The merry months continue to pass on by in their irresistible march towards a future full of rum and riches for yours truly (that is where we’re headed, right? I really hope this isn’t like the time I got on the wrong train and ended up in Oceanside when I meant to go to LA). Of course, such a passing of time inevitably brings us our next Mixology Monday.
This month’s mixological mayhem is being brought to us all by the McSology blog, run by Seattle’s own Mike McSorely. Mike, being a bartender by trade, has had his fair share of time stuck behind the stick at 1:35 AM when a customer has wandered in and ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz or some 27 ingredient Tiki concoction that means rather than getting a start on cleaning up, he’s going to be mixing one drink for the next 10 minutes. Mike, it would appear, wants revenge.
So my charge to you all is to document your (least) favorite drink that is the proverbial thorn in your side. It can be virtually anything stylistically- The point here is to have fun and share that little ticket item that throws you off your cleaning game 10 minutes before last call!
Now, Mike and I probably have different criteria for Pain In The Ass drinks. I don’t work behind a bar. If I’m making drinks, I’m probably standing at what was designed to be a breakfast counter just off of my kitchen, talking to my brother or whoever happens to be visiting the apartment that evening. Last Call is when I decide I’m done making drinks.
That being said, there are still some drinks that, when requested, I’ve found myself debating the “heave a long sigh and start mixing” or “be a draconic host and respond with something mature like ‘Why don’t YOU make one?‘” responses.
The answer is easy to give, and strikingly broad in its application:
Tiki is a gigantic pain in the ass.
Some drinks are easier than others, but even my beloved Mai Tai – a drink I made for myself more than 60 times in a single month as a home research project – has its pain in the ass features.
Travel into Tiki and you’ll find that there are syrups to be bought or made (Falernum, Orgeat, Don’s Mix, Don’s Spices, Cinnamon Syrup, Passion Fruit Syrup, Unicorn Smurfberry Syrup). There’s ice to be crushed. There are the 3-300 different rums you have to pour before you even get to the 16 different liqueurs you need to add to the tin. If you’re really lucky, you can end up with cans of coconut cream being emptied into a blender full of ice that you’ll spend plenty of time cleaning up afterward.
Oh, and let’s not forget the small grove of citrus that will be wiped out as you pour in your measures of lime, lemon and grapefruit – probably mixed with some pineapple, guava or banana juice.
OK, fine, I made up that last bit about banana juice. I don’t even know if you can make banana juice. I’m hoping you can’t because I can think of at least one person that will take this post as a challenge to create a drink that requires juicing a banana. He’ll probably garnish it with an entire fig tree.
Really though, within the Tiki category, I don’t know if there’s a bigger pain in the ass than the Zombie. Oh sure, there are drinks that require more prep work or more exotic ingredients that have to be imported from Oompa Loompaland, but the Zombie has special circumstances that enhance its pain in the ass factor.
from “Sippin’ Safari”
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Don’s Mix
.5 oz Falernum
1.5 oz Jamaican Rum
1.5 oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum
1 oz 151 Demerara Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/8th tsp Herbsaint or Pernod
1 tsp Grenadine
.75 cup crushed ice
Put everything into a blender, saving ice for last. Blend at high speed for no more than 5 seconds. Pour into a chimney glass and fill with ice. Garnish with fresh mint.
First of all, if someone that isn’t a Tiki aficionado orders a Zombie, you have a 1 in 3 chance of picking the right recipe. That’s because Donn The Beachcomber, genius though he might have been, couldn’t leave his drinks alone. He was constantly tweaking and modifying them. Thumb your way through Jeff Berry’s Sippin’ Safari and count the number of Don Beach’s Zombies. You can go ahead and ignore the 7000 knock-offs, you’re still left with 3 choices – all different.
Personally I prefer the original 1934 Zombie. Blair at TraderTiki happens to like the 1950 or Spievak Zombie (which he admits is more from a bartender’s point of view that the Spievak is less of a pain in the ass than the ’34). I don’t know if anyone prefers the 1956 Zombie. There’s got to be someone. And they’ll probably tell you that they love it while secretly wishing that it wasn’t so good so that they’d never have to toil under its tyrannical power ever again.
Even setting aside the trouble of managing expectations or reading minds or guessing which version of the Zombie your guest has had that they so desire, the Zombie is still a drink comprised of NINE INGREDIENTS. NINE! A third of those ingredients are rums, so get ready to start grabbing bottles. If you’re making the ’34, I sure hope your syrup supply is in good order, because you’re going to be grabbing Don’s Mix, Falernum and Grenadine.
Finally, this being a drink invented by Donn The Beachcomber, you find yourself victim to Don’s most evil signature in his recipes: the drops of absinthe. If your home bar is small, imagine having to buy a 750mL bottle of liqueur so that you can get out an eyedropper and put in 6-8 drops of the stuff into each drink at a time. You can always cheat and just go for teaspoon measures like I do, though when you go from 6 drops to 8 drops you wonder exactly how much that alters your 1/8th teaspoon measure, as well as whether or not those 2 drops in a drink that has almost 6 ounces of other liquids in it really matter.
Add all of this to the other ritualized requirements of making a Tiki drinks: your crushed ice, fresh mint and, “preferably,” healthy collection of special mugs just for serving these things, and the Zombie can quickly become a royal pain in the ass that could drive one to swear off any drink that isn’t called “Rum, neat.”
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sticky counter to clean, 15 bottles to put away and a blender to take apart and wash.
Question of the Day:
What drink that you love do you find yourself loathing to make?
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I like the 1956 Zombie, but only after a small mod: Sub guava nectar for the pineapple juice. Much better drink that way, in my humble opinion, different from and perhaps nearly equal to the 1934 version.
Let’s not forget some of the absurd garnishes, either!
The Haiwaiian Mai Tai calls for a garnish of a pineapple finger, sugar cane stick, orched, and mint sprig in the Tiki+ application. This is in addition to its 10 ingredients (4 fruit juices, Curacao, orgeat, simple, and 3 rums).
Oh, and measuring the 1/4 oz. of juices in a 1/2 oz. jigger always makes me a little nervous.
Adam: Another heretic! The ’34 is the One True Zombie.
Kathryn: Indeed, the garnishes that can end up in some Tiki drinks are just incredible…and incredibly annoying. I generally stick with some mint, maybe a lime wedge/wheel or a flag and that’s about it. Some people go a bit further.
I have yet to find a drink that I have really loathed to make, only people I have loathed to make them for.
I keep an eyedropper bottle of pastis specifically for the purposes of dropwise addition.
This is one of the many reasons people look at me funny.
Having just come off of five days of self imposed, home base, tiki-boot camp … I can say that there is a twinge of a “pain in the ass” factor to tiki but I have to say I had a blast with it (and I’m inspired to do more).
Your kitchen photo is pretty much spot on to what mine looked like … me thinks i need to expand my NYC apartment with a special tiki kitchen and bar. hhhmmm, I’m sure the Boss will go for that.
Great post Matt!
It’s an honor to have such and established blogger participating in my little event!!!
Either of the two major attested old-school Zombie recipes (especially the one from Cabaret magazine) are a total pain when you run out of your pre-mixed bottles!
I’d say the mai-tai, but that’s mostly because I haven’t been able to produce one that tasted really good (heresy, I know). They’re a fair bit of work for disappointment, but I’ll keep poking at the problem.
I love my tiki cocktails, but rarely make them at home. My favorite is the Navy Grog. From the Grog Log, you are looking at 3 kinds of rum, key being Demerara… which is rare to find. There is honey, which is horrible to work with unless you create a syrup before. Then there is lime, of course, easy enough. But there is grapefruit… ok. However, roughly 1/8 of a grapefruit. I only drank 8 Navy Grogs once… ONCE. Otherwise I have parts of a grapefruit sitting around. If you want to get special, falernum… but I have yet to make some. Now, unless you want to cause the wrath of the tiki gods, everything better be fresh and only the rum from a bottle.
I love my Navy Grogs… but I love them at my favorite tiki bars. 😉
I just juiced a grapefruit last night for a single cocktail. Since I had so much juice left over, I poured 1/2 oz aliquots into an ice cube tray and stuck it all in the freezer. I figure I’ll just pop out a grapefruit cube to defrost any time I need a bit.
Not that Tiki drinks aren’t a pain, and there is nothing like juicing softball sized grapefruits for a recipe that calls for teaspoons of grapefruit juice . [ we love Hemingway Daiquiris.]
However, I’d say the biggest pain in the ass drinks are such a pain that no one makes them any more, and most of us can’t name a single one.