As an avid Tiki-hound home bartender, I am always seeking out the next unusual recipe twist that gets me excited. And while Tiki draws from a very broad palette, there’s really only so many combinations of citrus, syrups, spices, and rum you can concoct before you’re essentially riffing on variations of the classics. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
Luckily, new avenues of exploration open up when you start working with familiar flavors in different formats. A great example of this is using fruit liqueurs, which provide instantly recognizable flavors such as orange, grapefruit, banana, or pineapple, for example. Let’s face it, there’s no substitute for fresh squeezed juice in a tropical libation, but sometimes a well-made flavored syrup or liqueur can give you similar flavor notes and actually work better in some cases.
If you make Tiki drinks frequently, you’ll know that too much juice starts to dilute the overall flavor of a cocktail. Critics of the Blood and Sand (one of my early classic cocktail infatuations) will tell you that the orange juice makes it go flat. This is especially true if serving the drink in a coupe, where we expect more intense flavors than something swirling over crushed ice. Another issue with fresh squeezed juices–and I say this as somebody who religiously squeezes lemons, limes, oranges, and pineapples–is that the sweetness and flavor varies remarkably from orange to orange, pineapple to pineapple, and so on.
This is all a roundabout way of saying: If you find yourself in the possession of a fruit liqueur with an agreeable flavor profile, you might consider revisiting some of your favorite recipes, swapping out the liqueur for the juice you’d normally use. Take it for a test drive, so to speak.
It’s this exact thought process that had me chatting with Jason Alexander (Tiki Master Extraordinaire of Devil’s Reef) about what I might do with my newly acquired Giffard Caribbean Pineapple liqueur. It has a bright, almost tangy taste that’s quite different from the pineapple flavor of Plantation Rum’s Stiggins’ Fancy. Jason suggested a “juiceless Jungle Bird,” which intrigued me.
Reviewing various Jungle Bird recipes online, realized that a lot of folks were using Jamaican rum rather than blackstrap-style rum. In a flash, I realized that Doctor Bird from Two James Spirits might just be the perfect rum to use. Not just because of its beloved Jamaican hogo, but also because it’s got “Bird” in the name. Destiny!
And that’s how the Jungle Doctor cocktail came together. I wanted it to be a more intense version of the Doctor Bird, with my beloved Jamaican funk, and served in a coupe rather than over ice. Too much dilution kills a drink served up.
All the familiar tang of the Campari/pineapple combination of the classic Jungle Bird is there. But it’s both more assertive and more refined. Think of it as the love child of the Kingston Negroni and the Jungle Bird. Many folks have become fond of swapping out the Campari for other interesting bitter-orange amaros like Gran Classico and China China. If you’re feeling adventurous, try them out and report back here in the comments!
Jungle Doctor (Matt Pietrek and Jason Alexander)
- 1.5 oz Doctor Bird Jamaican rum
- 1.5 oz Giffard Caribbean Pineapple liqueur
- 0.75 oz Campari
- 0.5 oz lime juice
- 0.25 oz simple syrup (2:1)
Thoroughly chill a coupe glass and mixing vessel (e.g. with ice water or in the freezer).
Stir all ingredients with ice–enough to thoroughly chill but not too long, as to avoid watering it down.
Strain into chilled coupe. Garnish with fresh pineapple wedge.