I don’t know if it’s just me and my friends, but I’m assuming everyone out there has their go-to vacation drink, and or vacation kick-off drink. For one of my friends, vacation doesn’t start until she has her first Long Island Ice Tea. For me it is a ritual Bloody Mary at the airport that usually costs the amount of a monthly mortgage payment, but you can’t put a price on the taste of freedom can you? No, you certainly cannot. You become a different person on vacation and do things and eat and drink things you wouldn’t normally in your everyday life. Why? Because you’re on vacation and you can do whatever you want, and those vacation bystanders will never see you again, so yes Nae Nae in a t-shirt that has the name of the city you’re in airbrushed across the front. One of my guilty vacation pleasures is the piña colada. I’m not ashamed that I enjoy a well-made colada. It’s a delicious drink when made correctly and when I don’t have to be at work the next day. So why all this talk about blended vacation drinks? Because during these hectic times it’s nice to stop for a moment, and enjoy a little reprieve in the form of a delicious cocktail. The great thing about tropical fruit is that they go beautifully with all the warm baking spices that dominate our palettes this time of year. For today’s cocktail, I put a twist on a traditional piña colada with the addition of warm winter spices. Broiling the pineapple also brings out a depth of flavor from the fruit. I also named the cocktail after Santa because if anyone can use a little break it’s that guy.
DAY 3: SANTA COLADA
GARNISH: sage leaf
1 ½ oz dark spiced rum
4 oz coconut pineapple purée
METHOD: Add all ingredients to a shaker, shake well and strain into a coupe.
BROILED PINEAPPLE COCONUT PURÉE
2 cups plus 1 tbsp brown sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp nutmeg
4 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp vanilla
6 sage leaves
1 can coconut milk
METHOD: Peel pineapple. With a sharp knife, cut it crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Brush the slices lightly with 1 teaspoon oil and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Turn slices over, brush with remaining teaspoon oil and broil for 5 to 7 minutes longer. Cut pineapple into cubes and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp brown sugar and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, add 2 cups of brown sugar and 2 cups of water over medium-high heat. Once sugar has dissolved, add star anise, cinnamon, and sage. Bring up to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Whisk in vanilla and nutmeg. Pour simple syrup over pineapple in the bowl. Cover bowl and keep in fridge overnight. The next day pour pineapple with syrup into a blender, add 1 can of whole fat coconut milk. Blend very well. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
WITH A TWIST: Can’t even stand the sight of rum after your last vacation? This cocktail is awesome with gin, and you can also use vodka. The puree is also delicious with cold-pressed coffee and rye. Sounds funky? Yes, but delicious. Just add 2 oz of cold pressed coffee for instant pep in your step.
PARTY TIP: Since this cocktail is served up, I would serve this at a smaller party where you can pre-batch the cocktail but shake each cocktail to order. This would make a great welcome cocktail. I’m a big fan of handing someone a drink as soon as they walk into a party. Number one, because empty hands at a party make me uncomfortable, and, number two, it’s the right thing to do. It’s nice to do a more complicated cocktail as a welcome cocktail as you only need to make it once. Then offer easier cocktails or a punch for the rest of the evening. Also, if you don’t want to do any of this and you want to serve this as a punch and on the rocks and not on ice, don’t pay any attention to me and go on with your bad self. I would add the ice to the bowl and whisk it like crazy to make sure you get the purée incorporated well and you can get enough dilution in the cocktail. Don’t forget that water is one of the most important ingredients in cocktails, and shaking and or stirring cocktails will add that much needed dilution to make it just right.
So cheers to taking little mini-vacations, one cocktail at a time.
Cheers from your neighborhood bar geek,