Sunday, February 6, 2022

koki'o punch

2 oz El Dorado 8 Year Rum (El Dorado 5 Year)
1 oz Hibiscus Syrup (*)
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Batavia Arrack
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1 dash Bittermens Burlesque Bitters

Shake with ice and strain into a glass with crushed ice. I strained into a Zombie glass with cracked ice and garnished with a lime wheel.
(*) A strong steap of hibiscus flower for 5 minutes to make a tisane or "tea". Combine with an equal volume of sugar and stir to dissolve.

Two weeks ago, I caught the news that Boston bar legend Aaron Butler had passed away. I met Aaron when he was on the opening staff for Drink in 2008; moreover, he helped to open Russell House Tavern as its bar manager in 2010. Those two locations are very dear to me for Russell House Tavern was where I got my start as a bartender in 2013, and Drink is my currently bar home as of November 2021. In fact, two weeks before Aaron's passing, we were chatting online about Drink's past and present and catching up on each others' lives. Aaron's passing was in the same week as Junior Ryan in Portland, Oregon, who I had met at Portland Cocktail Week 2012 and attended his Demystifying Vermouth class.

The longest legacy cocktail that Aaron had was the Battle of Trafalgar that was on the opening menu in 2010 and lasted on the menu for the two years that I was there and a few years past my leaving in 2015. That recipe with a half ounce of Batavia Arrack made Russell House Tavern the largest account for that spirit in the United States. After Aaron's passing, I made this recipe for guests at Drink, and the combination still held up; even without explanation of why I suggested it, they were recommending it to others in their party or to others at the bar around them. Later that week, bartender and musician Randy Wong posted a recipe, the Koki'o Punch, that Aaron had crafted for an Opus Affair event in 2011 where Randy's band, the Waitiki 7, performed. The recipe struck me as a parallel creation stylistically to the Battle of Trafalgar with the Pimm's base and St. Germain accent being substituted for the red and floral combination of rum, hibiscus, and Burlesque Bitters and with the honey swapped for falernum. That might be a stretch, but both had the three quarters ounce lime and the trademark half ounce of Batavia Arrack.

It took a bit of effort to find hibiscus tea for most stores sell it as part of an herbal blend. Andrea was able to find it in the ethnic aisle for it is big in Caribbean cultures. Once prepared, the Koki'o Punch donated a lime, berry, floral, and rum funk aroma to the nose. Next, lime and tart berry on the sip flowed into rum, Batavia Arrack funk, and clove flavors on the swallow.

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