Monday, January 30, 2012

Tiki Classics: the Test Pilot

This drink is another creation of tiki progenitor Don the Beachcomber. Created around 1941, it spawned numerous copycats, including the admittedly superior Jet Pilot from the Luau in Beverly Hills. As has been noted by Paul Clarke, this drink contains all of the elements of a Donn Beach tiki drink, from the multiple rums, exotic syrups and the quintessential Angostura bitters and Pernod combo.

Test Pilot
1.5 oz dark Jamaican rum
0.75 oz light Puerto Rican rum
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz falernum
0.5 oz orange liqueur
1 dash Angostura bitters
6 drops pastis

Combine all ingredients, add a handful of cracked ice, blend for 5 seconds and pour unstrained into a chilled glass with more ice.

The drink leads off with spice notes from the falernum and bitters, segues to the rich rum flavors and dunder funk from the Jamaican rum specifically, and ends with the fruity orange liqueur and spicy anise sweetness of the pastis. Overall it gives a wonderful progression of flavors, without any one element dominating the drink.

I find that getting the balance right on this cocktail can be a little bit tricky. The drink can tip either towards the sweet end, especially if you use something like Fee's falernum, or really get in your face if you use some more robust Jamaican rums like Smith & Cross or Coruba along with Blair Reynold's Dark Falernum. Though at first glance it looks like there's not enough lime juice to balance out the sweet ingredients in this drink to properly, you have to take into account the fact that this is a blender drink and those need a bit more sugar. I also tend to prefer using aged Puerto Rican rums rather than light ones in applications like this as it lends a bit more richness and backbone to the drink. But no matter how you make it, this is going to be one tasty cocktail.

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