Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Sidewinder’s Fang

In the circle of life, rattlesnakes will eat foolish little chicks. But as scary as that sounds, this is a relatively tame cocktail that is not as strong as you might expect given its name. The Sidewinder’s Fang is tiki—through and through. Yet, unlike more challenging (and powerful) recipes such as the Zombie, this one is relatively easy to make once you have the right ingredients. It’s also one of those drinks that can be fun with guests when you whip up a whimsical garnish.

This recipe comes to us from the menus of history, featured at the Lanai restaurant in San Mateo, California, circa 1960, but published more recently in Jeff Berry’s Beachbum Berry Remixed. On paper, it seems simple enough, although like many tiki recipes, it features two kinds of rum. That may be a challenge worth accepting, as it never hurts to beef up your rum collection. We have discussed this topic with many people over the years and find that most folks don’t know that much about rum. It is a fun spirit category with a lot of diversity, and nothing builds your knowledge faster than exploring a few tiki drinks. The best guidance we have found comes by way of the book Smuggler’s Cove, by Martin and Rebecca Cate, proprietors of San Francisco’s famous tiki revival bar of the same name. When this drink is executed properly, the right rum choices really do make a difference.

Sidewinder’s Fang
1 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz Demerara rum
1.5 oz fresh lime juice
1.5 oz orange juice
1.5 oz passion fruit syrup
3 oz seltzer

Combine all but the seltzer in a mixer, shake with cracked ice and pour the whole works into a snifter. Carefully stir in the seltzer and add more ice as needed. Garnish with an orange “snake peel” and a sprig of mint.

We are sometimes disappointed with orange juice in cocktails, but with tiki, you often have other elements to bolster the flavor. In this case it is an equal amount of passion fruit syrup that does the trick. We absolutely love the stuff. Perhaps more tart than sweet (at least the way we make it), it is getting easier to find. Portland’s own BG Reynolds makes a very good version, and rightly so, as he uses plenty at our favorite tiki bar, Hale Pele. Before you squeeze the orange juice, it can help to cut the long snake peel. Take your time going around the entire orange carefully with a knife or make life easier and use a vegetable peeler. This kind of peel is known as a horse’s neck, but a quick trim and some holes poked with a sipper straw will transform your horse into a serpentine work of art.

With the passion fruit helping our orange juice (or is the orange just stretching out the passion fruit?) we still have a hefty portion of lime juice for balance. The seltzer gives all of the punchy flavors a chance to mellow a bit so you can really taste each element while adding a prickly bite—appropriate, don’t you think? We ran out of mint (only a minor emergency) so we subbed a fancy green glass swizzle stick. The snake would look better amongst some foliage, but it did not affect the flavor.

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Caldeiras Carcavelos
Caldeiras Carcavelos
5 years ago

Great snake! But only in the drink. If it was a snake under the cocktail table, I did not think it was such a joke!