Missionary’s Downfall

Post image for Missionary’s Downfall

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?

 

{ 15 comments }

Sylvan June 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

No mention of what kind of peach brandy you used?

DJ HawaiianShirt June 7, 2012 at 8:38 am

I’m beginning to realize that many of the greatest and most interesting tiki drinks use honey as a sweetener.

Also, I like this drink because it’s not afraid to pulverize the mint. I’m tired of shouting harshly and love-tapping my mint in order to extract only the perfect amount of flavor. If people like the grassy bitterness of vermouths, liqueurs, amari, and agricoles, then why are they so afraid of mint chlorophyll?

Dave Lieberman June 7, 2012 at 8:42 am

I don’t have peach brandy. Can I substitute DeKuyper peach schnapps instead?

*duck* *run*

Matt Robold June 7, 2012 at 8:54 am

Sylvan, that’s because I don’t honestly have good peach brandy. If I name what I used, I’ll give it power. I wish I had this.

DJ, I think the crushed ice, honey, and sweet brandy here all play a big role in keeping the chlorophyll from overbittering the drink. I could just be spouting bullshit though. It’s been known to happen before.

Prince of Cups June 7, 2012 at 8:56 am

What is your recommendation for a dry peach brandy?

Rawim June 7, 2012 at 9:23 am

Excellent post.

Sylvan June 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

I have a bottle of the old Peach St peach brandy, made entirely of peaches and barrel aged. They now have something called Jack and Jenny, which appears to be a clear eau-de-vie. Leopold Brothers also has 2 peach whiskeys that I am sure would work great here.

I’m with DJ on the mint. Pulverize that shit. I’ve never gotten a bitter flavor using my garden mint. And anyway, too bitter? Add more sugar.

Matt Robold June 7, 2012 at 10:13 am

I don’t generally go in for having mint bits floating around in a drink. In this drink it’s all part of the texture and the mint is so tiny that it’s harder to notice. In a mojito though, I hate having tiny bits of mint in my teeth and clogging the straw, which is why I gently muddle and the whip the drink (dry-shake) rather than shaking it with ice, and then pour the drink under ice.

Sylvan June 7, 2012 at 11:32 am

Agreed. I double strain mojitos, having the time luxuries of the home bartender. The lime pieces seem to protect the mint a bit during the muddling stage. But then the ice does beat them to bits.

Tikibee June 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The Forbidden Island in Alameda does one of the best ones, true to Don’s recipe.

Sunny&Rummy June 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Great Post Matt.

The Missionary’s Downfall is one of the first classic Tikidrinks I encountered in my early days of home Tiki mixology, and remains a sentimental favorite. I prefer the Remixed version of the drink to the original Grog Log version, but the first recipe I encountered was actually from Jennifer Trainer Thompson’s “The Great Tiki Book” which I somehow managed to stumble upon before discovering Beachbum Berry. The Thompson version of the cocktail is quite similar to Berry’s versions except that instead of peach brandy she used apricot brandy and also called for simple syrup or caramel syrup instead of honey. While the honey makes for a far superior drink, I do typically go with apricot brandy rather than peach brandy because it is easier to find. Brizard Apry is for me was a huge step up from the deKuyper drek I started out with.

I did not have a Missionary’s Downfall on my one and only pilgrimage to Tiki Ti (so many drinks, so little time. . .), but if your stab at that recipe is pretty close I can understand how two ounces of dark rum and unblended would yield a very different drink than the one ounce of light rum and blended versions. Think I’m going to give that version of the drink a whirl this weekend though, because it sure looks tasty.

Matt Robold June 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I’ve been playing around with the “deconstructed” or “Tiki Ti” version. I think the approach has merit. I spent some time at 320 trying to come up with an improved Tiki Ti Downfall last night and it was a lot of fun.

tk ohhhhhh June 19, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I’m curious… what is the difference between Rock Candy Syrup and Simple Syrup?

Matt Robold June 20, 2012 at 7:07 am

Rock-Candy Syrup is extra rich simple syrup. I’ve heard varying opinions on whether it’s 2:1 or 3:1 sugar to water. I typically use 3:1 for rock candy syrup when I make it – though to be honest I usually cheat and just use 2:1 rich simple instead of RCS.

JFL August 9, 2012 at 5:37 am

Made this drink for the first time a few nights ago after having meant to for months. Simply superb cocktail. You know I never realized how much people dislike mint leaves in their cocktails! Never ionce have I strained them out or even thought of it. To me say, a mojito or mint julep without fresh muddled mint still in the glass looks rather plain.

Still I do love the downfall. I’d love to see some of those flash blended tiki drinks you can actually shake. that would be a cool article.

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