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Drink of the Week: Volcano Bowl

I have to start with a word of caution. If you decide to make this Drink of the Week including it's fiery presentation, proceed carefully. I have always been an advocate of responsible drinking and although that applies here too, there's no reason to come this far only to let your hair catch on fire! That being said, there are alternatives if you don't have the proper bowl or if you want to avoid the flames altogether. We'll get to that, but first, let's talk Tiki.

Over the years there have been several "bowl" style drink recipes that, for me, epitomize the laid-back attitude of tropical consumption. While I enjoy an outlandish ceramic Tiki mug filled with exotic juice and rum as much as the next beach bum, I also appreciate the idea that sometimes a drink is just so big (or so strong) that it needs to be shared with friends. During the holidays especially, why not make a cocktail that emphasizes this social experience and helps bring people together? With community bowl drinks, it's as if someone took the idea of the punchbowl and simply added straws! Now, that's a party!

For the Volcano, the extra-long straws serve the dual purpose of allowing folks to reach the drink from across the table while also preventing them from leaning over it and setting themselves on fire. That's right, as the name implies, the Volcano is supposed to be a flaming cocktail. Exciting as it sounds, the effect usually depends on a special ceramic vessel designed specifically to hold the flame (although we will explore some alternative methods).

Vintage volcano bowls like mine come from a restaurant called Orchids of Hawaii. There are others, but these turn up occasionally on eBay. The bowl itself is designed to hold this massive drink with ice. It features a center lava cone (the volcano) to hold a small amount of 151-proof spirit that you light on fire.

Volcano Bowl
6 oz grapefruit juice
2 oz lime juice
.75 oz grade A maple syrup
.5 oz simple syrup
3 oz Demerara rum
2 oz Jamaican rum
1 oz gold rum

Shake with lots of crushed ice and pour unstrained into your bowl filled with ice cubes. Add straws, and if appropriate, setup your volcano with 151-proof rum or other high-proof spirit and set it on fire. Dim the lights and carefully avoid the flames as you sip. Hula dancing is optional.

If you've never had a flaming cocktail before, it can be pretty entertaining, especially among friends or family. However, this is real fire mixed with real drinking, and it's a lot of booze—not something you want to do if you have already had a few. But what if you are willing to shoulder the responsibility yet you don't have the proper bowl? There's a great DIY method you can use to pull this off. It takes a little preparation but using any average bowl that is big enough, you can transform it into a Volcano with some crushed ice and an empty lime shell.

Take a plastic cup and place a half lime shell into the bottom, cut-face down. Then, pack it with finely crushed ice. You might even be able to get away with packing ice into a wax paper cone or a pint glass. Put this into the freezer and allow it to set up before making the drink. In a relatively short time you can take the refrozen cone out of the mold and invert it into your bowl with the lime shell on top which will hold your flaming 151-proof spirit. The frozen cinder cone should be big enough not to float as you pour in the drink, but not so tall so that it poses a risk if it falls over as it melts. You can simply set a lime shell atop a big ice cube too, but unless there's a small depression, it could slide off. An alternative is to just freeze some empty lime shells in tiny bowls of water. These can behave in the bowl like a floating candle with the lime shell again holding the flame. It's not as impressive as a crushed ice cinder cone, but it's a good backup plan.

What if you want to avoid flames altogether? It's certainly a safer option, but you can still add drama to your presentation using dry ice! Check the yellow pages for ice suppliers in your area and ask them if they have food-grade dry ice. This stuff is basically frozen carbon dioxide. It is extremely cold, so use your ice tongs. Add a big enough chunk to your bowl to keep it out of the straws, but a little will go a long way. It will sink to the bottom and start to transform directly from solid to gas. As this happens, it creates a smoke effect which can be just as fun as the flame in this drink. In this case, think of your entire bowl is the volcano crater! It's just carbon dioxide, but it's in your drink which is why you should only use food grade dry ice.

Don The Beachcomber's, St. Paul, MN

Fire or smoke effects aside, this is a tasty and traditional Tiki cocktail recipe. You can find other variations that include everything from brandy to pineapple juice, but according to Jeff "Beachbum" Berry, this is a 1970 recipe from Don The Beachcomber's location right here in St. Paul, Minnesota. The restaurant opened in 1966 in what was then the St. Paul Hilton on Kellogg Avenue. Don The Beachcomber's is gone and the hotel is now the Crowne Plaza.

4 comments to Drink of the Week: Volcano Bowl

  • Looking over the recipe, I'd probably want to bring the grapefruit juice down to the 2-4 oz range to keep the drink from getting too limp. Maybe juice a bit more simple syrup to keep the lime juice in check Otherwise, a tasty looking potion.

  • It's far from limp. In fact, with only two of us sharing it, we were pretty grateful when the ice started melting. As for the lime, the grapefruit actually helps balance it like in a Hemingway Daiquiri. The acid needs no more sugar if you leave the grapefruit alone. It's a nice delivery for six ounces of rum, but if you need more kick, blow out the flame and take a sip from the crater!

    Of course, everything is open to personal taste, and Donn Beach isn't infallible, but I think this was just fine as is. For me, that's the beauty of trying these as they were intended. On paper a recipe can look unorthodox or out of proportion which is why it can still surprise. In the end, this doesn't strike me as a thought provoker anyway. It's not something you sip and ponder the complexity. It's more of a refreshing party-in-a-bowl that you share without worry until you realize it's starting to sneak up on you.

  • [...] far as making the perfect drink goes for a bowl this size, try SummitSip’s [...]

  • […] far as making the perfect drink goes for a bowl this size, try SummitSip’s […]

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