Cocktail Obsession – Banana Stand, From Seattle’s Rob Roy

As someone who spends, shall we say, significant time in bars, fatigue from parsing ingredient lists on cocktail menus is an occupational hazard. So many Old Fashioned variations, so many twists on a daiquiri. No slight to the actual drinks, but a recipe that’s completely from out of left field is a rarity – that’s something I gotta have! The Banana Stand at Seattle’s Rob Roy absolutely falls into that category.

The Banana Stand is the brainchild of Zac Overman, a Tiki savant and recent transplant to Seattle — score one for us! Monday nights at Rob Roy are known as Tangaroa Roy–a celebration of Tiki, with anything but traditional Tiki classics. The Banana Stand made its first appearance at a Tangaroa Roy that happened to coincide with Seattle’s Women Who Love Whiskey anniversary party. Zac created a custom menu heavy on the whiskey, and The Banana Stand practically leapt off the page at me. Laphroaig? Crème de Banane? An automatic yes!

Tiki has a long history of experimenting with alternative spirits, spices, and flavors, but always centered on the holy trinity of rum, lime, and sugar. Classics like the Saturn use gin rather than rum as the base spirit. Bourbon makes an appearance in classics like the Polynesian Paralysis and Eastern Sour. Even Scotch whisky has nosed its way into a few oddball recipes. But full-blood, smoky as hell, heavily peated Islay Scotch? Not so much.

Banana liqueur (aka Crème de Banane) is another outlier in the Tiki lexicon. Sure, it appears in a few classic Tiki recipes such as the Rum Runner, but as a flavor modifier and sweetener, it’s never had the popularity of staples like passion fruit, falernum, or allspice dram. My Giffard Banane du Bresil sits untouched far more than it should. Seeing both peated scotch and banana liqueur in the same recipe instantly got my attention.

How to explain that genius that is the Banana Stand? Zac explains it perfectly:

“I’ve always loved using peaty Scotch as a counterpoint to the more lush/rich/sweet flavors that are common in Tiki drinks. I suppose I was thinking about bananas flambé, with the smoke and the banana together.

“After that, the flavors just kind of made sense. Cinnamon and allspice seemed like a natural combo with the banana, and the chartreuse just gave it that little herbal lift and weirdness that it needed. Almost like a softer version of the way absinthe sneaks in to a lot of classic Tiki.

“And it seemed natural to name it after George Sr.’s famous Banana Stand from Arrested Development.”

BANANA STAND (Zac Overman, Rob Roy, Seattle)

  • 1.5 oz Laphroaig 10 year
  • 1.0 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 0.75 oz Giffard Banane du Bresil (or other banana liqueur)
  • 0.5 oz 1:1 Cinnamon syrup
  • 0.25 oz Yellow Chartreuse
  • 0.125 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

Directions:

  • Wrap a banana leaf around the inside of a Collins glass, then half fill with crushed ice.
  • Shake all ingredients and pour over the crushed ice. Add more crushed ice as needed to top off.
  • Garnish with grated cinnamon and a cinnamon stick. And if you have it, a gold coin. After all, there’s always money in the banana stand.

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Having made this at home several times now, I have a few pointers. Although not absolutely essential, the banana leaf adds an important element, beyond just looking cool. The vegetal smell of the banana leaf absolutely adds to the sensory experience. As for getting it into the Collins glass (a tall, skinny glass), find a tube slightly smaller in diameter than the glass–for instance, a cardboard paper towel tube. Wrap the leaf around the tube, then slide it into the glass. Gently pull out just the tube while holding the leaf in place.

While the recipe calls for Laphroaig 10, you can substitute just about any heavily peated Scotch whisky. Just be careful to shoot for something in 80 to 90 proof range, rather than something cask strength. And no need to use your prized, rare 20 year old either. Your entry- to mid-level Islay whisky is fine here. There’s a lot going on in this drink beyond just the whisky.

I typically make my cinnamon syrups at 2:1 sugar-to-water. To make 1:1, simply use 0.25 oz cinnamon syrup with 0.25 oz water. As for the yellow chartreuse, it’s somewhat less available than its stronger, more intense green chartreuse sibling. In a pinch you can use green chartreuse and dial the amount back a tad to 0.2 oz.

By all logic, the Banana Stand shouldn’t fit within the Tiki universe. Save the allspice dram, these ingredients are a little bit (or a lot!) out of mainstream Tiki fare. But the collective whole absolutely works and should make it a favorite of any Tiki aficionado who also dreams of Islay.

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