I missed last month’s Mixology Monday since I was out of the country for half of the time (I need to post of my cocktail experience in Australia soon), so was glad to be able to participate in this month’s theme, From Crass to Class, as presented by Scott Diaz at Shake, Strain & Sip. The announcement in full:
The evolution of the cocktail has been a wondrous, and sometimes, frightful journey. From its humble beginning, to the “Dark Ages” of most of the later 20th century, to the now herald “Platinum
Age” of the cocktail, master mixologists and enthusiasts alike have elevated its grandeur using the best skills, freshest ingredients and craft spirits & liqueurs available. But with all this focus on “craft” ingredients and classic tools & form, it seems we have become somewhat pretentious. The focus on bitter Italian amari, revived and lost ingredients such as Batavia Arrack or Creme de Violette, the snickering at a guest ordering a Cosmopolitan or a Midori Sour; has propelled us into the dark realm of snobbery. Many scratch bars and Speakeasies have gone as far as to remove all vodka and most flavored liqueurs from their shelves. Some even go as far as to post “rules” that may alienate most potential imbibers. Remember, the bar was created with pleasing one particular group in mind: the guest. As such, this month’s MxMo LXXI theme, From Crass to Craft, will focus on concocting a craft cocktail worthy of not only MxMo but any trendy bar, using dubious and otherwise shunned ingredients to sprout forth a craft cocktail that no one could deny is anything less. There are a plethora of spirits, liqueurs and non-alcoholic libations that are just waiting for someone to showcase that they too are worthy of being featured on our home and bar shelves. So grab that bottle of flavored vodka, Jagermeister, cranberry juice, soda, neon colored liqueur, sour mix or anything else deemed unworthy of a craft cocktail, and get mixin’!
I was especially eager to throw my hat in for a couple of reasons. First, I have caught myself out being much too serious and snobby about drinks as I dive more into the craft cocktail world. I mean, seriously, how can you have a Black Truffle Negroni then not scoff at a Malibu and Coke? But I keep reminding myself it is all about enjoyment and different tastes and it’s no fun when someone looks down at something for any reason. I’m getting better, but sometimes it’s so HARD.
Second, I have been building up my bar for 6 or 7 years now and have collected a lot of junk (er, sorry, “different tastes”) over that time, especially from the early days when what I picked up at the liquor store were the bottles that were a) the cheapest and b) recognizable names to a novice (Hello, Midori!). I constantly toy with the idea of having a liquor cabinet clearing party where every drink is made with these older mixers just so I can get rid of the damn things.
So I was glad to reach to the back of the cabinet to two of my earliest acquisitions which I rarely use: the aforementioned Malibu as well as a bottle of Kahlua. From these, I present the Tapu:
- 2.0 oz. Rittenhouse Rye
- 0.5 oz. Malibu rum
- 0.5 oz. Kahlua
- 1/8 oz. lime juice
- 1/8 oz. Angostura bitters
Shake with ice and strain into coupe.
Malibu is sweet. Really sweet. I initially tried to make it more prominent in this drink, but it had a too overpowering flavor and texture (very syrupy and viscous) so I kept reducing it to the final half ounce. I matched this with the Kahlua, which I like a bit more but can also overwhelm a drink. For the base spirit, I went with a bonded rye (100 proof) which wouldn’t be dominated by these mixers. Rum might have been more obvious, but that was the reason I steered away from it.
At that point I put in the bitters to offset the treacliness. Lots of bitters. The spiciness of the Angostura played well, plus as the most common bitter I thought it worked better with the theme as opposed to pulling out some obscure “craft” bitter (not that there is ANYTHING crass about Angostura). Originally, the drink was stirred without citrus, but to go further Tiki and to add just a hint of bright acid to a heavy drink, I added a little lime and shook up the results.
For the name, I wanted something Tiki. To follow the theme in full, I went back to my first experience with anything to do with Tiki, another somewhat crass and cringeworthy item that could be found in the back of the liquor cabinet that is TV pop culture, the Brady Bunch. I watched reruns of the show as a child after school and I believe the Hawaii vacation episodes with the little Tiki idol was the first I ever knew of the cultural phenomenon that is Tiki. I might have moved on since then, but that bottle is still at the back of the cabinet right beside that bottle of “In the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room.”
So I looked up the Brady Bunch Tiki episodes and saw that one of the three was named “Pass the Tabu.” Tabu or Taboo were certainly possibilities, but a little further investigation showed that in Polynesian culture Tapu is the original form (from which we get taboo) and has a meaning that something is holy or sacred with implied prohibition. I thought that was a perfect flip of meaning for the Crass to Class theme.
And now I have a reason to pour out my Malibu for my guests without guilt, at least a half ounce at a time.