The Cutting of the Grapefruit

May 4th, 2011 by Colonel Tiki

It’s no secret I adore grapefruit. I’ve even been caught, in public, saying quite embarrassing things about the depths of my love. It’s a love that cuts deep. Today I’ll show you just how deep you should cut and prepare your fruit.

I apologize, dear reader. We are at the very tail end of a glorious white grapefruit1 season, so you very likely won’t be able to get your hands on such a glorious globe as the one pictured here. Fear not! The prep advice offered below is even more appropriate when used on inferior yet widely available red varietals.

The Center Cannot Hold

The center of citrus fruit is roughly analogous to the umbilical cord; it is the highway for nourishment to reach the segments. This marvelous cell structure is responsible for the delicious contents of the fruit, yet it alone is horribly distasteful. The flavor is nearly only strong bitterness. It should be removed. It also imparts a bitter flavor outward into the fruit – the juice sacs adjacent should also be removed. You can see the area below in green on mouse-over:

How to Field-Strip a Grapefruit

So here’s how to do it:


1. Cut through the fruit at just below half, where the fruit bulges the most.


2. Cut each of these two pieces again in half, through the central column.


3. Cut these quarters in half again, carefully through the central column.


4. Here you can see the 1/8th of fruit with the column still attached.


5. Cut through the juice sacs and remove the bitter central column with adjacent sacs.


6. Each such prepared 1/8 of a normal-sized grapefruit should yield ¾oz of flavorful juice2.


And that’s how you do it! If in a hurry, only 4 cuts are needed to have a 1/8 segment, ready to juice. Grapefruit a la minute.

  1. and pomello/grapefruit []
  2. just enough for a Navy Grog! []

Drinks of Strong Contrast

April 29th, 2011 by Colonel Tiki

Everyone has a flavor profile that they adore. As I’ve talked about before, the lion’s share of us tiki mixologist folk are non-tasters. This means that we love strong and complex flavors because our tongues are myopic1. Blair is a fan of heavy spice and strong citrus epitomized by the Nui Nui, for example. I do love that profile, but my heart is in drinks of high contrast.

Tenebrism

I’m talking about elevated high notes right next to deep base and dark tones, such as the profile you’ll find in my Dark Magic. In that particular recipe, the lime and pineapple are highly contrasted against the Jamaican rum and coffee syrup. This realization led me to delving into the idea of making a drink that really pushes this idea. The art history geek in me made the name. It’s Tiki, so I hope you’ll not be daunted by the ingredient list.

Tenebrist

1 oz Coruba Jamaican Rum
½ oz Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum
½ oz Cynar
1/8 oz Fernet Branca
¾ oz fresh white grapefruit juice
¾ oz fresh pineapple juice
½ oz Trader Tiki Cinnamon Syrup
dash aromatic bitters
8 drops herbsaint

Shake with crushed ice and serve in a double rocks glass, garnish with grapefruit peel and cinnamon stick

  1. If I can be allowed to mix metaphors []

The Trouble With Orange Juice – Part II

October 29th, 2010 by Colonel Tiki
This is the first in a series of articles on Citrus.

In Part I, I discussed how squeezing fresh juice from common oranges is a poor choice for orange juice, and suggested an easy (though seasonal) solution in a few good varietals suited for juice. We all need to be aware of the method of production of the processed orange juice product.

The Queasy Fix: Processed Orange Juice

orange_frankTo be candid, processed orange juice is Frankenstein’s monster. It doesn’t really matter if it is from concentrate (FCOJ) or not from concentrate (NFC).  The juice may have been freshly squeezed at one time, but the journey it takes to your jigger renders it far from “fresh squeezed.”

In her book, Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange JuiceAlissa Hamilton1, a recent Food and Society Fellow with the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, describes the NFC process. Here’s the scoop:

Freshly squeezed juice is first centrifuged to remove the oils.2 Next, after pasteurization, the most production popular method de-oxygenates the juice for protection against spoilage. This is because all the excess Valencias (in Florida and Brazil) are processed and held in huge aseptic tanks for storage and use when not in season.

This volume keeps the NFC OJ available year-round. Since removing the oxygen destroys almost all organic-compound flavors in the juice, producers purchase flavor packs from fragrance and flavor companies. The product is re-flavored and shipped to you.

From concentrate orange juice doesn’t get de-oxygenated, but it does get superheated to remove excess water. This process destroys flavors so producers purchase flavor packs from fragrance and flavor companies.3 Sound familiar? The concentrate is frozen and stored to reconstitute and bottle, or sold directly to you in the add 3 cans of cold water containers we all grew up with.

So should you avoid processed orange juice products? It’s up to you. Personally, I do use it in certain circumstances. It all comes down to the taste: Some producers have a relatively decent flavor pack combination that mimics fresh Valencias enough to be a substitute. I call on Frankenstein when all I can find is out-of season or boring common oranges, or if you cannot find a local fresh4 juice in jugs at your Whole Joes, or if you only have convenience stores or mega-grocery-marts near you and you have an OJ emergency.5

Coming in the third and final part, I’ll go into fresh juice products and my own personal recommendation for the orange juice conundrum.

Edit: Please consider purchasing Squeezed:

  1. Who is a very nice person to email []
  2. which are sold to the same market where fragrance and flavor companies shop for raw natural ingredients []
  3. http://www.ultimatecitrus.com/oj.html []
  4. where fresh means sell-by-date ranges of 3 days or so []
  5. it happens more that I’d like to admit []

The Trouble With Orange Juice – Part I

October 25th, 2010 by Colonel Tiki
This is the first in a series of articles on Citrus.

oranges_and_orange_juiceWithin cocktail circles, ‘fresh squeezed’  (or a la minute if you will) is the rallying cry for citrus. While I am not one to go against this, with all rules there are exceptions. This particular exception is the eponymous orange.

Freshly squeezed orange juice is in most cases insipid and may well ruin your cocktail. Oh my, that’s a strong statement (even with the qualifying clause)! Let me explain why I find it to be true.

The Orange Scene

First, let us consider the fruit itself. Most of us would first reach for an orange for orange juice and hand squeeze it at the point of service. This can really bite you in the ass, and you should blame the produce industry. Modern produce propagation is mainly concerned with yield, ease of harvest, appearance, and shelf life. Please note that “flavor” is not amongst them. Not to say that flavor is unimportant; as long as the flavor is non-offensive it is acceptable.

The most popular use for whole orange is for eating directly or zesting; not juicing. The most common nonseasonal1 varietal is the “common sweet orange,” followed by the Bahia Navel. Both of these have good features for our use: They are pleasing to eat, the rind2 contains decent oils and produces flavorful zest. The juice is almost always insipid on each. Use these lovely looking fruit for garnish and oil expression but please don’t juice them for use in your drink.

The Easy Fix: Varietals

Now, I’m sure many reading would be quick to point out the well known varietal Valencia is chiefly for juicing and this truth is the start of our journey. Most things growing in the ground have a peak of their flavor at a certain time of the year even when they produce year round.3 Valencias are no different. Their season (in the most liberal range) is from the end of spring until the beginning of autumn: One third of a year at most. Yes, you can likely find Valencias year round but as with the Navel and generic above4, Off-season or shipped oranges are usually poor specimens for juicing.

Other varietals can help fill in the gaps in the year, and here are some to consider if they are available at your local Whole Joes:

800px-caracaranavelorangesCara Cara: California:
Season: Late Autumn – Spring

This cross between two Navel varietals5 shows dark orange color and complex juice flavor. Most available come from California or shipped from Venezuela. You should favor the closer locality: everywhere should now be declaring the source of produce. The rind is thin yet produces good oils, I would suggest zesting for culinary uses rather than twists or expression.

Hamlin OrangesHamlin: Florida & California
Season: Mid Autumn – Mid Winter

This lovely little orange made it through the great freeze of 1875-6 which destroyed most other orange crops and plants. It has a high juice yield of a light, flowery orange flavor with undertones of honey. I prefer these oranges for the Nui Nui. The rind is thin and of little use, though it does aid in pliability for good juicing.

valencia-orangesValencia: California & Florida
Season:
Late Spring – Early Autumn

Orange Juice products are produced from Valencia stock in season: While at the peak you cannot beat a good Valencia for the quintessential flavor of fresh juice. The rind is thinner than Navels yet still can yield good oil expression.

Note:

It isn’t impossible to find an accessible Navel or general sweet when in season from November to March. Your chances will improve greatly by looking for these characteristics: location, weight, color. The locality should be your closest coast line state: California or Florida. The weight should be heavy for its size – it should feel dense. The color should be as close to green as possible. All oranges are green in their native tropics: colder climes and senescence cause the process that lead to the reveal of the orange color. Yes. Oranges are green.

What are other options?

In Part II, orange juice products – both from concentrate or not from concentrate will be presented as possible replacements for fresh orange juice.6

  1. more like grown everywhere on earth in conventional or forced methods then shipped. []
  2. The proper term is ‘flavedo’ which I adore, but find twee to use in the common parlance. Footnotes are a place where my fancy flies free. []
  3. such as the first spring sprigs of mint []
  4. Both of these have the height of season in the winter. At their peak, the juice raises from insipid to ‘OK’ []
  5. Washington and Bahia []
  6. SHOCK HORROR []

ROUX and the Backyard Revival

August 25th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

As you all know, I work at Thatch tiki bar in Portland. I’m lucky enough to work with Mr. Zorn Matson who (amongst other innumerable wonderful things) has enabled me to meet fabulous people.

One fine Wednesday evening a few months ago, I was lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Molly Finnegan, who as well as being a close friend of Zorn, is the Bar Manager of ROUX. I was quite excited to meet Molly as I’d heard of her through her drink that Zorn makes, the “Joie de Pimms.”

ROUX (Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez) is an amazing restaurant in North Portland serving up Louisiana Style New Orleans cuisine. ROUX has been a lovely treat of mine. I recently returned from Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. I have to preface that I’m not an expert on Louisiana cooking (I’ll defer to my friend Chuck Taggart for that). However, I feel right back on Decatur Street at ROUX.

Molly and Zorn and company like to get together on Sunday and relax in a backyard of one of their friends. It was at one of these lucky gatherings that Zorn and Molly created the below drink, which has been come to be known as the Backyard Revival.

Taking chilies from her garden and fresh pineapple muddled, mixed with lime and Martin Miller’s Gin, Molly made me this one fine Thursday at ROUX. I got clearance to share it with you after asking (begging) politely with her: Enjoy the end of summer with the simple yet complex Backyard Revival.

The lime and pineapple mix with the lovely citrus aspect of the Miller’s – but before you can linger on that, the chili comes in at the finish to demand you take another sip. The fruit of the chili continues to underscore the other flavors as you finish your tipple. Unbelievably remarkable.

Backyard Revival

Martin Miler's Gin

~¼ cup fresh pineapple (6 pieces canned if you must)
1-2 slices Thai “Bird’s Eye” chili (add to your preferred heat level)
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
2 oz Martin Miller’s Gin

Muddle together the chili and pineapple in a mixing glass. Add the lime, syrup, gin, and 6 oz ice. Shake and strain into cocktail glass rimmed with fine or confectioner’s sugar.

MxMo August — Local Flavor

August 11th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

I met the wonderful Kevin at Tales of the Cocktail, though I’ve been reading Save the drinkers for quite a while now.  I wish I had more of a chance to chat, but Tales is a hard mistress. He’s hosting this Month’s MxMo — Local flavor. We’re neighbors: Kevin’s over in Idaho and I’m here in Oregon.

Summer means many things in Portland: Block Parties, River boating, Festivals. It also means Berries. Though not botanically berries1 , I will not let semantics get in the way of the berry orgy of summer. Blackberries, Boysenberries, Blueberries, Marionberries. Yum.

Now this is not virgin ground I tread on. The common love of summer berries is wide in portland and naturally many more have gone before me. Yes, great minds think alike and fools seldom differ.

Sauvie Island. It sits in the Willamette mere yards from Portland proper. It’s a destination for nude beach sun worshipers, niche landscapers and fans of produce. Kruger farms has a gorgeous u-pick farm that Heather and I frequent as much as possible each summer. They have bands every Thursday, BBQ on the weekends and rows and rows of delicious summer berries.

Heather and I recently went picking. I for this month’s MxMo, she for jam and pickles. We’ve been Jamming for about eleven years since we lived in Petaluma where our house had an out-of-control Himalaya blackberry  bush that over produced. We have to put up jars of jam each year to satisfy the yearly appetite of our family and friends.

vineberry blueberry flat

Strolling through the vineyards at Kruger on a temperate Saturday is a summer Portland Experience. I have to admit an occasional taste test as we picked – I hope that’s not too frowned apon. With the standard Blackberry, we also picked the long compact Kotataberry (a blackberry varietal), and the upward-growing thorn-free Waldoberry (another blackberry varietal). Blueberries are also a must after the success of our Blueberry-lime jam. I think there might be angry villagers with torches if we fail to get that out for Christmas presents.

So, what’s a mixologist to do with these gorgeous berries? I get crap all the time from some people for the rum-heavy nature of my posts. I’ve also done rum and blackberry before. I wouldn’t dare to think of hiding the delicate flavors of these berries with rum. Vodka would be far too insipid for mixing. Gin? Yes, gin. Aviation Gin2 to be precice. Aviation has a citrus body that I feel mixes well with berries.3

blueberries kotataberries waldoberries

I’ve always loved the illustration for the Julep in Jerry Thomas’s Bon Vivant’s Companion. The bouquet of mint and berries dusted with powdered sugar delights me. You can take the rum out of the Tiki mixologist, but you can’t take the garnish lover out of the … never mind. I get enough crap out of my Rum fixation, I don’t need to give any more ammunition for the simpering anti-garnishers so they can poo-poo as they clutch their pearls.4

Summer Berry Smash

So I present to you the Summer Berry Smash. Berries, vanilla, mint, lemon and Gin: A taste of Portland in the Summer. A taste of my Summer. Close your eyes and enjoy. It will soon be raining again.

Summer Berry Smash

Summer Berry Smash

¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz vanilla syrup
8-10 Oregon Blackberries (I used Waldoberries & Kotataberries)
10-12 Oregon Blueberries
10 mint Leaves
2 oz Aviation Gin
Charged water

Muddle mint softly with small shot of charged water in mixing glass. Add slice lemon and berries and muddle again. Add ice, Gin, Syrup, and Lemon juice and shake. Strain into pint glass filled with crushed ice and top with Charged water and stir. Garnish with bouquet of mint, lemon wheel, orange wheel and whole berries. Top with a dusting of powdered sugar.

  1. Don’t get me started: tecnhically, the cane berries we’re fond of are actually aggregate drupes. Blueberries are false berries, similar to the pepo of cucumbers and bananas. This is style of fruit, not genetic family []
  2. also a local product of House Spirits []
  3. others agree []
  4. Notice the pursed mouths and the attitudes the next time one of them goes on their rants, as is their wont []

Cocktail Garnishes From Functional to Fabulous!

July 19th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

This morning has been wonderful. Trader Tiki, Kaiser Penguin and I ‘tended at Jeff Berry‘s “Potions of the Caribbean.” I helped Martin Cate unpack teeny tiny ice cones, and I’ve batched drinks for Jeff Berry. I’m pooped, but I’ll here is the live blogging Martin Cate’s “Cocktail Garnishes: From Functional to Fabulous”

2:24 — Martin and Jeff Berry are setting up and getting things in order. Martin has just carved through a pineapple and is now prepping lemons.

2:27 — Rick “Kaiser Penguin” Stutz: “Martin has angry knives.”

2:31 — Martin starts with The Kids in the Hall’s “Girl Drink Drunk” to introduce the garnish. He brings up the old canard of the revolutionary bar maid placing a rooster feather in a drink and naming it a “cocktail.” Nonsense, yes — but the drink was originally a garnish.

2:45 — Martin introduces the “Sidewinder’s Fang” as an example of a horses neck. This is a peel of citrus that is placed into the drink and winds its way close to the edge, just peeking out of the top. In this instance, it is an orange peel giving the appearance of a snake winding about the drink. These garnishes are meant to serve as conversation pieces. These are garnishes for excitement and discussion.

Sidewinder’s Fang
1oz El Dorado 5 Yr. Demerara Rum
1½ oz Fresh lime juice
1½ oz Fresh orange juice
3 oz Fever-Tree Soda Water
1½ oz Passion fruit syrup

2:47 — Harry Yee of Henry Kaiser‘s Hawaiian Village Hotel: “I was the first person to use orchids – you know why? we used to use cane sticks. People used to chew on them and put them in the ashtray and they used to get the ashtray all sticky. I did it just to make cleaning up easier.”

2:54 — The ice cones come out. Martin displays the ingenious method of ice carving with a Snoopy Snow Cone machine. We are served Navy Grogs with miniature ice cones.

Navy Grog
1 oz Cruzan Estate Light Rum
1 oz Old New Orleans Amber Rum
1 oz El Dorado Demerara 5 yr old
1 oz Fever-Tree Preium Spring Club Soda
¾ oz Fresh lime juice
¾ oz Fresh grapefruit juice
1½ oz Honey Syrup

2:56 — Jeff Berry comes to the podium. He is demonstrating the ice cone technique. The ice needs to be small and snowy. First a waring professional ice machine crushes they ice. Next Jeff puts the ice into a cuisinart to reduce the ice to tiny little pieces. This is packed into a pilsner glass with a chopstick to make room for the straw. Freeze this for a minimum of four hours before use.

3:05 — Next ice garnish: place a cut lime flat side dowin into a cocktail shaker and pack with ice. Freeze for four hours, invert and remove the shell. Place a carved shell in the hole, fill with 151 rum and place in a bowl drink. Light on fire for a wonderful contrast of fire and ice.

3:11 — Jeff Berry: “If the drink tells a story, keep the garnish linked to it” For example, Donn Beach’s “Three dots and a dash (…-, V). Morse code for V and code for victory during world war II, the garnish consists of 3 maraschino cherries and an extended pineapple piece.

3:27 — Fresh Mint. Martin is back. Mint’s main enemy is oxygen. Heat does not cause wilting: exposure to air does. Always remember to slap the mint to release the oil before placing in the drink.

3:34 — The Peelers showed up and we each experimented making a horse’s neck. I don’t want to brag, but mine was the biggest.

3:36 — Oregon Natural Maraschino Cherries: no sulfides, no f,d&c red. Red color is due to beet juice.

3:45 — Pure lemon extract soaked croutons produce a marvelous flame. I’ve just seen a slide of the most fabulously garnished Bloody Mary. Garnishes included bacon and crab legs.

3:50 — This just in: Morgenthaler slipped in at the end to note Martin mentioning him. Slipped back out. He must be headed back to the pool.

p.s. the last drink:

For Pete’s Sake
1 ½ oz Barsol Pisco
½ oz Cherry Heering
½ oz Hibiscus Syrup
1 Dash Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters
¾ oz Fresh lime juice
½ oz Partida Agave Nectar

An update without a drink picture? That’s unpossible.

February 18th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

Well the free time was cutting into my rum reserves anyway.

The new house and the new (2nd) job has been cutting into my drinking time. I’ve only made Last Words and quick Donn-like long tiki drinks. I didn’t even take pictures. Heres a quick outline of what I do when I just throw something together

Quick’n’Loose ‘Donn’ Style Double Drink

  • 2-3 oz citrus (e.g. 1oz each lime, orange, grapefruit)
  • Up to 1.5 oz of spiced syrups and or sweetener (e.g. 1/4 pimento dram, 1/4 vanilla syrup, 1 oz honey mix)
  • 2-3 oz rums in matching flavor to your modifiers above (e.g. 1 oz Jamaica Dark, 1 oz Demarara, 1 oz Virgin Islands gold)
  • 6 drops Herbsaint
  • Dash bitters
  • Plenty of cracked ice

Add ingredients to mixing glass, top with cracked ice. Shake and pour into double rocks glass.

As my whims move me and what I see first is what drives the flavors – Cinnamon, Honey, Grapefruit. Orange, Vanilla, Pimento Dram. I’ll usually guide the rums after that.

So what kept me so busy? The new job at Thatch. I have my official schedule now. I’ll be there Wednesday and Thursday nights. But, don’t be surprised to not see me behind the bar.

I have an extended training program there – since I’m a newbie, and even though I have the knowledge and skills, I need to prove myself. The actual working group and lead ‘tenders want me to move my way up before I’m lone man behind the bar. And you know what? I totally agree with them. I’m not that young upstart who thinks he knows everything. I have knowledge that I’d love to share and use to help make Thatch a better place; But here’s the catch: I have no real experience of knowing when or where to apply it for their business. That will come in good time, and I’m patient. There’s plenty of work to do there, helping to make thatch the best thatch that it can be. I’m happy to have the opportunity to be an agent for positive change.

And you know what else? I love it. I freaking love it. When it’s hectic and I don’t know exactly what to do and when to do it, I love it. When I feel like I’m asking the 100th stupid question of my co-workers, I love it. The group at thatch are wonderful hardworking folks. It’s very much like a ship, each cog running its course for the whole. I’m just lucky I seem to have a talent for analyzing systems, recognizing how to make them more efficient, and positively affecting (to borrow some corpspeak) that change. It just takes positive attitude, patience and hard work.

Liqueurs, Oh My!

January 4th, 2008 by Colonel Tiki

A few months ago, my lovely Wife found a nifty little book, Classic Liqueurs: The Art of Making & Cooking with Liqueurs by Cheryl Long and Heather Kibbey. It’s full of fun and interesting recipes on mock-creations of your favorite liqueurs.

Taken from the book, my 2 latest endeavors are below:

Orange curaçao tincture

Orange Curaçao

1 cup dried (bitter) orange peel
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 cups cognac

¾ cups ea. sugar and water

Combine cognac, orange juice, orange peel, and coriander in aging container (mason jar works well). Shake daily and keep in cool, dark place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, drain using sieve, cheesecloth or other fine mesh strainer. Make 1:1 simple syrup and combine with tincture when cool. Age at least 3 months.

I adjusted the recipe in book to suit my tastes: the book has you use a grain-neutral spirit. I wanted to use cognac in my first test. I just put it up a few days ago and I did test the flavor: Delicious, but incredibly bitter. I’m hoping the aging will take the edge off that bitterness (as I assume the aging will do). I’ll let you know in April how it tastes.

The next little guy I made yesterday. Blair made this last month and I was lucky enough to get a bottle for Christmas. It is an attempt to re-make the now lost Forbidden Fruits liqueur.Pumelo I know Blair was disappointed with the recipe and only afterwards learned that the main fruit used was the pomelo (pumelo, pumello) or “Shaddock Grapefruit.” it is not the grapefruit we all know and see half-cut on on plate or pushed into Mae Clark’s face. Apparently, our grapefruit is a hybrid of the pomelo and an orange (much like our lime is a hybrid of a lemon and a key lime). Look at the pith on a pomelo (right)! Also that is my hand so you can see the size (it’s the size of a baby’s head). I decided to give the old recipe a try with my own changes to see if I could get it closer. Cocktail DB lists the flavour profiles as citrus, honey, brandy.Forbidden Fruit Liqueur I used a pomelo instead of grapefruit, and replaced the lemon rind with pomelo rind. I also replaced the sugar in the recipe with honey. I also replaced the vodka/brandy mix with a cognac/brandy mix. Because I love Donn’s Spices so much, I added one stick of Ceylon cinnamon to marry with the Vanilla. You first create a syrup of the citrus rinds, juices, spices and honey. Bring this to a boil, then simmer. This is then added to the aging container with the brandy and cognac for 3 weeks. The last week is spent straining and clarifying. The recipe I used is roughly:

Forbidden Fruits Liqueur (approximation)

2 Pomelos, rind of 2 and juice of 1
3 Oranges, rind of 1 and juice of 3
1 Lemon, rind and juice
1 Vanilla pod, split lengthwise
1 Ceylon Cinnamon stick, crushed
2 Cups honey

1 Cup Cognac
1 Cup Brandy

I think I’ll have a winner here. The pomelo and honey together were a combination that was instant alchemy. The simmering pot of syrup had such a magical, forbidden scent I wish I could explain it more. Similar to donn’s spices, yet with a character fresh and enticing. I can’t wait for February on this one.

Coming next? Results of the Simple Syrup experiment, announcement of the Falernum experiment (making falernum with the cold- and hot-method simple syrups), and the canning-processed falernum experiment. Of course, more cocktail recipes, liqueur recipes and trials, and as always the witty banter you’ve come to dread.

-=C

p.s. Falernum #3, just out of batch is the best I’ve made yet. I’ll divulge the secret ingredient if the Wife doesn’t kill me (it was her idea).

Cassia vs. Cinnamon and Donn the Beachcomber

November 6th, 2007 by Colonel Tiki

At some point, in North America (at least the U.S.A. and Canada), Cinnamon was replaced by its much less expensive cousin, Cassia. The taste, while similar enough for many uses, is definitely noninterchangeable for most cocktail recipes. The trick is to know which to use and when to use it.

Cassia
Cassia (Cinnamomum Cassia) is thick and red-brown in color and is what you’ll most likely get when you purchase cinnamon in a regular grocery store. The flavor is strong, sharp and hot. It is a perfect choice for baking or where you only want to taste only Cinnamon. However, it will quickly overpower any balanced drink when you use it in syrup (or purchase Cinnamon syrup made with Cassia).

Ceylon

Ceylon or ‘true’ Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) is light brown and has the consistency of paper. It will easily give and break apart in your hand. The flavor has essences of citrus and is mellow, warm. It shines in chocolate, mulling, and especially in your mixed drinks. This is the Cinnamon you’ll want for making or purchasing syrup. You can find it cheaper in the Mexican food section of your market labeled as “Canela.” I get mine from Penzey’s.

When making the Donga Punch from Sippin’ Safari, I decided to perform an experiment. I mixed one drink using the Cassia syrup, and the other with Ceylon Cinnamon. The Cassia version tasted exceedingly of the sharp, spicy notes I love in a Cinnamon roll. The drink, however, was unbalanced. I did manage to finish it. The Donga containing Ceylon Cinnamon was properly balanced and delicious. The Ceylon supported the flavor profile, enhanced the rum, and contrasted nicely with the Grapefruit. In the other version, the grapefruit flavor was lost to the overbearing zing of Cassia.

Further experiments at Blair’s Galley with the Nui Nui bore the same results. Donn drinks seem to call for Ceylon Cinnamon, not Cassia. It makes me wonder: Did Cassia replace Cinnamon in common domestic use after the creation of these classic Tiki drinks? Did Ray Buhen and Donn’s other boys use only true Cinnamon, coming from a cuisine and culture that did not conflate the two? Bears research I say.

Not to say that Cassia has no role in drink making. I still add it (very carefully) to hot rum batter (with as much care as I would cloves, the other flavor killer in high doses), Coffee Grog (not the batter, pinch-wise while making the drink), and for light toppings of other hot drinks when I think the recipe calls for a light smack of the ‘heavy stuff.’

I’m just happy I’ve made a discovery that has improved my mixology, and I hope I pass it on to you and yours.

Cheers!

-=C