I had planned to make this one for our anniversary, but at the last minute I switched to the Tiki Peat, because this one had me nervous. Maybe it was because I didn’t watch enough Elvis movies when I was young, maybe it was the color, maybe it was something in the air, a feeling of autumnal foreboding that said, “Beware”. Was I right to avoid this drink? Did I get it all wrong? Is Nolan here with the truth? Find out in today’s action packed episode as we stand and make the classic Blue Hawaii.
The color is unnatural. That is probably it. I have learned quite a bit during these Cocktails from Quarantine. A lot about making drinks and perhaps, even more about drinking them. The opportunity to experiment with different alcohols has expanded my palate and knowledge to a huge extent. I now regularly play with ingredients I had not even heard of seven long months ago. There is a truism I have learned, well, at least one I haven’t been able to disprove yet. If the drink uses its color as a selling point, there is a reason. This one is a prime example. Blue curaçao is a blue colored orange liqueur, remarkably similar to orange curaçao and dry curaçao and triple sec or even cointreau, except for its gloriously cerulean hue. Here is my hypothesis. Sometimes, you make a drink with orange liqueur in it and it is pretty ok, nothing special but nothing wrong with it. You know it needs a little something extra to make it interesting, but what? Oh, of course, swap in some blue curaçao and boom, it is a tropical wonder! That is the only reason blue curaçao exists, to punch up a drink that needs something to make it interesting. That is how it works in this drink. One could make a reasonably convincing argument that Elvis occupies this same space in film of the same name. The story is fine, but nothing special, add a little “boy from Tupelo charm” and a couple of musical numbers and boom, you have a classic-ish film. Don’t believe me, stick around after the drink and I’ll make a half hearted attempt to convince you.
This is an equal parts cocktail so grab your tins and pop in 3/4 of an ounce each of light rum, I chose Cruzan; coconut liqueur, I used Malibu, to my regret; blue curaçao, for it’s obvious charm and pineapple juice, because this sponsored by Dole, or it would be if we had sponsors. Add ice and give it a good shake to the beat of “Rock a Hula” a song practically made for shaking when it is not filling the required number of songs in an Elvis movie. Seriously, that was a thing. Colonel Parker stipulated that part of the deal to get Elvis to travel to your exotic locale to dance and sing with your leading lady was to make sure there were enough songs to fill both sides of an LP to be sold later, no matter how hard you had to work to shoehorn them in. Anyway, when your tins are good and cold, double strain into a chilled coupe and garnish with a flower from the garden, assuming it looks sort of tropical.
I wanted to love this one, for it to be the drink that finally broke the blue curaçao curse, but it was not to be. Don’t get me wrong, this is a perfectly lovely drink, if a bit straightforward. It was created by Harry Yee at the Waikiki Hilton and I imagine that drinking one looking out across the beach would be lovely. In fact, I had looked forward to trying it for the first time there this summer to celebrate our 18th anniversary, but that was not to be. I mean, we had tickets and reservations and all, but Covid-19 made our first experience with this drink happen in our kitchen looking out the window over the sink, taking in the wide vista of grass that needs to be mowed. Quite a step down from Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach, so maybe that is affecting my judgement on this one, expectations are hard to overcome. Still, I look forward to playing with this one again. I think that just swapping out the coconut liqueur might make a huge difference in this drink. I always feel like Malibu has a weird chemical thing going in the flavor, though they say it is all natural. Maybe it is just me. I’ll work on acquiring some Clement Coconut, for science.
I like Elvis’ music, but I have never been a huge fan of the films. They are kind of like this drink, a bit formulaic, but good enough. In fact, the more I think about tit, the more I realize that they are a lot like this drink. Consider a tale of two Blue Hawaii’s, one drink and one film. Take the blue out of the curaçao in this drink and it is a fairly standard, kinda boring, cocktail. Without that amazing color, this one doesn’t make the menu. Take Elvis out of the film and not only are you out of 32 minutes of music, but nobody remembers the story of Chadwick Gates kissing most everyone he meets while refusing to take a job in his fathers company. I rewatched it this week and I had couple of takeaways. One, this film was made in 1961, which was before consent was invented or at least fully implemented, apparently; there were way more double and even triple entendres than I recall, a surprising amount of statutory rape adjacent flirtation, with an especially cringey scene of a couple trying to pick up a seventeen year old girl, a spanking scene that was wrong on so many levels and worst of all, Elvis kisses with his eyes open. Heartthrob or not, keep your mind on your task. Seriously, dude.
Let that be a lesson to you all. Be wary of curaçaos bearing pigments. Make sure your contract stipulates enough musical numbers for you to be able to release an album afterwards and retain the rights. Don’t flirt with teenage girls. Stay away from uppers. Never tell a lady that “wet” is your favorite color on her. Most importantly, when you kiss a girl, close your damned eyes and enjoy the moment. Other than that, you be you. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.