The Jungle Bird Goes to War

The War Bird
The Jungle Bird is a relatively recent addition to the Tiki canon, originating at the Aviary Bar in the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in 1978. It’s solidly identifiable as Tiki, and the beginner home bartender can execute it without all sorts of “exotic” ingredients that show up in more complex Tiki drinks, such as falernum, orgeat, or pimento dram. Like many Tiki drinks, the Jungle Bird recipe has evolved over time, and I’m continuing the tradition here.

As it appears in Beachbum Berry’s Remixed, the Jungle Bird recipe goes like this:

  • 0.75 oz Campari
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 4 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1.5 oz dark Jamaican rum

If you’re familiar with the Tiki pattern, you’ll likely notice that 4 oz of pineapple juice is almost off the scale, quantity wise. While revelers might happily quaff it, to my taste it’s like dumping your cocktail into an equal amount of pineapple juice.

After languishing in semi-obscurity since 1978, within the past three years the Jungle Bird has seen a surge in popularity, even being featured in the New York Times. Thankfully the commonly cited recipes of late have mutated for the better. The most common variant is this much more palatable version:

  • 0.75 oz Campari
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1.5 oz blackstrap rum

Now, about the rum. Blackstrap rum is an acquired taste for some, very heavy on the molasses notes. (Cruzan is the brand most readily available here in the U.S.) I enjoy a healthy dose of blackstrap in certain recipes, but with my ever-expanding rum collection, why not consider other options with the desired flavor profile and bring other desirable characteristics to the table?

Since I’ve opened the possibility of changing out the rum, consider the strength of the above recipe. With only two total ounces of alcoholic ingredients at an average alcohol content of less than 40 percent, the Jungle Bird is, shall we say lacking the firepower you expect in a Tiki cocktail. Note: I’m assuming the blackstrap is 40 percent ABV (alcohol by volume) for this post.

Perusing my rum library, the Lost Spirits Navy-Style rum at 68 percent jumped out as a great substitution for the blackstrap. It packs a flavor punch equal to if not more potent than blackstrap, with flavors typically associated with pirates and gunpowder. It’s a solid substitution, flavor-wise, and given the Navy Style’s extra 28 percent ABV relative to the 40 percent blackstrap, keeping the rum pour at 1.5 oz keeps the overall drink proportions the same while adding the desired extra kick.

I dubbed my variation the War Bird, a play on Jungle Bird meets Navy-style rum:

  • 0.75 oz Campari
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 1.5 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1.5 oz Lost Spirits Navy Style rum

Shake over ice, strain into a chilled highball glass with an oversized ice cube. Garnish with tropical flowers or other appropriate garnish. If you want a version with a more rum-forward taste, use 2 oz of the Lost Spirits Navy Style 57 percent instead.

Perhaps you’ve not yet gotten your hands on the Lost Spirits rum just yet. There are other interesting rum substitutions that can yield Tiki goodness. One that immediately come to mind is the Plantation Original Dark Overproof from Trinidad at 73 percent ABV. Another idea is the Wray and Nephew White Overproof rum from Jamaica at 63 percent ABV. The original Jungle Bird recipe calls for dark Jamaican rum, but I believe an unaged, high-ester Jamaican like the Wray and Nephew brings an interesting twist on the traditional “dark Jamaican rum” flavor profile.

Any other interesting rum substitutions? Post ‘em in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “The Jungle Bird Goes to War”

  1. Maybe you could use a Smith&Cross with 57%ABV or a Wood's 100 with also 57% ABV…changing the jamaican rum to a white overproof you could taste it with the Rum Nation White Jamaican Pot Still at 57% ABV.
    Maybe a Pusser's?

  2. Thanks Oriol! I like the Pusser's idea – It's naval backstory also works with the "War" theme. I'd considered the Smith and Cross, but it seems a little close to the original "dark Jamaican" specification, so not much to write about. I'd very much like to get my hands on the Rum Nation 57% Jamaican and compare contrast. Some day hopefully!

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