Missionary’s Downfall

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by Matt Robold on June 7, 2012

Something that’s best described as refreshing, herbal, and delicious? Now that sounds like a drink I could get behind. Throw in one of the greatest cocktail names ever and how could anyone resist the siren call of a Downfall?

The Missionary’s Downfall first appeared in Don The Beachcomber’s back in 1940s, though Jeff “Beachbum” Berry notes in his masterful Beachbum Berry Remixed that the drink could go back as far as 1937. Regardless of its age, it’s one of Don’s greatest masterpieces, which is saying something because that guy was a one-man Louvre of cocktails.

Missionary’s Downfall

1 oz White Rum
1 oz Honey Mix*
.5 oz Peach Brandy
.5 oz Lime Juice
.25 cup Diced Fresh Pineapple
.25 cup Mint Leaves
.75 cup Crushed Ice

Combine in a blender and blend at high-speed for 20 seconds. Pour into a goblet or coupe. Garnish with mint sprig.

A unique and delicious drink, the Misisonary’s Downfall established itself as a mandatory drink in any Tiki bar rather quickly. From Don’s it found its way into places like the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (where it was posted on the menu as the Missionary’s Doom) and the Tiki Ti in Hollywood, California. In fact, the Missionary’s Downfall was the first drink I ever had at the Tiki Ti – and it has forever held a very special place in my heart because of that, even if I did learn that their Downfall isn’t an According To Hoyle Downfall later on.

It helps that the drink is delicious. As the Bum points out in his book, Don was one of the first mixological geniuses to embrace the farm-to-bar idea of fresh herbs and produce being mixed into cocktails. He was so far in the front of the line that this Market Fresh idea wouldn’t really catch on again for 70 more years.

And as expected, Don did this with aplomb. The Downfall sits in that interesting spot of being just sweet enough with a good herbal kick from the mint. It’s light and refreshing and impossible to share – I don’t care who says it’s a drink that serves two, get your own damned drink.

About the only thing that I don’t really like about the Missionary’s Downfall is the fact that it really does require a blender. There are plenty of Tiki drinks that call for blenders that can be hand-shaken if you’re willing to work hard enough to find the right amount of crushed ice and then shake for upwards of 90 seconds straight to generate the right texture, temperature, and dilution. The Downfall, though, is not one of these. You can’t get the drink right without making the mint, ice, juice, booze, and pineapple into a single, slushy substance. That’s just not something you can really do by hand unless you possess some interesting super powers.

So this means that you’re unlikely to get a Missionary’s Downfall in most bars unless they happen to be full-fledged Tiki bars with full-fledged blenders to mince and dice and puree and crush all of those wonderful ingredients into your goblet.

The other thing you’re going to need is that mysterious “Honey Mix” you see listed. Before you start groaning and thinking, “Great, another trip to B.G. Reynold’s web store for yet another purchase,” take a deep breath and smile. If you can make simple syrup – hell, if you can boil water – you can make Honey Mix.

*Honey Mix

1 part Honey
1 part Water

Combine in a saucepan, bring to a low boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool Bottle and start using.

Of course, if you aren’t one for minced mint, this drink may not look like your cup of tea. You are in luck!

If you recall, I mentioned that the Tiki Ti in Hollywood doesn’t make the Missionary’s Downfall “by the book.” In fact they make it sans-blender (despite their collection of such contraptions). I’ve checked a few sources and can’t reach consensus on how they make their version of the the Downfall, but I’ve gotten somewhere I think is close:

Missionary’s Downfall a la Tiki Ti – I Think

2 oz Dark Rum
.5 oz Rock Candy Syrup
.5 oz Peach Brandy
1 lime, quartered
10 mint leaves

In a rocks glass, build with mint first and then lime quarters. Muddle this until the limes are thoroughly juiced and the mint well-bruised.  Then add cracked ice, followed by rock candy syrup, peach brandy, and finally the rum. Garnish with a pineapple spear and a cherry.

These drinks honestly couldn’t be more different from one another. In terms of texture, flavor, and appearance, they’re so different as to be almost unrelated. The Tiki Ti version is almost a deconstructed version of the original, and I can’t help but wonder how the Ti version would taste if it were to use all of the original ingredients in its deconstructed fashion.

Question of the Day:

What’s your favorite version of the Missionary’s Downfall?



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