When we think of the Fall harvest, pumpkins and apples usually come to mind but here in South Florida that couldn't be further from our reality. Officially, our USDA Plant Zone is 10b which is subtropical. Therefore, our seasonal bounty includes red dragon fruit, passion fruit, guava, jackfruit, pineapple, coconuts, lemongrass and more.
During the planning stages of a recent CRAFT launch event with Digest Miami, Oolite and their new lounge, A.I.R., the stars aligned when we started seeing a strong theme emerge. With Kris' locally-focused fare, the Florida distilleries whom I love to support and Nick Bernal, a local grower who works with over 60 Florida farmers, we knew this would be all about what South Florida has to offer, from the food to the spirits & cocktails - 100%
Our participating distilleries were: Miami Club Rum (Miami), Alchemist Distillery (Miami) and Wicked Dolphin Rum (Cape Coral) who each kindly donated their time to be present at the event and their spirits with which I created three unique cocktails that evening, using some of the superb fruits that Nick provided.
So, let's talk about making cocktails. As I was bringing the liquid portion of the event together, I offered to also create the three recipes, using ONLY the fruits that Nick had available (plus some lime and sugar which I've learned is so essential). But let me be clear, while I have made many a cocktail in my time, I have never worked as a bartender and this project provided me with a whole lot of respect for the time and precision that is required in making these craft cocktails we enjoy lately. I not only had to turn uncommon fruits into an attractive and crowd-pleasing drink but also make sure the spirit married well with the juice component AND make or 'batch' enough for 100 portions of each. So, I cooked guava, pureed dragon fruit, strained blended sampled and sampled for a couple of days to get the individual cocktail right. Then I did a shout out to my friend Sarah, bartender extraordinare, who gave me some tips on batching and growing one cocktail to 100. She said, "be careful of citrus and spice because they grow exponentially, taste along the way". Great advice!
The cocktails were well received that evening and here are their recipes:
The inspiration for this drink came from the location of the distillery, Cape Spirits and Wicked Dolphin are on the gulf, the West coast of Florida, well known for shrimping, which is what I thought of when I saw the colour of the guava juice.
1.5 oz Wicked Dolphin Rum
2 oz Guava puree (this requires cooking down with sugar and straining out seeds)
2oz Star Fruit puree (in a blender)
½ oz lime juice
5 chili flakes
blend all the above, serve over ice and garnish with a toothpicked Bay Rum leaf
This drink couldn't have been more simple to make as it didn't require any cooking or fine-tuning really but what I really liked about it was the blending of one mint leave with the pineapple juice and coconut water before mixing with the lime & rum. It provided such a refreshing flavor to the already tropical profile.
1.5 oz Miami Club Rum
2 oz fresh pineapple juice
1 ½ oz coconut water
¼ oz simple syrup
½ oz lime juice
1 mint leaf
blender all the above so that a little mint leaf is incorporated into the cocktail, then serve over ice and garnish with a mint sprig
The name came to me for the asian roots of the Red Dragon Fruit, coupled with the wild west nature of the white rye whiskey. This was a particularly difficult cocktail to get right. Initially because of the Dragon Fruit, then the whiskey. While the Dragon Fruit is stunning in colour, it has only subtle flavour. Then, the Alchemist White Rye is intense, white whiskies usually are, not having been mellowed by a barrel at all, they tend to be very pronounced, oily and have a very pervasive finish. So with that in mind what we concluded was to use less of it in the cocktail - took a while to figure that out though… Bascially a 1:4 ratio, ie. for every one measure of whiskey, four parts of the juice mixture.
1 oz Alchemist White Rye
3.5 oz Dragon Fruit & Passion Fruit juice blend
½ oz lemongrass syrup
½ oz lime juice
scant of lime zest
blend all the above, serve over ice and garnish with a ¼ Dragon wedge.
So while I love pumpkin pie spice and apple cider flavored things, next time you visit your grocer, if you see some seemingly exotic fruits, try them in your next cocktail.