nuinuiDon the Beachcomber (1937)

File under “semi-obscure-but-completely-delicious.”

When Don the Beachcomber moved into an expanded location across the street from their original spot in Hollywood, they also expanded the drinks menu. The “Pupule” was one they added to the lineup – another dimensionalized riff on the Planter’s Punch, this time mixing orange and lime for the sour element, and merging sweet and spicy with flavors of allspice, vanilla, and cinnamon. I imagine Donn’s customers had a good number of juvenile laughs at the name (Poo Poo? Purple? Pustule?) before he changed it to “Nui Nui” around 1941 (much better, it means “Big-Big” or “Extra-Large” in Maori).

In spite of the boastful name, booze-wise this drink is no big deal. Same amount of rum as a little Daiquiri – but they still enforced a three-per-customer limit on this one. Most likely to appeal to the macho types who felt their masculinity threatened by all the orchids and whatnot. “Are you man enough to handle three of these?” and so on.

A note on orange juice – lemon and lime juice is always fresh in these recipes, but it’s easy to assume that pasteurized orange juice from concentrate, the breakfast staple, is the same thing as fresh-squeezed. Short answer: it ain’t. You gotta squeeze an orange, sorry. But before you do, prepare the garnish, a long orange peel – like a whole orange peeled all the way around and around with a Y-peeler. Feel free to use whatever size peel you like and decorate as you prefer: the original hung the peel out of the drink and down the side of the mug or glass; I like coiling it up like a crown and loading with more ice.

You’ll need three syrups or liqueurs for this: pimento dram, cinnamon syrup, and vanilla syrup – see recipes here if you’re up for the effort (and the necessary time) to make them yourself at home… but a great alternative is BG Reynolds‘ fantastic line of tiki syrups from Portland, Oregon.

If you’re going through all the fun to make this fantastic drink, why not serve it in a vintage tiki mug? Great finds can be had at thrift stores occasionally, or check online at Etsy‘s vintage shops.

THE KIT

Hardware: Electric blender, Jigger, Straws (optional)
Ice: Cracked ice
Glassware: Tiki mug or Collins glass
Spirits: Amber rum (recommended: Cruzan Aged Dark – or Havana Club Añejo Especial if you can get it)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Pimento Dram, Vanilla Syrup, Cinnamon syrup
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Orange juice, Angostura bitters, Orange peel

HOW TO

In an electric blender, add:

2 1/2 oz amber rum
3/4 oz lime juice
3/4 oz orange juice
3/4 oz cinnamon syrup
1 tsp vanilla syrup
1 tsp pimento dram
1 dash Angostura bitters
3/4 cup cracked ice

Flash blend five seconds to quickly mix – meaning just turn the blender on, then off again. Pour unstrained into a tiki mug or Collins glass. Garnish with a long orange peel. Optionally, serve with two straws.

planters_punchCaribbean, generally (1700s)
Jamaica (1878)

Truth is, I’ve been remiss. Planter’s Punch certainly qualifies as a “basic drink,” one of perhaps a handful of core templates that inspire countless variations. You have the “cocktailOld Fashioned (template: spirit, sugar, bitters, rock ice), the “aromaticMartini (template: 2:1 spirit / aromatized wine, served up), the “sourDaiquiri (template: 2:1:1 spirit / citrus / sweet, up), the… um… “CollinsTom Collins (template: 2:1:1 spirit / citrus / sweet with dilution & bubbles, served tall), and the punch – simply a large-format Collins with the addition of spice. Some other oddball drinks are out there, either part of a smaller family or black sheep out on their own: drinks like Egg Nog, Irish Coffee, Ramos Gin Fizz. The world of cocktails is chaotic and resists tidy taxonomy. But some rules do apply, whether these drinks like it or not.

So, as a punch, this came to British and Dutch sailors by way of the Caribbean – and from there to the world. Punch was all the rage in Colonial America and held dominance at the local watering hole until the mid-1800s, when the pace of life quickened and people just couldn’t take the time to spend hours imbibing socially. I can’t imagine what they would think of today’s world, poor souls. Drinks became reduced down to individual portions, and the Planter’s Punch in particular was a popular novelty for tourists visiting Jamaica’s Hotel Titchfield and Myrtle Bank Hotel. Myers’s Rum even rebranded their labels as the Planter’s Punch rum in the 1930s. You may have heard different versions of this rhyming recipe for punch: “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak, and a touch of spice to make it nice.” The sour is typically lime, the sweet is almost always just simple syrup (but a bit of grenadine is not uncommon), the strong is our old buddy rum, and the weak is dilution – from shaking with ice, from serving over ice, and from seltzer. The spice is simply Angostura bitters, potent with Caribbean spices like cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.

Now, were we to strictly follow that singsong rhyme, this drink would come out unbalanced. That 1-2-3-4-5 thing works in a punch bowl, where moderate dilution is welcome. Punch (in that format) is meant to be sipped communally over a long conversation. This is more of a solitary sipper – better suited to a lazy afternoon in the hammock. Side note: progressing from its popularity as a tropical refresher, Planter’s Punch became the inspiration for many successful tall tiki drinks beginning with Don the Beachcomber’s Zombie. When dimensionalized into a tiki drink, the strong component can change from one rum to four rums. The sweet can be a mix of multiple syrups and tropical flavors. Spice is often integrated into the syrups, like the ginger kick in falernum or the allspice in pimento dram. Try this simple, direct version – then give the tiki approach a go and see what you come up with!

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Barspoon, Cocktail pick, Straw (optional)
Ice: Ice cubes, Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Spirits: Dark Jamaican rum (recommended: Coruba)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Simple syrup, Seltzer (or sparkling mineral water (recommended: Pellegrino))
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Lime juice, Lime wheel

HOW TO

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

2 oz dark Jamaican rum
1 oz lime juice
3/4
 oz simple syrup
2
dashes Angostura bitters

Shake well to blend and chill, then strain into a Collins glass filled about two-thirds of the way up with cracked ice. Top with:

1 1/2 oz seltzer

Stir lightly to blend and garnish with a lime wheel. Optionally, serve with a straw.

hardlywallbangerSycamore Den, San Diego, CA (2013)

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s generally acknowledged the ’70s and ’80s were the Dark Times of 20th-century drinkmaking. Maybe cocktail culture just wasn’t high on the priority list: America had just emerged from a decade of radical upheaval and change: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution, the emergence of the psychedelic youth culture, and the best blues, soul, rock, pop, and country music ever created. The ’70s presented a new set of challenges: ending a war, firing a president, finding equality for gays and lesbians, running out of gas, and dealing with out-of-control pollution. The general question seemed to be, “so… now what?” The general answer (in the face of all this heaviness) seemed to be, “Have a Good Time.”

Drinks in the ’70s were all about stupid simplicity: Margarita (José Cuervo & Sour Mix), Rum & Coke, Screwdriver (vodka & orange juice). People didn’t go to bars for a culinary experience – they went to bars to get laid. Drinks functioned as alcohol-delivery systems to loosen libidos and, maybe, indicators of what lay ahead in the night: Margarita drinkers were partiers, Screwdriver drinkers couldn’t handle strong feelings (or flavors), Rusty Nail drinkers had fingers that smelled like an ashtray.

The original Harvey Wallbanger recipe, as promoted by Galliano, was a softer Screwdriver (that was already disappointingly limp): one ounce of vodka, six ounces of orange juice (most likely pasteurized, from concentrate) and a half-ounce float of Galliano, the herbal Italian vanilla-and-anise liqueur. Not a very interesting mix – but the seed of an idea is there.

San Diego bartender Eric Johnson is too young to have suffered the drinks of the ’70s, but he has an appreciation for “The Me Decade.” He designed the bar menu at Sycamore Den, a new hot spot in Normal Heights that celebrates the glorious awfulness of those days with diagonal wood paneling, a sunken “conversation pit,” macramé, and swag lamps. I’m convinced there’s a hidden “Dad’s rec room” somewhere on the premises with shag carpeting, a hi-fi, a bong, and a stack of vintage Swank magazines. The drinks at Sycamore Den are contemporary, though (you didn’t see too much mezcal, Suze, absinthe, or Aperol on ’70s menus)… with one exception: the Hardly Wallbanger. Johnson was curious about the original Harvey Wallbanger and couldn’t figure out what accounted for its popularity. Marketing can only go so far, you know. Johnson told me, “I definitely was loving Galliano and wanted to showcase the liqueur over the neutral spirit, vodka. I added vanilla to satisfy my sweet tooth and was thinking ‘Orange Julius’ after a couple attempts. I had the staff test it out and all were nodding or banging their heads in approval!” The Hardly Wallbanger chucks what’s bad about the original and enhances everything good – keeping its creamy orange-and-vanilla lightness, adding a subtle tartness, and shining a light on the recently-reformulated Galliano’s intriguing herbal blend.

Keep an eye on what oranges you use in this – Valencias will be sweeter, so you’ll probably want to dial down the simple syrup to a quarter-ounce. If you’re using the more common Navel oranges, stick with a half-ounce. Use real vanilla extract, not imitation vanilla flavor – even though it’s just a few drops, you’ll know the difference.

THE KIT

Hardware: Shaker, Jigger, Barspoon, Eyedropper, Cocktail pick, Straw (optional)
Ice: Ice cubes, Cracked ice
Glassware: Collins glass
Spirit: vodka (recommended: Karlsson’s Gold, Absolut)
Mixers & Liqueurs: Galliano, Simple syrup, Seltzer (or tonic water (recommended: Fever-Tree) or sparkling mineral water (recommended: Pellegrino))
Juices, Accents, & Garnishes: Orange juice, Lemon juice, Vanilla extract, Orange wheel, Cherry (recommended: Filthy amarena, Luxardo maraschino)

HOW TO

In a shaker about a third-full with ice cubes, add:

1 1/2 oz vodka
1 oz Galliano
2 
oz orange juice
1/2
oz lemon juice
1/2 
oz simple syrup
3 
drops vanilla extract

Shake briefly to blend and chill, then strain into a Collins glass filled about two-thirds of the way up with cracked ice. Top with:

2 oz seltzer

Add additional ice as needed. Stir lightly to blend and garnish with an orange wheel and cherry pierced on a cocktail pick. Optionally, serve with a straw.