The Banana Life – A Pagan Idol Original Tiki Recipe

At this point in my Tiki journey, it’s much harder to come across a flavor combination I haven’t encountered before and which knock my socks off. The Banana Life, from the crew at San Francisco’s Pagan Idol, is the first drink I’ve had in a while that accomplishes this feat.

While I had obtained the recipe from an undisclosed source and was making them at home, I have a policy of not sharing recipes unless the originator gives me permission. However, because I had shared pictures on Instagram, a number of people asked for the recipe. Not wanting to disappoint fellow Tiki enthusiasts, I made an inquiry to my friends at Pagan Idol and was graciously given permission to share.

Update: The Banana Life, and two variations (Banana Life Redux, and Commando Life) are among the 100 new, modern Tiki recipes in my book, Minimalist Tiki, available for order here.

What I find particularly interesting about The Banana Life recipe is the interplay of the grapefruit and banana liqueur. It’s not a flavor combo that comes to mind, but it really works for my taste buds. Also, any chance to use Giffard’s Banana liqueur is one I’m going to take.

The Banana Life Recipe (Pagan Idol Version)

  • 2.0 oz Brugal Extra Dry
  • 0.75 oz Pineapple
  • 0.75 oz Grapefruit juice (white, ideally)
  • 0.5 oz Red fassionola syrup.
  • 0.25 oz Giffard Banane du Brésil
  • 0.25 oz lime juice

Blend with crushed ice in an immersion blender
Serve in a Cognac snifter. Garnish with a banana leaf and plantain chips

The inclusion of fassionola in the recipe may be troublesome or cause head scratching for some. It’s an ingredient called for in some old Tiki recipes, but isn’t something you find readily find today. There’s even different color fassionola’s (red, golden, green) and many opinions on exactly what they tastes like. Suffice it to say that there’s a spirited debate on exactly what fassionola is. Read here and here for some background.

As for Pagan Idol’s take on fassionola, it’s described as “Tropical fruit purees/sugar, blood pear, mango, lychee and a touch of secret magic.”   Their advice to home bartenders: “The flavor profile for the red is similar to Hawaiian Punch.”

In my bar, I’ve enjoyed using the Cocktail & Sons fassionola, described as “Louisiana strawberries, fresh cut pineapple and mango, passion fruit, hibiscus and lime”. For me, it’s the strawberry flavor that really pops out.  I find it a fun substitution in recipes that call for grenadine.

As for what rum to use, while the recipe calls for Brugal Extra Dry, you can reasonably sub in another dry, Spanish style like Don Q Cristal or Caña Brava.

But wait, there’s more!

Always one to tinker with recipes, I came up with my own twist on The Banana Life that further pushes forward what I enjoy most about it, and replaces the hard-to-replicate fassionola with something more accessible.

The Banana Life Redux Recipe (Cocktail Wonk, with all credit due to Pagan Idol)

  • 2.0 oz dry, Spanish style white rum (e.g. Caña Brava or Brugal)
  • 1.0 oz pineapple juice
  • 1.0 oz grapefruit juice (white, ideally)
  • 0.5 oz passion fruit syrup.
  • 0.5 oz Giffard Banane du Brésil
  • 0.5 oz lime juice

This version makes a slightly larger and more juice-forward take. Bumping up the banana liqueur really highlights the unique grapefruit/banana flavor combo.

When I don’t have dried plantains on hand, I find that dried citrus wheels are a worthy substitute.

There you have it! Give both recipes a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

3 thoughts on “The Banana Life – A Pagan Idol Original Tiki Recipe

  1. Here I go head first into the Fassionola debate…

    I tried out the original recipe from Pagan Idol first using a bottle of Jonathan English’s Red Fassionola that I had tracked down. I used Cana Brava for the Rum of choice and found the resulting cocktail to be slightly bitter and very artificial tasting. Made it again with Don Q Cristal with the same luck.

    I went back to the Tiki Central thread and made my own Fassionola based off Smucker’s Red Raspberry syrup and Grenadine. This was less bitter but still not up my alley with some artificial flavors coming out at the finish.

    I enjoyed your Redux version much better! Playing around with adding a few drops of almond extract, absinthe, grenadine, Ango, etc. just for fun.

    Thanks for sharing! This exercise is going to allow me to close the door on Fassionola for now… I’ll take fresh flavors over a heavier syrup texture.

  2. I made both (using Cocktail & Sons Fassionola in the first recipe) and much prefer your version over the original. I used Plantation 3-star rum in both – not sure how the flavor profile compares to Brugal or Cana Brava but it seems to work well.

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