Eventually, every cocktail enthusiast takes a turn down the tiki trail. Sometimes, it is just to try a popular recipe without full knowledge of the exotic flavors and culture that awaits. Other times, it is a deliberate exploration of ingredients and technique. In any case, a journey through mid-century Polynesian restaurant history and the recipes that remain is always worth the reward.
Success may depend on the ingredients you have on hand. Tiki by its nature often involves exotic fruits, spices and syrups, and these are not exactly common pantry items—at least for those of us who do not live on a tropical island. While we can easily get our hands on citrus, it takes additional effort for items like pineapple or passion fruit. We may also need to spend time preparing special syrups like orgeat or falernum. Tiki recipes often call for multiple spirits, so that can also lead to inventory challenges or substitutions.
We always recommend a simple approach to expanding the liquor cabinet: grow your inventory one cocktail at a time. In other words, buy only what you need to make the next cocktail that interests you. If it is a favorite, you will now have everything you need to make it at home. If it is a tiki drink that sounds good or has something you tried once somewhere, buy only what the drink requires or make items from scratch. You can always freeze what you don’t use, and chances are good that another tiki recipe will call for the same stuff.
Chief Lapu Lapu
3 oz orange juice
2 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz passion fruit syrup
1.5 oz dark Jamaican rum
1.5 oz light rum
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake to chill. Pour everything, unstrained into a brandy snifter. Add more ice to fill the glass and garnish with a “horse’s neck”—a long, curving swath of lemon peel.
We don’t really know why this cocktail is named for an old ruler of Mactan Island, a Filipino leader who killed Magellan, the famous Portuguese explorer who sought to circumnavigate the globe to find new routes for the spice trade. We do know that nobody was drinking this cocktail in 1521, and certainly not out of a hollowed-out pineapple—service that seems to be common practice for this drink. That might make more sense if it contained pineapple juice, but since serving this in an orange is out of the question, we are skipping the tedious preparation and opting for a nice brandy snifter. Let’s be honest, even though tiki glassware is subject unto itself, these recipes have enough going on without the need to complicate things with a weird glass. This time, we just wanted a big fishbowl.
The ingredients here are mostly straightforward with one exception. The problem item is the passion fruit syrup. Specialty syrups like this one are getting easier to find at better liquor suppliers. We recommend BG Reynold’s, but this is an item we make ourselves using passion fruit purée and simple syrup. The purée is not easy to obtain—you can find it in specialty markets (although we never have) or buy it online in bulk, vacuum sealed or frozen. Mix it 1:1 with simple syrup (or a little heavier on the purée for a tart version). We love the stuff, but homemade passion fruit syrup does not last long in the refrigerator so we keep most of our purée frozen and thaw only what we need for a small batch.
This cocktail is a fantastic weekend sipper and it is delicious right down to the last drop. Orange juice falls flat in classic cocktail formulas, but in a tiki recipe, there are often other ingredients to help it. In this case, the orange perks right up with the tart intensity of the passion fruit, and together with the lemon, this makes a balanced delivery system for lots of rum. This is a big drink, so add plenty of ice to keep it cold and refreshing and by the time you are done you will appreciate the the dilution.