Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Blue Hawaii

The cold, wet weeks of late winter and early spring always have us looking forward to warmer times. As we start to climb out of the dark, shorter days of the year, we tend to look for simple and refreshing recipes that remind us of summer, and nothing brightens these darker days than the tropical flavors of Tiki.

One classic that sometimes gets a bad rap is the Blue Hawaii, but made properly, this drink can be as good as any other. Most people think the controversy comes from the fact that it is blue—a rarity at the bar, even though it’s actually turquoise green. In any case, the tropical ocean hue comes from Blue Curaçao, an orange flavored liqueur from the Caribbean island that shares its name. Sure, the blue coloring is a gimmick, but a quality product made in the historical tradition from the peels of bitter citrus can and should be delicious, regardless of the color. The problem with this drink over the years has not been the artificial color of the liqueur but rather the use of commercial sour mix. As we have demonstrated in drinks like the Long Island Iced Tea, lazy sins of the past can be corrected with modern sensibility. Fresh citrus and a quality base spirit can go a long way to restoring this drink’s reputation.

Having said that, we noticed that there aren’t a lot of tiki cocktails that use vodka—an interesting coincidence given the mid-century rise in vodka’s popularity alongside an interest in the Polynesian Tiki aesthetic. It’s just that most Tiki drinks tend to call for rum—sometimes the darker the better. We will split the difference with this famous classic that mixes vodka with light rum, and in our next post we will feature vodka all the way.

Blue Hawaii
.75 oz vodka
.75 oz light rum
.5 oz blue curaçao
.66 oz lemon juice
.33 oz simple syrup
3 oz pineapple juice

Shake with ice, then pour the whole works into a tall glass. Top with more ice and serve.

We used SKYY vodka. It seemed the perfect choice given the emphasis on blue and our need to brighten the day. SKYY was recently reformulated to highlight pacific coast minerality which may be too subtle to detect here but will help fortify the bright citrus and pineapple flavors while smoothing out any distractions from the rum. The modern twist on this cocktail is lemon juice and sugar syrup in place of a commercial sour mix, and what a difference it makes! The typical ounce of sickly sour is replaced by two parts fresh lemon and one part sugar syrup for a drink that is light, nicely balanced, and a pleasure to sip.

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