Pa told me that about 90% of what you accomplish in life comes down to choosing the right partner. Speaking of that, when I got home this afternoon Laura stopped mowing the yard long enough to let me know that she’d hollowed out a pineapple for me, that it was inside on the counter and that a tiki drink would be lovely. I ran through my mental catalog and selected a classic. So, join me as we stand and make, the Jungle Bird.
This is a modern tiki cocktail, created by Jeffrey Ong See Teik, at the Aviary Bar in the Kuala Lumpur Hilton in 1973, as a welcome drink for hotel guests. That’s right at the tail end of the original tiki culture so it is often overlooked, coming on the heels of over 40 years of great drinks. It is unusual in its use of Campari. Tiki drinks aren’t usually known for their bitter components, but this one has it, boy does it.
This is a flash blended drink, so grab your blender cup and add 1 1/2 ounces of black rum, I went with Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black; 3/4 ounce of Campari, 2 ounces of pineapple juice, 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice and 1/2 an ounce of Demerara syrup. Add 16 ounces of crushed ice and flash blend. Basically, just pulse the thing a few times to blend and dilute, don’t whip it or anything. Realize you didn’t calculate for the fact that your standard hollowed out pineapple is larger than your Collins glass, so quickly top it off with pebble ice to make everything look ok. If you’re not using a hollowed out pineapple you can skip this step. Pour carefully into the vessel of your choosing and garnish with something vaguely birdlike. We went with one of those fancy luxardo cherries, a couple of cocktail picks and some pineapple fronds. Pop in an umbrella and a reusable straw and you are ready to serve.
I love/hate this drink. The initial taste is amazing, rich and complex, really nice. As the flavor develops the bitterness of the Campari pushes through, grabs your tongue and shakes it like a Polaroid until it fades into the background. This causes you to repeat the process, ad infinitum. Well, ad inanis, anyway. Sidebar, my rural middle Tennessee high school only offered one foreign language, Latin. We may be out in the country, but we scimus unde agricolae. Anyway, this drink leaves you wanting more. There’s a balance you can hit, a Jungle Bird nirvana, where each sweet sip comes, just as the bitterness peaks. Carrying you from wave to wave of liquid joy, as long as you don’t draw too deep and enter the seemingly eternal purgatory of the brain freeze. In a possibly related matter, I have found that this drink results in an empty vessel fairly quickly. I’m going to try this one again, see if I went a little heavy on the Campari or light on the rum. I make mistakes, a lot of them, I can admit that. It is a damn fine drink and deserves more research. I think I’ll get started on that. Salvum manere, maneat liquidus et suae naturae sanae, amicis meis epularer.