Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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The Smakatoa Cocktail

Wow. You’re old, but you’re built like a brick shithouse. That’s hot.

~ spectacularly unsuccessful Long Beach suitor

A story in which Rowley, weights, and rum come together. Rum wins.

Yesterday was the first real day back at the gym in a month. May’s trip to New Orleans got me out of a habit that used to find me there five days a week, usually before dawn. Oh, I’ve gone and hit the treadmill, desultorily moved some weights around a few days a week, but not really dug in like I meant it.

Yesterday afternoon, I very nearly dropped to my knees and hurled right there next to the pec deck. Maybe it’s the unusually hot weather we’ve been having, or the cold water I was drinking, but I was liking the gym a whole lot less than usual.

Now I don’t work out so I can have some fancy sculpted physique. Far from it. No, I go because I love to eat and drink. If gluttony were searching for a poster boy, I’d definitely get a callback. See, I go to work off the calories I consume from gumbo, roast pork, biscuits, duck confit, bacon, sausages, pancakes, carne asada, guisados from my favorite Mexican lunchateria, chicken-fried steak, and buckets of cocktails…why, if I didn’t, I’d be big as and noxious a FEMA trailer.

So it was with particular delight that I whipped up a tiki-inspired cocktail when I got home. To settle my stomach, you understand. After all, it was hot as blazes, a perfect day for a refreshing rum cocktail, and I’d just burned through a mess of calories. Time to tank up on more.

Why rum? About two months back, I’d visited the Puka Bar in Long Beach, California. Didn’t even know it existed and ended up having a fantastic time. Live rockabilly music, fun crowd, and—as my photographer buddy Jim Ezell put it—“authentic” tiki cocktails.

Now, we’ll set aside for the time being notions of authenticity and tiki. They did have some standards (scorpions, mai tais, zombies) along with newer concoctions such as the snow monkey (Cazadores tequila, banana liqueur, pineapple juice, and coconut snow) to catch the eye (and assault the liver).

It was a serendipitous dovetail with the tiki mulling I’d been having for the past several months—reading Jeff "Beachbum" Berry’s great books on tiki cocktails (see below), attending Paul Tuennerman's birthday party at Celebration Distillation (home of Old New Orleans Rum), drinking much rum at home, having an ancient mariner cocktail up at Dr. Cocktail’s (the Beachbum's recipe), and thinking tiki thoughts in general, so when I saw a half-gallon jug of mango puree at Costco a few weeks ago, I bought it and began adding rums in controlled experiments.

Named after the Indonesian island Krakatoa, but with an ability to smack your ass off the porch for its size if you indulge in more than one, I’ve dubbed this

The Smakatoa

4 oz Pyrat XO Reserve rum (Bacardi 8 or Appleton's are also nice)
4 oz Naked mango puree
½ oz falernum*
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 oz seltzer

Mix the first four ingredients in a pint glass. Add ice cubes to within an inch of the brim, stir with a bar spoon, top with seltzer, give it a quick swirl with a spoon, and serve immediately.

I’m not a big fan of seltzer in cocktails, but this helps to lighten the thick mango puree admirably, making it better suited to leisurely summertime drinking.

* Falernum is a West Indies syrup that finds its way into many, many mid-century cocktails, but which is a little tricky to find today. Fee Brothers makes a non-alcoholic version, and there’s the 11% abv Bajan Velvet Falernum you can find in some liquor stores. But a lot of cocktail enthusiasts are making their own versions with infusions of lime, almonds, ginger, and other ingredients in overproof rum. Older cookbooks also include it under alternate spellings such as valernum and falerium. It pays to scan carefully.

Goes well with:



Anonymous said...

Matt - you should change the link for the Velvet Falernum, as that site from the now defunct importer is soon to be shut down. Until the new brand site is running, you may want to change the link to alpenz.com. Thanks, Eric

Matthew Rowley said...

Eric ~

Thanks for the heads up. I'll trade you one. If you have any Herbsaint around the house, skip the seltzer and give the drink no more than two dashes (i.e., bitters-sized dashes) of that New Orleans spirit. Any more than that and it hijacks the drink, but just that scant amount transforms it from a delicious summer cocktail to an entirely new taste that goes down so, so smoothly...

~ Matt

Matthew Rowley said...

We have also discovered that 3-4 drops of absinthe is not a horrible addition. Smakelijk!