrel. It was made by Otagiri for the Aku Aku at the Stardust in Las Vegas. Heather found it at the Goodwill for 85¢. Ooga-Mooga has the value at $90. Ebay’s average is around $125. Do I care? Not a whit. I use it because it is a rum barrel, meant to hold the liquid art of the Rum Barrel cocktail.

Rum Barrel Ingredients
Don’s Rum Barrel

1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz honey mix
1 oz Puerto Rican light Rum
1 oz Jamaican gold Rum
2 oz Demerara Rum
tsp falernum
tsp pimento dram
6 drops Pernod
6 drops grenadine
dash Angostura bitters
6 oz Ice

That’s the version in Sippin’ Safari. It’s a great recipe. However, to my taste, it turns out a bit subtle. So here’s my personal variation on the recipe. I’ve replaced the Pernod with Herbsaint, as I feel it more closely better supports the other flavors with a woody, earthy tone (I’ll use Absinthe when next I have some on hand). Pernod is too “pointy” and singular for my tastes in these recipes. I increase the falernum & pimento dram from 1/6 oz to 1/4 oz to better balance their role in the flavor. I use Fee’s brother’s old fashioned bitters for a hint of more spice. I don’t have any decent Puerto Rican rums, so I substitute Cruzan (a Virgin Islands rum).

Rum Barrel Still life

The Monkey Hut Rum Barrel (based on Donn Beach’s recipe)

1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
1 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz honey mix
1 oz Cruzan light Rum
1 oz Appleton Special gold Rum
2 oz Lemon Hart Demerara Rum
¼ oz house falernum
¼ oz house pimento dram
6 drops Herbsaint
6 drops grenadine
dash Fee Brothers Old Fashioned bitters
6 oz Crushed Ice

You can also see my other Rum Barrel, the Mai-Kai reproduction from Tiki Farm. I picked that one up at the Mai-Kai gift shop during Hukilau 2006. They sit next to each other in the Monkey Hut. They come down when it’s time to drink from them.

Here are some more shots of this gorgeous functioning art in action:
Rum Barrel Still Life
Aku Aku Rum Barrel
Aku Aku Rum Barrel

Cheers!

-=C

January Seattle Trip, Part the First.

February 1st, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

We arrived in Seattle on a late Wednesday night. After we checked into the hotel, I tucked in the Tikimama (the poor soul had class at The U-Dub in the morning), and quickly changed into more suitable attire. I had a mission: Zig Zag was calling me.

The Hotel was only a few blocks away, so I hoofed it down to Pikes, then down those stairs, across the covered street crossing, and down again to Zig Zag Cafe.

Murray was there behind the bar as I pulled up a chair. I don’t have any pictures from Zig Zag because I don’t really feel right taking snaps in there. I’ve come to realize I’m a cocktail geek and a bartender groupie. I don’t mind pulling out the camera anyplace else, but I realize I’m self-conscious around Murray. I don’t want to be thought of as a weirdo (which I most likely am).

After the re-introductions, talk got to my current trip in Seattle and my plans of Hitting Vessel and Licorous. Murray mentioned I should also try Sun Liquor and provided a cocktail coaster with information to help me on my quest. After a Last Word, Corpse Reviver #2, and a Drink with no Name, I was on my way back to the Hotel and my lovely wife.

Thursday night was devoted to Vessel. Heather and I arrived at 7′o’clock to find it quite full. I was aghast at some the clientèle drinking wine and beer. Yes, I know it pays the bills, but do they know who is behind the bar? It’s Jamie Boudreau for crying out loud!

Test Pilot at Vessel
We seated ourself at a side table. I ordered a Test Pilot because I had to: I am foremost a Polynesian Pop cocktail enthusiast, after all. I appreciated that the drink on the menu was attributed to Earnest Raymond Beaumont Gant (which we all know as Don’s given name). It was perfect – though I detected Pernod (which is as to the recipe) and I prefer an absinthe or Herbsaint as a tiki pastis. As you can see, the drinks have gorgeous presentation and perfect glassware.

Vessel 75 at Vessel
Heather ordered the much suggested Vessel 75, which single-handedly turned me on the idea of molecular mixology. I have in the past eschewed it for its trendy and pretentious post-modernism. Now that I know it can be damn tasty, I had to remove my prejudice. The Vessel 75‘s foam is an important part of the drink, imparting a delicious maple note (and velvet mouthfeel) to a de-constructed old fashioned. I suppose I don’t mind the clever-clever when it produces such devious and perfect results. Luckily I have 2 isi charging carafes so I can play with one while charging water in the other.

The place wasn’t emptying out, and the gentleman at the bar was still nursing the same beer (BEER!) for 20 minutes, so we had another round at the small table. I just had to get to that bar! I remember reading about the Purgatory on Oh Gosh!, and having been on a Chartreuse kick lately (and knowing that Jamie was waxing on about it at his own blog and would likely know the drink) I ordered one.
Purgatory at Vessel
It was, as I had assumed, fantastic. It reminded my of the popular whiskey / 2 modifier formula I have come to adore in such drinks as Everybody’s Irish, Manhattan, and Monte Carlo (thanks for that introduction, Martin). I definitely need to fix my Benedictine drought. Heather ordered the Frick cocktail, since she loves figs and bourbon.

Frick at Vessel
By this time, the bar opened up and we sidled into place so I could watch and chat with Jamie, who immediately wanted to know why/who the hell ordered a drink from Missouri. I introduced myself and explained about my Chartreuse kick. Jamie suggested his own Rubicon for my next beverage and I had to comply. I’ve been playing with the formula of the Last Word before (my Luaahi), but this (to my categorization method) variation was unbelievable and miles beyond my current skill.
Rubicon at Vessel
Replace the lime with lemon, and add bruised rosemary, flaming the chartuese to further express the oils? Brilliant. Devine and effortless.

The pictures stopped there as friends arrived and conversation continued. I do remember sampling the 21 year old Rittenhouse Rye. I remember the wonderful contrast of mouthfeel to spice notes. I stopped mentally documenting and became the social Craig at that point. It was a wonderful evening.

There was enough time afterwards to get a quick drink back at Zig Zag. One track mind. More about that in the next part.

I’m Alive!

January 22nd, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

Well, that was an adventure! I still live!

About two weeks ago I went to Seattle with Tikimama. It was her semesterly residence at U-Dub and my excuse to go to Zig Zag. We’d been to Seattle for the Jet City Junket II in December of last year, but I was thwarted at any chance of getting some time at Zig Zag, so I jumped on this opportunity.

The next few entries will be about that wonderful trip – I hit up Zig Zag a few times, was blown away at Vessel, had a great time at Sun Liquor and was pampered at Licorous. It was outstanding, and I paid for it:

When I got home I was hit with the worst flu in nearly a decade. I lost nearly a week’s time in delirium, completely sleeping through Mixology Monday. I’m still coughing and weak. I did manage to spread the love with my friends and family, though. You’re Welcome.

What has kept me in spirits, so to speak? My current regular from Jeff Berry’s Sippin’ Safari: Three Dots and a Dash. You do have Sippin’ Safari, right? P1010019

Three Dots and a Dash (…- V)

½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce fresh orange juice
½ ounce honey mix
1½ ounces amber Martinique rum
½ ounce demerara rum
¼ ounce falernum
¼ ounce pimento dram
6 ounces crushed ice

P1010030This morse-code lovely is credited to Donn at the Las Vegas Beachcomber restaurant during WWII (V for victory). I assemble this fellow following my new method picked up from the Navy Grog. I add all ingredients to a mixing pitcher and stir to combine. I crush the ice finely, add to the glass and pour the mixture in. I hand-swizzle and aerate the drink with a bar spoon until the glass frosts and add the garnish.

Moving up in favor as a regular is the Honi Honi. Remind me to wax rhapsodical about that in a future post, won’t you? These libations have kept me human in my few weeks of viral stupor. I suppose I could have counted on a Corpse Reviver (#2) to pop me on my feet, but even I can’t be that clever-clever. I’m glad to be back and 200 proof.

Cheers!
-=C

Falernum #1

December 17th, 2007 by Colonel Tiki

I’ve luckily had Falernum around since 2003 thanks to Martin Cate (who introduced me to John D. Taylor’s) and Blair (who bought a case way back when). I’ve compared to the Fee Brother’s version. And thanks to Paul Clarke, I’ve done home-made. The below recipe is my first attempt to tweak Paul’s recipe to my own taste. It came out quite nicely. However, I’m almost out so it will soon be time for #2.

Falernum Tincture

Falernum #1

40 cloves, crushed
5 allspice berries, crushed
½ cup blanched almonds, dry-roasted
¼ cup diced fresh ginger
6 limes, zest of
750 ml 120 clipper Cruzan rum
½ tsp almond extract
750 ml 2:1 simple
375 ml lime juice

Add almonds, Cloves, Allspice, ginger and lime zest in mason jar with the rum. Let this macerate for at least 2 days. Strain macerated mixture through flour-sack dishcloth. Be sure to squeeze all that goodness out! Add tincture to equal amount of 2:1 simple syrup and ½ amount lime juice. Add almond extract. Pour into clean, sanitized 16 oz canning jars and hot-process for 5 minutes. Makes 7 jars of completely shelf stable falernum. You should be able to store this almost indefinitely.

I know that the original recipe calls for cold-processed simple syrup, but it is the opinion of this author that the difference is completely negligible. I plan to test that hypothesis with a double blind (and scientific as possible) taste test soon to be posted to this journal. We’ll see whether or not my hunch is full of it.

The idea to can the Falernum came out of my laziness. I regularly make batches of syrups, drams and other little tinctures. More often than not they will go bad before I’ve used them up. I’d find myself at a bottleneck with that choice ingredient non-existent. Tired of not being able to quickly whip up that Navy Grog or Nui Nui without first replenishing my supply, I thought if I could make a large batch and can it, I could have a back stock of syrups and concoctions ready to go at my whim: When the backs get low, another batch goes together.

Next Falernum, I’ll up the lime a bit, hit the ginger a tad, and use J. Wray for the spirit for extraction. Look out for Falernum #2 coming soon…

Mixology Monday December 2007 — Repeal Day

December 3rd, 2007 by Colonel Tiki

Mixology Monday - ProhibitionDecember 5, 1933: The twenty-first amendment is ratified and the failed experiment of Prohibition of Alcohol in the United States of America ends. Jeffery Morgenthaler has been trumpeting the recognition of Repeal Day as a damn fine Domestic holiday for years.

This Mixology Monday’s theme is Prohibition hosted by the man himself. My submission is below, based on the prohibition-contemporary cocktail “Everybody’s Irish.” Irish expatriates who brought their knowledge of distillery with them to the Americas soon were making their own Whisk(e)y. When Prohibition hit, domestic distillers of American Rye and Bourbon stopped (officially) producing whiskey. However, Canada was still producing. Though the Canadian Whisky is Scottish in origin, we’ll just ignore that bit (since Scots are Irish anyway who moved to the north of the English Island, displacing the Picts). I thought a fun change of the “Everybody’s Irish” cocktail would be to honor their ingenuity with domestic sources and use a likelier ingredient of prohibition: Canadian Whisk(e)y.

I’ve loved Chartreuse since first tasting it when my friend David from Oak Hall, Virginia brought a bottle when he visited us in the early 00′s. It wasn’t until earlier this year when I had a Last Word at Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle that I considered it for mixing. I’d loved the idea of the Irish cocktails in Classic Cocktails of the Prohibition Era but until Mur the blur poured that Last Word, I’d not braved it. I’ve since made up for it.

The drink is delicious and would likely work with any Whisk(e)y you have about. I’ve tried Rye & Canadian so far. The olive (while questionable at first) is a nice contrast to help you taste the contribution of the Creme de Menthe and the Chartreuse. Also, the Green and Red of the drink and olive remind you December is Christmastime. Enjoy!

Everybodys Irish American

Everybody’s Irish American

1 tablespoon Green Chartreuse
1 tablespoon Green Creme de Menthe
2 oz. Canadian Whisky

Stir with ice and strain into 3 oz cocktail glass. Garnish with olive speared on a cocktail pick.

-=C

Mixology Monday – Gin

November 12th, 2007 by Colonel Tiki

mixMo12112007This is my first entry for a Mixology Monday. Jay Hepburn over at Oh Gosh! is this month’s host and the theme is gin.

I adore gin. I am not overly fond of delicate gins, however. You can keep your Bombay Saphires and your Tanqueray Tens. I like my gin strong, botanical, and — dare I say it — harsh. I have a secret. I’m a sucker for good bad gin. I don’t mean bottom shelf dive bar well gins mind you: I’m talking about Seagram’s, Gordon’s, Gilbey’s. I do love Aviation and Boodles and Plymouth, but lately the wallet dictates a more modest investment. An aside: Notice how premium gins seem to drop the apostrophe before their final ‘s’? “Apostrophe s? How common.”

So, what’s a mixologist to do? Luckily a good hearty gin is a perfect component of vintage gin cocktails. It’s the harsh nature of the spirit (legal and illegal) that likely led to the numerous gin cocktails in the first place. At least that’s the common folk history I hear bandied about.

Here’s my lowbrow highbrow cocktail, The Madagascar Gin Sour. You could also call it a Vanilla Lemon Gimlet, which would be more descriptive. The lovely wife likes the combination of lemon and vanilla and I happened to have a bunch of vanilla syrup about for Tiki Drinks. I thought I’d try it as the sweet component of a sour mix for a gimlet-like cocktail. I didn’t expect it to balance so well on the first try. It’s gorgeous (if I do say so myself, and I do):

Madagascar Gin Sour low light - photo by Heather 'Tikimama' Gregg

Madgascar Gin Sour

2 oz Good Bad Gin
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz Vanilla Syrup*
2 dashes Fees Brothers Lemon Bitters

Lemon peel garnish

Dissolve syrup in lemon juice in a mixing glass. Add 3 oz ice, gin, bitters and stir to mix. Pour into small cocktail glass, express lemon oil on drink and drop peel in the glass.

Be sure to hit up Oh Gosh! to see everyone else’s submission and make yourself a nice cocktail when you get home from work on Monday. Goodness knows you deserve it.

-=C

Vanilla Syrup*Vanilla Syrup

We keep vanilla sugar for baking. It’s easy – just drop a few spent vanilla pods into a container and fill with sugar. In two weeks time, the sugar will be infused with vanilla. You can replace the vanilla extract in your favourite baking recipe with the vanilla sugar. The longer it sits, the better it gets. Whenever you remove some sugar, add the same about of regular sugar to the container and you can keep it going for up to 2 years or so.

Make simple syrup out of this vanilla sugar (I do 2:1 sugar:water, bring softly and slowly to a boil. Remove from heat as soon as the mixture clears — be careful as the sugar will caramelize quickly) and viola: vanilla syrup.

Cassia vs. Cinnamon and Donn the Beachcomber

November 6th, 2007 by Colonel Tiki

At some point, in North America (at least the U.S.A. and Canada), Cinnamon was replaced by its much less expensive cousin, Cassia. The taste, while similar enough for many uses, is definitely noninterchangeable for most cocktail recipes. The trick is to know which to use and when to use it.

Cassia
Cassia (Cinnamomum Cassia) is thick and red-brown in color and is what you’ll most likely get when you purchase cinnamon in a regular grocery store. The flavor is strong, sharp and hot. It is a perfect choice for baking or where you only want to taste only Cinnamon. However, it will quickly overpower any balanced drink when you use it in syrup (or purchase Cinnamon syrup made with Cassia).

Ceylon

Ceylon or ‘true’ Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is light brown and has the consistency of paper. It will easily give and break apart in your hand. The flavor has essences of citrus and is mellow, warm. It shines in chocolate, mulling, and especially in your mixed drinks. This is the Cinnamon you’ll want for making or purchasing syrup. You can find it cheaper in the Mexican food section of your market labeled as “Canela.” I get mine from Penzey’s.

When making the Donga Punch from Sippin’ Safari, I decided to perform an experiment. I mixed one drink using the Cassia syrup, and the other with Ceylon Cinnamon. The Cassia version tasted exceedingly of the sharp, spicy notes I love in a Cinnamon roll. The drink, however, was unbalanced. I did manage to finish it. The Donga containing Ceylon Cinnamon was properly balanced and delicious. The Ceylon supported the flavor profile, enhanced the rum, and contrasted nicely with the Grapefruit. In the other version, the grapefruit flavor was lost to the overbearing zing of Cassia.

Further experiments at Blair’s Galley with the Nui Nui bore the same results. Donn drinks seem to call for Ceylon Cinnamon, not Cassia. It makes me wonder: Did Cassia replace Cinnamon in common domestic use after the creation of these classic Tiki drinks? Did Ray Buhen and Donn’s other boys use only true Cinnamon, coming from a cuisine and culture that did not conflate the two? Bears research I say.

Not to say that Cassia has no role in drink making. I still add it (very carefully) to hot rum batter (with as much care as I would cloves, the other flavor killer in high doses), Coffee Grog (not the batter, pinch-wise while making the drink), and for light toppings of other hot drinks when I think the recipe calls for a light smack of the ‘heavy stuff.’

I’m just happy I’ve made a discovery that has improved my mixology, and I hope I pass it on to you and yours.

Cheers!

-=C