Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Montego Bay

Montego Bay DetailDuring a recent visit to the Red Star Tavern in Portland, Oregon, Brandon Lockman—the creative genius behind the bar—shared his recipe for a delicious cocktail on the menu right now called the Montego Bay. On the page, the recipe itself is basically a Daiquiri variant at its heart. But as we will explain, this one is complex enough for it to land somewhere in Tiki territory alongside frightful favorites like the Zombie—although it’s not described that way on the menu. The fact that it uses Banks 5 Island Rum was enough to captivate our interest, and now that we can finally make a proper Paddington with it, we were eager for another great recipe to share.

We aren’t entirely certain why Lockman calls this the Montego Bay—perhaps geography plays a part, given the fact that Portland is located in the Northwest, and Montego Bay is a northwestern port in Jamaica. Jamaica, of course, is one of the countries contributing rum to the Banks 5 Island blend. Whatever the reason, we can’t argue with the choice when it aligns so nicely with Caribbean flavors of rum, citrus and allspice!

Montego BayMontego Bay by Brandon Lockman

2 oz Bank’s 5 Island Rum
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz grapefruit juice
.5 oz honey syrup
.25 oz pimento dram (allspice)
3 dashes absinthe bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a mint leaf.

Choosing Banks as a base spirit is akin to the manual rum blending that is common among recipes in the Tiki category. By leveraging a blended spirit from the start, we are achieving a similar effect without even trying. The complexity this brings to the glass is just the beginning. We also have a blend of citrus which is balanced with honey syrup. You can make honey syrup easily by combining equal parts of honey and warm water. Just make sure it’s thoroughly mixed before adding the half-ounce to your shaker.

In addition to the honey syrup, Lockman throws in a quarter-ounce of pimento dram, or allspice liqueur. Adding this to your cabinet is a buy-it-once affair since it’s likely to last a very long time. The potent flavor of allspice demands that it is used in tiny proportions. Yet, even a quarter ounce is enough to impart wonderful spiced aromatics and flavors. Combined with the lime and grapefruit, the effect is similar to Don’s Mix in a Zombie cocktail. Don the Beachcomber famously invented the secret recipe for the Zombie in 1934 which was later discovered to contain a mixture of grapefruit juice and cinnamon syrup. That’s very close to what we have going in the Montego Bay.

To round out the flavors and transform this from something interesting into divine inspiration requires absinthe bitters. Absinthe, as you may recall, is a powerful herbal anise-flavored spirit. To make his special bitters, Lockman combines the spirit with a healthy dose of Green Chartreuse and trace amounts of Angostura, Peychaud’s and mint bitters. Getting these flavors just right is admittedly a challenge. You might simply give up and order the drink at the Red Star Tavern, but those of you willing to experiment can attempt a close approximation using eyedroppers. After a peek at the bulk recipe for the bitters, we took the following shortcut: 1 drop of Angostura, 1 drop of Peychaud’s, 8 drops of Chartreuse, and 32 drops of absinthe. We didn’t have mint bitters, so we opted to shake the drink with a sprig of mint and double-strained it through fine mesh to help cover our tracks! The complex bitters adds an herbal anise note that works wonders with the allspice. It is truly worth the effort.

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