The piña colada is a well-known tropical drink. The sheer mention of it conjures up images of beach bars and tiny cocktail umbrellas. While the drink’s origins hail from Puerto Rico, this festive libation is a staple at vacation spots around the globe. Recently while on holiday in Ghana, my interest was piqued by a sign at my beachfront retreat that boasted the “Best Piña Colada this Side of the Equator.” The sprawling complex, dubbed Big Milly’s Backyard, was a laid-back place filled with friendly locals and mellow Rastafarians. Small bungalows and huts were dispersed through out the palm-shaded grounds dotted with an oceanfront restaurant and 24-hour open-air bar which featured live reggae and African drumming shows. One afternoon as the scorching sun baked everyone at the beach, I decided to test Big Milly’s cocktail claims. Paajoe Quansah, a helpful young man who seemed to be a jack-of-all-trades around the complex, volunteered to mix a piña colada for me. He started off by taking off his shoes and leaving the bar. Puzzled, I followed him a short distance to a towering palm tree, which he proceeded to climb. I strained my neck to look up as he scampered to dizzying heights where the coconuts grew and dropped several of them to the ground. I was in awe — this was going to be one mighty fresh piña colada! Once he safely made it back to ground level, he split the coconuts open with a machete. First he expertly carved a spout and poured out the juice, which he shared with two eager young local children that suddenly appeared nearby. Next he used a knife to scrape the meat from the coconut and added it to the water. After repeating the process with about four coconuts, he combined the coconut meat and water in a blender to make a thick and frothy mixture. Once the fresh coconut puree was prepared, Paajoe began to build my cocktail. He added two shots of African rum to the liquid coconut. He topped it off with a generous splash of Big Milly’s freshly squeezed pineapple juice, which on its own was a popular refresher at the bar. The finished cocktail was served over ice. Its flavor was bright and fresh and not overly sweet. It stood as a stark contrast to the sickly sweet frozen piña coladas made with commercially prepared mixes. However the generous portions of local rum did provide a noticeable burn. After two of these elixirs, the sun seemed to mellow out a bit and I felt a little cooler. The rest of the afternoon flowed nicely into serene sunset followed by dinner and a late night wiling away at the bar. Piña Colada - Ghanaian Style 3-4 coconuts Water 1-2 pineapples Rum Sugar to taste Drain liquid from coconuts. Many coconuts sold in the U.S. will have little or no liquid inside. Scrape meat from coconut and add to blender. Blend until fluid, adding water as necessary. Remove fruit from pineapple and juice in a blender. Imported pineapples will be less sweet than locally grown African fruit, so add sugar to taste. In a tall glass, add 3 ounces rum; add 2 ounces pineapple juice and 2 ounces coconut mixture. Serve over ice. [gallery ids="99118,99119" nav="thumbs"]
They say that variety is the spice of life. During a recent seminar at the Museum of the American Cocktail, Tad Carducci, a multi-award-winning bartender and founding partner of the beverage consulting firm Tippling Brothers, demonstrated how to use a variety of spices to give new life to some basic cocktails. While many food enthusiasts are fervent about applying herbs and spices to various foods, Carducci is passionate about using spices to make unique and distinctive cocktails. The seminar followed the use of spices, herbs and bitters from 2500 B.C. to the present. Carducci discussed the historical importance of spices and herbs as medicine, currency, foodstuffs and flavoring agents for spirits, liqueurs and cocktails. Carducci mixed five different tipples, varying in flavor from sweet to sour to bitter to fiery hot. The most versatile and striking cocktail of the evening was the Fireside Sour. Sours are a category of cocktails that consist of a base liquor, lemon (or lime) juice and a sweetener. Carducci’s creation follows this formula by combining Applejack liquor, lemon and tangerine, and a homemade simple sugar and spice syrup. Laird’s Applejack is one of the oldest domestic spirits in the United States, dating back to colonial times. Carducci tracked the origins of the Fireside Sour back to original concept of punch, which was brought from India to England after colonization. Punch originally consisted of spirits, sugar, lemon, water and spices (often tea), 95 percent of which are grown in India, Carducci noted. Before mixing the Fireside Sour, Carducci pulled a volunteer from the audience to demonstrate the ease of making the cocktail. The process began with juicing a fresh lemon and muddling tangerine slices for an extra citrus boost. Next, Carducci added his homemade spiced simple syrup and Laird’s Applejack before showing off his cocktail shaking technique. The “secret” to the Fireside Sour was, without a doubt, Carducci’s spiced syrup, made from a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, ginger cloves and star anise. The cocktail had several layers of flavor. At first sip, the tangerine provided a fresh and sweet smack, followed by a spiced apple pie flavor from the Applejack and spice syrup and finished off with a clear bite of cinnamon. Its taste resembled a bright and juicy version of mulled cider. While Carducci described it as a wintry drink that combined all his favorite flavors of Christmas, the sunny orange flavor makes this drink ideal for summertime. Fireside Sour 2 ounces Laird’s Applejack (7 1/2 yr. preferred) 3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice 1/4 fresh tangerine, halved 1 oz. spice syrup (see recipe below) Muddle tangerine. Add all remaining ingredients and shake. Double-strain into chilled glass. Garnish with floating tangerine wheel. Dust with cinnamon. A simple variation on an Applejack Rabbit, this cocktail embodies all the flavors we associate with cold weather and the holidays and that we associate as being very American. They are actually very exotic. Spice Syrup: 1 quart simple syrup 3 cinnamon sticks 1 nutmeg seed 1 finger ginger, peeled and finely chopped 3 whole star anise pods 2 tablespoons allspice berries 2 tablespoons whole cloves 2 tablespoons black peppercorns Laird’s Applejack is available at Dixie Liquor (3429 M St.) in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming events from the Museum of the American Cocktail, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org.
Anyone who has seen the newly released “Sex and the City 2” will tell you that there’s nothing quite like vacation with your BFFs. Fans of the original series will also confirm that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha enjoy a good cocktail. On a recent girlfriends getaway, my posse and I decided to make a themed cocktail to match the mermaid theme of our vacation. The main characters were myself, Miss Pixie Windsor, a Washington antique storeowner and avid collector of Mermaid memorabilia, and Jamye Wood, an upstate New York Web designer who has written a novel about a young girl who becomes a mermaid. The three of us traveled to Florida’s Gulf coast to visit Weeki Wachee Springs, the town of living mermaids. Weeki Wachee is one of Florida’s oldest and most unique roadside attractions. It is now a state park, where live mermaids (that is, women dressed in fancy mermaid costumes) perform graceful underwater ballet in an aquarium-like setting on the Weeki Wachee River. The mermaids perform to music, using air hoses to stay under water throughout the entire show. Many celebrities, including Elvis, have attended the mermaid shows. Our group decided to base ourselves in Siesta Key, FL to clock in some beach time. When perusing through a wide choice of beach houses to rent, we were all in agreement on a little cottage dubbed “The Sand Dollar,” mainly because of the heated saltwater pool with a tikki bar in the backyard. The house itself was secondary. Our visit to Weeki Wachee did not disappoint. We enjoyed a day of retro fun, watching live synchronized mermaid shows that included a replay of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and a patriotic number with mermaids performing underwater flips with Old Glory. While we were unable to find a cocktail bar inside the park, one of the snack bars served drinks in mermaid-shaped souvenir cups that we took back to our beach house for later use. Our first criteria in building our cocktail was that it had to be bubbly — sort of like the upbeat mermaids blowing bubbles underwater. We therefore decided to use sparkling wine as one ingredient. Next, although the mermaids’ costumes at Weeki Wachee included bright red and gold attire, we decided that our drink should be the traditional green color. I determined the bright emerald hue of melon liqueur would fit the bill. Jayme insisted that we include local ingredients, so we purchased fresh oranges at a nearby farmers’ market for juice. She even scouted out a starfruit to make celestial-shaped garnishes. In order to highlight the orange flavor, Pixie purchased Stoli Orange vodka for an added citrus boost. Our finished cocktail turned out to be deceptively light and refreshing. The bright and sunny flavor from the fresh juice and sparkling wine masked the taste of the vodka. The melon liquor added a perfect hint of sweetness while giving our drinks a cool green glow. Not bad for improvising on vacation! The Mermaid Cocktail 1.5 ounces Stoli Orange vodka 1.5 ounces orange juice 1 ounce melon liqueur Sparkling wine Combine the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Pour into a long glass over ice and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with sliced starfruit. Ingredients to make the Mermaid Cocktail may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown.
Cuba is many things to many people. For vacationers from Canada and Europe, it is a tropical Caribbean getaway. For cigar aficionados the island is renowned for its celebrated stogies. For music lovers, Cuba is a jazz hotbed that spawned legendary performers like Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and the Buena Vista Social Club. It is a place to step back in time and wander the narrow streets of Old Havana and watch the antique cars cruise along the oceanfront Malecon roadway. For drinkers, not only is Cuba the rum-soaked first home of Bacardi, it also holds an important spot in cocktail history. The daiquiri and mojito are two noteworthy drinks that trace their earliest roots to Cuba. The Museum of the American Cocktail hosted a seminar at Georgetown’s Mie N Yu restaurant in June celebrating the rich cocktail history of Cuba. Phil Green, a founding member of the museum, and Charlotte Voisey, an internationally renowned mixologist, emceed the event. Attendees were treated to a range of drinks, including the historical El Presidente cocktail and the Moveable Feast, a Hemingway-inspired punch that Charlotte created for a Cuban-themed lounge in New York. Charlotte and Phil discussed the history of Cuba, as a Spanish colony, during independence and post-Castro. Much of the evening was focused on Cuba’s role as a drinking destination during Prohibition. When alcohol became illegal in the states, Havana became the unofficial U.S. saloon. It was easy for Americans to travel there. Airlines offered non-stop flights and steamer ships transported merrymakers from Florida. Popular bars such as the Floridita (Hemingway’s favorite), the U.S. Bar and La Bodega del Medio catered to American travelers. During this time, a myriad of talented bartenders fled the U.S. in order to work in their professions. Phil described Cuba, along with England, France, Italy and others, as being one of the “carriers of the torch,” keeping the craft of the cocktail alive. In an effort to appeal to tourists, many cocktails were named after celebrities like the E. Hemingway Special, the Mary Pickford and my favorite cocktail of the evening, the Josephine Baker. Famous for her risqué costumes and no-holds-barred dance routines, Baker, an American expatriate, became the talk of Paris during the Prohibition era. Her namesake tipple lives up to the hype of this notable entertainer. The concoction is forged from a mixture of cognac, Port wine and apricot brandy, combined with an egg yolk for a frothy texture. The cocoa-colored cocktail has a sophisticated taste and a thick, smooth consistency. Its multi-layered flavor is subtly fruity and not overly sweet. A dusting of cinnamon adds a spicy kick. While it may not be possible for U.S. passport holders legally travel to Cuba on a cocktail pilgrimage, the Josephine Baker is an easy drink to whip up at home. Josephine Baker: 1 1/2 ounces Cognac 1 1/2 ounces tawny Port wine 1 ounce apricot brandy 1/4 ounce simple syrup 1 egg yolk Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon peel and dust with cinnamon. If you are concerned about consuming raw egg yolks, use pasteurized eggs. Ingredients to make the Josephine Baker are available at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. For more information about the Museum of the American Cocktail, check out their Web site at www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org. [gallery ids="99158,102944" nav="thumbs"]
-The most recent Cocktail column focused on the early career of Joe Scialom, who tended bar at the celebrated Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo during World War II, where he invented the tiki-bar staple, the Suffering Bastard as a hangover remedy for his clientele of royalty and celebrities. Because Scialom spoke eight languages fluently and entertained diplomats and journalists, he was suspected of espionage and eventually expelled from Egypt. He went on to tend bar at famed hotels around the world, including the Ritz in Paris and New York’s Four Seasons. Scialom is the subject of an upcoming book by Jeff Beachbum Berry, a cocktail connoisseur and tikki historian. Berry, along with the museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted “The Suffering Bastard: Joe Scialom, International Barman of Mystery” lecture at the Occidental Grill. During Scialom’s time in Egypt one of the many wealthy guests he befriended was Conrad Hilton. When Scialom left Egypt, Hilton tapped him to work for him in Puerto Rico. The Caribe Hilton, built in 1949, was in first grand tourist resort on the island. Its famous guests, included Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne. At the Caribe, Scialom began applying his trade to rum drinks. One of the most popular cocktails Scialom took credit for was the Tropical Itch. It was a colossal drink, designed to cater to thirsty tourists, made with 5 oz of booze, Curacao, mango and lime juices. It was served in an oversized hurricane glass with a backscratcher. When the AFL-CIO held a convention at the hotel, a Time magazine reporter spied some of the delegates enjoying Tropical Itches at the hotel and used the drink by name in his article. Scialom’s next stop was Cuba where Hilton was trying to muscle his way into the established luxury hospitality market. With 630-rooms, the Havana Hilton was the largest building in Latin American. Hilton took a unique approach and positioned his resort as the only hotel-casino not being run by mobsters Scialom’s success in Havana was cut short by the Cuban revolution. Just as in Egypt, where Shepheard’s hotel was considered the symbol of British dominance, The Havana Hilton became the symbol of American imperialism in Cuba. Fidel Castro and Che Guevara entered Havana in 1959 and took over the Hilton. One of the restaurants that Scialom managed became a mess hall. Once again Scialom found himself displaced. He moved to New York and worked for Hilton at the Waldorf Astoria where he entertained clients at the private Marco Polo Club, an exclusive circle whose members were required to have a net worth of $2 million. It was here that Berry joked that “Scialom found himself serving Suffering Bastards to rich bastards.” Scialom’s fame continued to grow. He traveled frequently opening bars for Hilton Hotels including Paris, Rome, London and, locally, the Statler Hotel in Washington. He was contracted by alcohol companies to create drinks. One very notable cocktail Scialom made was the Julietta for Plymouth Gin. The result was a very light and delicately balanced elixir. Back in New York, Scialom continued his odyssey at the Four Seasons and eventually made his final call at Windows on the World, a restaurant located in the then-newly opened World Trade Center. Scialom retired to Florida where he lived into his 90s. He survived to see the fall of the twin towers, which, according to Berry, he likened to the bombing of Shepheards hotel and the takeover of the Havana Hilton. While the Suffering Bastard may be Scialom’s most well-known concoction, the Julietta is a forgotten gem. Its recipe was unearthed by Berry for his upcoming book. Plymouth Julietta 1 1/4 ounces Plymouth Gin 3/4 ounce dry vermouth 1 ounce orgeat syrup 2 ounces grapefruit juice 2 ounces orange juice Shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Pour unstrained into a tall glass. Garnish with an orange slice, cocktail cherry, and mint sprig. Plymouth Gin may be purchased at Dixie Liquor (3429 M Street in Georgetown.) For more information books by Beachbum Berry visit http://beachbumberry.com or http://museumoftheamericancocktail. com
Blue Hawaii may be one of Elvis Presley’s most iconic movies. In the 1961 musical, Presley plays a young man, newly released from the Army, who is enjoying Hawaii with his surfboard, beach buddies, and girlfriend. It could be argued that this film set the tone for Presley’s film career: gorgeous women, pretty scenery, dull plots, and plenty of upbeat tunes. The soundtrack for this movie became Presley’s most successful chart album. The cocktail that shares its name follows the same basic formula. The Blue Hawaii is a visually stunning drink due to its radiant, deep blue hue. Often enjoyed by vacationers in an idyllic beach setting, it is composed of unremarkable ingredients, and when served at a tourist spot, it usually contains plenty of alcohol to keep the good times rolling. It’s one of the most requested libations in its native state. According to Jeff Berry, author of “Sippin’ Safari”, a bartender named Harry Yee invented the “Blue Hawaii” in 1957, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa in Waikiki. Yee was asked by a representative of Bols to create a drink using the company’s new Blue Curacao liqueur. After a little experimentation, the Tiki classic was born. Berry also credits Yee with being the first to use paper umbrellas and orchids as garnishes. If you follow this timeline, the drink predates the movie by four years. It is believed that Yee named the cocktail after the film’s title song, a piece first composed for the 1937 Bing Crosby film Waikiki Wedding. Few cocktails are as recognizable by their color. The brilliant sea tone comes from Blue Curacao. According to the Bols website, Curacao is a sweet liqueur distilled from a blend of herbs, sweet red oranges, bitter Curacao oranges, and Kinnow oranges. However, its distinctive tint is artificial. Curacao is also available in orange, green, and clear varieties. If you wish to try the sweet and frosty drink in context, take a trip to Honolulu where every watering hole near Waikiki serves cocktails in ornamental glasses garnished with umbrellas and tropical fruit. Visitors may sample the Blue Hawaii at its birthplace at the beachfront Hilton Hawaiian Village. The resort, which boasts multiple bars, is enjoying a recent renaissance, with scenes from the new television series Hawaii Five-O being shot on the hotel’s property. Wherever you choose to enjoy your Blue Hawaii, pick a spot with an ocean view, where you can sip your cocktail and compare its color to the vivid cerulean-colored Pacific. As you gaze at the romantic Polynesian scene of Waikiki, you’ll suddenly realize you’re a long way from Rehoboth. Normally, I don’t care much for sugary cocktails, but when caught up in the moment, this drink fits perfectly into the dreamy Hawaii experience. One word of caution, when consumed in quantity the Blue Hawaii will leave you with a temporary souvenir, much like the white mustache celebrated by milk advertisements. If your lips turn purple, don’t worry about your health. Wipe your lips with a napkin and keep drinking. Aloha! The Blue Hawaii 3/4 oz Light Rum 3/4 oz Vodka 1/2 oz Blue Curacao 3 oz Pineapple Juice 1 oz Sweet & Sour Mix Combine ingredients and mix well. If using ice, mix in a blender. Serve in a tall glass. Garnish with a pineapple slice. (Recipe from Hilton Top Chef) Ingredients to make the Blue Hawaii may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.
George Bernard Shaw once said, “Whisky is liquid sunshine.” If that is the case, then the Emerald Isle of Ireland would be one of sunniest places in the world. While the land of James Joyce has a reputation for rainy weather, the friendly country makes up for its meteorological woes with its world-renowned whiskey. From the Bushmill’s distillery north of Belfast to the lyrically named Tullamore Dew, tourists have a wide choice of whiskey distilleries and museums to visit in Ireland. One of the most frequented spots is the old Jameson Distillery in Central Dublin. I head to Jameson’s Old Bow Street distillery on a notably overcast morning looking for a way to brighten my day and ease my jetlag. Even though the sky is gray, I feel my spirits lighten as I reach the front entrance, which is tucked away in a courtyard on the West side of the River Liffey. The visitors’ center is located inside the original Jameson distillery. Whiskey was made here for nearly 200 years, until its closure in 1971. Jameson is now distilled in Southern Ireland in Middleton, in County Cork. The center has recreated the old distillery on a smaller scale. A cordial guide walks us through every step of the whiskey-making process, from malting and storing barley, to mashing and fermentation, to distilling and maturation. While I find the tour both interesting and educational, I am eager to enjoy the tasting sessions that follow. For the first part, we are presented with three distinct whiskeys—a Scotch (Johnnie Walker Black), an American bourbon style-whiskey (Jack Daniels) and Jameson. We’re encouraged to savor and compare each one. The scotch has a dry, slightly smoky taste, while the American whiskey comes in with a sweet, faintly harsh finish. Finally we try the Jameson. It boasts a smooth and full taste with floral and fruity characteristics. It finishes with a hint of vanilla. I feel like Goldilocks eating porridge, proclaiming, “This one is just right.” Before bellying-up to the bar for another sample, we are shown a flashy commercial about the different ways Jameson is served throughout the world. In Moscow Jameson is popular on the rocks while New Yorkers prefer theirs neat. Londoners drink it with ginger ale, and in Paris Jameson and Coke is a fashionable tipple. The most popular mixer in Dublin is cranberry juice. Although this seems like and odd combination, I order my drink this way. I am pleasantly surprised. The twang of the cranberry works as a delicious foil to the rich sweetness of the whiskey while not covering up its slightly oaky flavor. A squeeze of fresh orange adds a touch of warmth. This simple highball would make a great Thanksgiving or Christmas cocktail. When I leave the visitors’ center, I feel a slight spring in my step, I am ready for my remaining day of seeing the seeing the sites of Dublin – cloudy or not. As the weather in Washington begins to turn chilly and darkness comes earlier in the day, I’ll catch myself peeking over to my liquor cabinet and eyeing up my bottle of Jameson I brought home as a souvenir. Just a quick glance, gives me warm and sunny feeling. Jameson, Dublin Style I part Jameson 2 parts cranberry Squeeze of orange or tangerine Pour Jameson into a highball glass. Add ice and cranberry juice. Squeeze fruit. Stir to mix Jameson Irish Whiskey may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.
The holiday season is in full swing. Our calendars are quickly filling up with festive parties, from elaborate formal events to cozy family gatherings. For those who plan on hosting their own soiree, I’ve asked my friend Jerry LeNoir, one of the men behind the ultra cool Mr. Booze website, for some entertaining tips. Mr-Booze.com, which is dedicated to creating the perfect cocktail vibe in your home, features numerous drink recipes, historical anecdotes, music suggestions and a how-to guide for setting up your home bar. According to Jerry, the key to hosting a successful party is setting the mood and prepping ahead. “Especially during the holidays, guests should feel they’re someplace special the moment they enter the door,” he says. “Sure, it’s just a house or apartment, but with just a bit of decorating and set-up, the music on and ready to go for a couple hours, your guests can feel like they’re having a true night out.” The Mr. Booze website features Jerry’s top Christmas music picks for 2010. He describes the list, which includes tunes from Dean Martin, Ramsey Lewis and Harry Connick Jr., as, “So covered in silver tinsel and December snow that you’ll have no choice but to try a few, mix a fatty, and drift off to a time when holiday parties were called Christmas parties and candle-lit living rooms overflowed with little black dresses, sport coats, cheese puffs and pipe smoke.” Hosting a party is hard work, and in order to free up your time to mingle with your guests, Jerry suggests creating a set cocktail menu so you aren’t stuck mixing drinks all night long. Then prepare a batch or two ahead so you’ll have more time to socialize. A punchbowl is also another convenient option. One of Jerry’s favorite holiday drinks is the Northern Spy, a recipe he found in Imbibe magazine. The cocktail, which consists of Lairds Applejack, apricot brandy and cider with a cinnamon sugar rim, was invented by by Josey Packard, a bartender at Alembic, one of San Francisco’s top creative cocktail bars. Its combination of warm flavors makes it a perfect tipple to serve from Thanksgiving all the way through winter. “It’s a great looking drink for the holidays.” Jerry says. “It smells wonderful as you take your first sip; the cinnamon, applejack and cider combine in fantastic ways. It tastes just like a Christmas drink should taste: rich, spicy and flavorful. The cinnamon and sugar rim lets the drinker know that the season’s well under way.” While the story behind the drink’s moniker is unknown, Jerry projects a holiday theme into the name. “It sounds Christmassy, “ He says. “Isn’t Santa himself, when he’s spying on who’s naughty or nice…something of a northern spy?” So whether you decide to be naughty or nice this year, mix up a merry northern spy and enjoy the party. The Northern Spy 2 oz Applejack 1 oz Apple Cider ½ oz Lemon Juice ½ oz Apricot Brandy Rim a cocktail glass with lemon juice then cinnamon sugar. Mix ingredients together with ice in shaker until cold and pour into glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries. Jerry LeNoir will be one of the presenters at the Museum of the American Cocktail’s third annual Holiday Cocktail Seminar, Dec, 12 at PS-7. For more information visit Mr. Booze.com or The Museum of the American Cocktail Ingredients to make the Northern Spy may be purchased Dixie Liquor located at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.
When I was a child my mother had a punchbowl that came out on special occasions, usually around the December holiday season. The snowy white centerpiece and matching glasses where formed from Indiana milk glass molded into a leaf pattern. The cups had little red hooks that were used to hang the glasses on the side. The collection was rounded out a ruby red clear plastic ladle. It was back in the 1970’s, my mom would dress in a polyester pantsuit with flared legs and my dad would wear a plaid sport jacket with wide lapels and an even wider necktie. Mom would make Chex mix from actual cereal and the adults would nibble on deviled eggs, Jell-O salad and Ritz cracker hors d’oeuvres. While the men would stick to beer, the ladies would ladle out brightly-colored drinks with floating garnishes. If I was well-behaved I would be treated to a small cup of watered-down punch to enjoy before I was sent to bed. It sent me off into a slumber where I dreamed of hosting my own parties as an adult. When the punchbowl wasn’t in use, I begged to play with it. Unlike most young girls who hosted tea parties with their dolls, I threw lavish cocktail soirees with my eclectic group of plush animals, including an alligator, a blue elephant and a smiling watermelon. (And you thought the bar in the original Star Wars was weird.) Punchbowls were a popular entertaining vehicle for people in my parents’ generation. But the origin of punch dates back hundreds of years. According to Wayne Curtis’ 2006 book “And a Bottle of Rum,” the English made punch in India as early as 1673. The name punch most likely came for the Hindu word panch, meaning five. Ancient punches were forged from five ingredients traditionally tea, lemon, sugar, water and arrack, an Asian spirit distilled from palm sap. My mom’s punch recipe came curiously enough from 7-Up. During a recent visit, while sifting through mom’s recipe books, I came across a stained and well-used magazine insert tucked away in a cookbook. The small advertising brochure cheerily entitled “Merry Punch Bowl to You!” featured four punch recipes with photos - each in a distinctive hue – red, green, yellow and orange. The ad copy was notable dated, proclaiming, “Gay parties just naturally center around a sparkling punchbowl,” and touting 7-Up as the “magic ingredient.” Like many recipes of that era, the components concentrated on canned and premade ingredients. The 7-Up was measured in 7 oz bottles, a far cry from 20 oz super-sized single serving plastic bottles of today. However the recipes weren’t that different than the original five-ingredient “panch” formula. Just for fun during the Thanksgiving weekend, my mom and I whipped up a green batch of 7-Up Emerald Punch. We garnished the colorful mixture with pineapple rings, maraschino cherries and mini-marshmallows. We dragged out the punchbowl from storage, decorated the table festively and talked about holiday memories. This time though we left the polyester in the closet and I stayed up to finish the last glass. 7-Up Emerald Punch 1 can (46 oz) sweetened pineapple juice. 4 cans (6 oz) limeade ¼ cup honey 1 bottle gin (1/5 gallon) 12 bottles (7 oz each) 7- Up Combine pineapple juice and concentrate in punch bowl. Add honey; stir. Add gin; then 7-up. Add a few drops of green food coloring if desired; add ice. Garnish with fruit. Ingredients to make punch may be purchased at Dixie Liquor, 3429 M Street in Georgetown.
A swim up bar is not the place a cocktail snob typically goes for a quality drink. Usually this fun resort amenity is associated with mass -produced frozen drinks, made from bottled mixes thrown together in industrial size blenders to satisfy the all-you-can-drink party crowd. But at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this is not the case. This time-honored resort boasts a lengthy cocktail history. It is well known as the birthplace of the Pina Colada. Bartender Ramon “Monchito” Marrer introduced the classic coconut cocktail in 1954, at the hotel’s now-defunct Beachcomber Bar. Joe Scialom, the inventor the classic Tiki drink, the Suffering Bastard, also tended bar at the Caribe Hilton in the 1950s. Continuing this long legacy of fine mixology is Ariel Rosario, who presides over the resort’s pool bar. Rosario, a rum connoisseur, has created an extensive list of signature cocktails. He’s even improved upon the pina colada, serving it in a hollowed out pineapple, carved into a whimsical sculpture, and fashioned with a smiling pineapple and cherry face. His creations highlight the distinct flavors of local rums and the abundance of tropical fruit. According to Rosario, many people think of rum as an unsophisticated spirit because of its history with pirates and people making it at home during prohibition. But this is not true, he says. “In 1952 Puerto Rico created laws to govern the rums that are made here.” He points out. “Even the cheapest rum, if it’s made in Puerto Rico, goes through very strict regulations and processes. “ Puerto Rican rums are made from molasses and are aged for at least one year, which makes them a high quality spirit with much complexity according to Rosario. One of the most popular poolside libations is Rosario’s update on the vintage Zombie cocktail. The original Zombie was invented by Earnest Raymond Beaumont Gantt, the founder of the string of Don the Beachcomber restaurants that were popular during the Tiki era. His recipe consisted of fruit juices, liqueurs, and various rums, and it was named for its perceived effects upon the drinker. To make his Puerto Rican Zombie cocktail, Rosario uses five types of rum, four from Puerto Rico, as well as orange, pineapple, and guava and lime juices. “It has a lot of power and a lot of flavor,” he says. The beauty of Rosario’s concoction is that, despite its lengthy list of ingredients, the drinker can still detect the distinctive flavors of the various rums. “Each rum has unique flavor because of the way it is made,” he says. “So if you mix different types of rum, you will have a blend of tastes. You will notice the difference in a way you can’t achieve with other spirits.” At Rosario’s suggestion, I try the drink first from the straw for a hit of flavor from the bottom and then sip it from the rim. Each way, I notice the subtleties. The top is lighter and fruitier while the swig from the bottom has a deep warm rum twang. I can pick out a syrupy caramel hint from the Meyers, a rich vanilla tone from the Barillito, the punch from the Bacardi 151, and the pleasant mixture of fruity tastes from the infused rums and tropical juices. While the drink doesn’t necessarily taste “strong,” I stop after one, not wanting to float away from my barstool. The Puerto Rican Zombie ½ oz Meyers Dark Rum ½ oz Rum del Barillito ½ oz Don Q Limon ½ oz Bacardi Peach Red ½ oz. Bacardi 151 1 oz pineapple juice 1 oz orange juice ½ oz guava juice ½ oz lime juice Splash of grenadine Combine ingredients and mix well in a cocktail shaker. Serve in tall glass over ice. Garnish with fresh fruit. Ingredients to make the Puerto Rican Zombie may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.