For Christmas, my sister-in-law expanded my cocktail library by giving me two books I’d had on my list for quite a while: Grog Log and Intoxica!, both by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. For the uninitiated, Berry is the reigning king of tiki drinks, with an approach to researching the history of these drinks as rigorous as any living cocktail historian, Ted Haigh and David Wondrich included. The drinks Berry’s collected in these books include classics from Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber– who pioneered the whole Polynesian/tiki thing back during the Depression years.
I’ll explore the Grog Log and Intoxica! in greater depth later, but for now, suffice it to say that I’ve spent a not inconsiderable amount of time over the last couple of months tracking down the ingredients for, and putting together, some of the most notable tiki drinks in these two books. Here’s the one I’m sampling tonight: the Demerara Dry Float.
Berry credits Don the Beachcomber with creating this one around 1941. The notable additions I had to make to my liquor cabinet to make this drink included a bottle of Lemon Hart Demerara rum–which I’d been meaning to pick up, anyway, and just needed a good excuse–and a bottle of passion fruit syrup, a common ingredient in many tropical drinks. Berry heavily recommends the syrup marketed by Trader Vic’s; but I couldn’t reconcile myself with the idea of paying more in shipping than the bottle was worth if I ordered online, and I couldn’t wait for the new Trader Vic’s to open in Bellevue, scheduled to happen next week. So, I picked up a bottle of Monin’s, which seems servicable for the time being.
The thing I like about this drink–and with many tiki drinks–is the kind of baroque complexity in the glass. Ideas of mixological structure and balance are thrown completely aside in many of these drinks, but if you keep a close eye on the proportions in your mix–I’ve found it necessary to pull back a bit on Berry’s recommended amounts of syrup and sugar, to keep the drinks from being too sweet–you can create something that’s pleasantly unexpected, a cocktail that’s not afraid to let its hair down. I’ll be exploring drinks from Berry’s books a lot more in the months to come.
Demerara Dry Float
- 2 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 ounces passion fruit syrup*
- 1/4 ounce sugar syrup*
- 1 ounce Demerara rum
- 1/4 ounce 151 Demerara rum
- 1/4 ounce Maraschino
Shake everything except the 151 rum with ice, strain into double old-fashioned glass filled with crushed ice, and carefully float the 151. Do not stir.
* This is Berry’s recipe–I found it necessary to completely leave out the sugar syrup, and to increase the lower-proof rum to about 1 1/2 ounces to get the flavor I was looking for. It also looks like a lot of syrup, but there’s a mighty dose of citrus in this drink, which needs something for counterbalance.