A little more snow, a lot more ice, another quiet day at home with hours to fill. I could have been productive and cleaned off the desk in the office or organized the rums or dusted my trophy case, but we skipped all that in favor of blueberry pancakes, introducing the boy to The Munsters, watching YouTube cooking videos, finally finishing Ace Combat, oh and day drinking. So, in the spirit of making the most of forced confinement, won’t you please join me now as we stand and make the classic Pearl Diver.
This is one of the jewels in the tiki pantheon, first created by Don the Beachcomber in the 40’s, but then lost to time until resurrected by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry in 2007. The key to this recipe is “Don’s Gardenia Mix” but form many years it was not clear what exactly was in this mix. Like so many of the original tiki recipes, there were syrups and mixes included that only the drink creators knew how to make. This kept folks from being able to duplicate or steal the recipes for these creations. It makes a lot of sense in the often cutthroat world of the early tiki bars. Having a signature drink that no one else could make was often the difference in who survived and who got their collections bought out by the guy down the street. Unfortunately, some of these recipes got lost along the way, until Jeff Berry made it his business to track them down and reveal them to us all in his book “Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari“. So let’s get started by making a small batch of Don’s Gardenia Mix.
To be fair, day drinking wasn’t really the plan, but hitting on the method for making the mix and incorporating it required more experimentation than planned. So rather than go through all the ways we failed at this, I’ll just give you the straight dope on how to get it right the first time. I figure someone might as well get the benefit of my errors. The recipe is super simple, but fraught with unexpected peril. All you have to do is cream 1 ounce of honey and 1 ounce of softened unsalted butter, then add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon syrup and 1/2 a teaspoon each of vanilla syrup and allspice dram. Sounds simple right? However, we discovered that the creamed butter would immediately begin to clump and separate as soon as the allspice dram hit the mixture. After a few failed attempts, with ruined drinks filled with floating butter curds, we hit upon the key. The recipe calls for softened butter, but it really needs more than that, it needs fire. So after you cream the butter and honey add a little heat, either on the stove top or a quick trip through the microwave before incorporating your syrups and dram and you will end up with a smooth, creamy pourable mixture that works beautifully. This will keep for up to a week in the fridge, but you may need to give it a shake as the allspice dram really wants to fall out of suspension and either reheat or let come up to room temp to be properly pourable.
Grab your tins and pop in 1 1/2 ounces of blended lightly aged rum, I went with Appleton Estate; 3/4 of an ounce of Demerara Rum, I used Lemon Hart & Son 1804; 1/2 an ounce of Jamaican Rum, I chose Smith + Cross; 3/4 of an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice, 1 ounce of fresh squeezed orange juice, 3/4 of an ounce of Don’s Gardenia Mix and two barspoons of Velvet’s Falernum. To make sure you don’t have any ice based clumping issues, go ahead and give that a dry shake to the beat of Hugh Laurie’s amazing version of “St. James Infirmary“. After 20-30 seconds, way before that piano intro is over, go ahead and add some crushed ice to your tins, I broke up one big 2″ X 2” emperor cube with my mallet and the lewis bag and that was perfect. Shake that till well chilled and carefully open pour into a Pearl Diver glass, yep it has a specific glass type, or any other tall glass you have sitting around. Laura gave me a set of those for my birthday last April so I am glad we finally had a snowy day to use them, as if that had anything to do with it. Anyway, garnish with some pineapple fronds from the freezer, an orange flower carefully crafted by your partner in crime and life, maybe toss an umbrella and one of those Surfside Sips reusable tiki straws in there for good measure.
This drink is just stupid good, well worth the trouble. I had avoided this one because of the creamed butter aspect, but that mix is fairly easy to make, once you have the secret, you’re welcome, citizen. Every element works here and that Gardenia Mix gives it the most amazing smooth, creamy mouthfeel. It is sweet, but but not overly and it has 2/34 ounces of rum, some of it overproof in there, so it is potent. Strong, rich, creamy, decadent, just all the things with a straw.
This drink is a great testament to science and the scientific method. After our failed attempts, we had to step back, create a hypothesis and test. The testing was vigorous and thorough, we really put ourselves out there for you gentle reader. Trust me, after a couple of these with butter floating on top that were not even the same drink, we were ready to give up. But we soldiered on, for science. By the time we got it right, we were ready to celebrate, so we made a couple of more to use up that Gardenia mix, guaranteeing that we weren’t doing much anything else of value this afternoon. When asked about his many discoveries, Newton said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I feel that, hard today. Seriously, as silly as it is, cracking the code on this drink felt like a win, but we are just figuring out mysteries already cracked by others. It seems crazy that this drink fell off menus for many years for lack of an ingredient and how cool is it that Mr. Berry stood on the shoulders of Don the Beachcomber, just so that we could clamber up on his shoulders to bring you a drink on this icy, slightly buzzed afternoon. How cool, indeed. Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.