Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Cocktail Culture

By Devin D. O'Leary

MARCH 23, 1998: 

Tropical Paradise

There are two sides to the cocktail napkin. One side is the swanky, well-dressed martini-and-cigar crowd (a product of prewar East-Coast society). Second is the exotica-tinged, bamboo-draped Polynesian party (a product of postwar West-Coast leisure). Today, we're going to dip into the basics of tropical reverie.

Rum is, of course, the drink of choice when it comes to tropical drinks. This distilled sugar cane spirit originated in the Caribbean islands, and those beach-rimmed paradises still produce the majority of today's rum. Ignoring such silliness as coconut-flavored rum and the like, there are two basic varieties of rum: light (sometimes called silver) and dark (sometimes called gold). Light, as the name implies, is lighter and more flavorless than its hearty cousin (which gets its tint from aging in charred oak casks). In general, light is recommended for mixing, and dark is recommended for drinking straight (though, personally, I prefer dark in everything). Besides rum, brandy and gin also find a happy home in many tropical drinks.

Unlike its uptown cousin, the martini, the tropical drink comes in a panopoly of exotic colors and fanciful containers. Most tropical drinks make their home in tall, thin highball glasses (also known as stovepipes). Ceramic tiki mugs follow this design and are a welcome sight at any luau. The purpose of such a construction is to keep the drinks cool without much ice melt (most tropical drinks require ice). The other purpose is to allow soda to bubble slowly throughout the drink. This mixes the drink without having to stir (stirring, of course, flattens soda). Tropical drinks are the perfect opportunity to pull out the craziest of cocktail accessories. Nowhere are garnishes, swizzlesticks, umbrellas and other assorted gewgaws more important than in island mixology. So put on your Hawaiian shirt and fire up the blender, we're going to the South Pacific.

Singapore Sling
1 1/2 ounces gin
1 ounce cherry brandy
juice of 1/2 lime
splash of Rose's lime juice

Mix into a highball glass. Top off with tonic water (most recipies call for plain soda water, but you can't beat the tasty tang of quinine--plus it's good for fighting of malaria). Garnish with slice of lime, maraschino cherry and a long straw.


2 ounces light rum
2 ounces orange juice
1 1/2 ounces lemon juice
1 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce orzata (or orgeat--both are non-alcoholic almond-flavored syrups)

Blend ingredients in low-speed blender for 10-15 seconds with 1/3 cup crushed ice. Pour into cocktail glass. Garnish with orange slice.

Sufferin' Bastard

1 1/2 ounces light rum
1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1 tablespoon curaçao (an orange-flavored liquor)
1/4 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 lime, sliced in half

Place ingredients (except lime halves) in shaker with cracked ice. Squeeze lime juice into shaker. Shake well with cracked ice. Strain into old-fashioned glass. Drop spent lime half into glass. Garnish with a cucumber peel (sounds weird, but adds a nice peppery zing).

Mai Tai

3 ounces light rum
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/4 teaspoon triple sec
1/4 teaspoon orzata
1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

Shake well with ice. Strain into large cocktail glass. Add cracked ice. Garnish with pineapple stick and one of those little cocktail umbrellas.


1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce light rum
1/2 ounce 151 rum
1/2 ounce cherry brandy
1/2 ounce apricot brandy
juice of 1/2 lime

Load highball glass with cracked ice, stir ingredients together. Float 1/2 ounce 151 on top. Garnish with sprig of mint and plastic cocktail monkey.

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