Say adiós to those stuffy, precious drinks of yesteryear. This year is all about fun cocktails that are as laid back as your summer should be. And nothing breathes fresh air into summertime like tiki. It’s a word that’s as simple and lovely to pronounce as “rum.” That’s just one more reason why everyone should be drinking tiki cocktails this year, according to Pete Vasconcellos, head bartender at The Penrose in NYC.
“Tiki takes itself a little less seriously than the super serious cocktail culture that has dominated the bar scene over the last few years, while still building on all the great work the super serious bartenders had to put in to get us here,” says Vasconcellos, a self-described rum obsessive. Here, take a listen:
“You can get so many different flavors by combining different rums into the same drink. If you made me an Old Fashioned with two different types of American whiskey, it might have really really super subtle flavor differences and they might be interesting, and to a well-trained palate, that might be something awesome, but it’s minutiae. Whereas with rum, if you made a daiquiri and you used two different rums in it — a really funky Jamaican rum like Smith & Cross, balanced with a really smooth white rum like Owney’s or Banks — and then you put that side by side with a daiquiri that you used the same specs but just changed to an El Dorado rum or a combination of cachaca and Venezuelan rum, you’d have two totally different drinks. And that’s just a daiquiri. When you start getting into building tiki drinks, you can get really wacky with it.”
Vasconcellos says different rums also operate along a sweetness spectrum. Whereas blackstrap rum can have a molasses sugar favor, Demerara rum is going to have more of a maple sweetness to it.
“You could have a rum from one of the French speaking countries, like a Martinique rum—those are using the cane syrup as a starter, directly from the sugar plant, not using molasses. In that, you’re going to get terroir. You’ll not only get the sweetness of the cane syrup, but you’ll also start to get vegetal qualities because it’s more close to the ground.
Certain rums have some real earthiness and funk, sort of mushroom and meat qualities to them. The Jamaican rums specifically are known for having a lot of what they call “hogo” – real earth and funky flavor. Those are delicious and fun to work with, and fun to drink on their own.
Depending on what type of wood the rum is aged in—you can have rum aged in port barrels or madeira casks or ex-bourbon barrels or brand new oak, or not aged at all—they’ll have a super wide variance in how they finish.”
At The Penrose, they serve a Planter’s Punch called Buscando Guava that Vasconcellos describes as “complex, but also refreshing. It’s approachable even though it sounds crazy with all that stuff in it. Everything comes together really nicely. It’s not off-putting. Even a first time mezcal drinker could get into it.”
(by barman Luis Serrano)
1.5 oz diplomatico anejo rum
.5 oz Mezcal
.5 oz Madeira (rich flavored; we use Henriques and Henriques)
.5 NYDC Rock n rye
.5 oz lime
.5 oz green tea syrup
.75 oz guava purée (we use perfect purée brand)
Give everything a short shake and strain into a tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with ground nutmeg, an umbrella, a cherry, a palm tree and a crazy straw.