To the Tiki with Strange Brew

My shitty bar set cocktail shaker has been getting a workout lately.  Brett found my copy of the Death & Co cocktail book and has committed our livers to a winter of gin. Which is fine by me, having a curious mind constantly making cocktails when the city streets become littered with gray, gritty snow will be very handy.

We are ahead of the death of winter thus far, as he has already studied and perfected construction of the Corpse Reviver No. 2.  He won’t tell you that.  But he has.  Besides it tasting like the kind of botanical, boozy lemonade that F. Scott Fitzgerald might take to, when we were out Friday he instructed the bartender at a respected drinking establishment on how to make one.  (Equal parts gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, and lemon juice with a few drops of absinthe, for the record.)

Having an architect sling drinks is a eureka! moment.  There is an equal proportion of precision and creative thinking to the craft that lends intuition on when to short shake and when to adlib with an herb garnish.  This is precisely the person I want building my cocktail.

Which leads me to a class of drinks known as tiki.  I have thought long and hard about this next statement, but I am sorry and can come to no other conclusion: I cannot like someone who dislikes this class of cocktail.  It is like saying you hate Scooby-Doo or Caribbean vacations or brunch.

They are also easier to make than you might think.  And the best part might be getting to smash ice with a rolling pin.  (Again, if you do not like this sort of thing, that is fine, but please keep your influence away from my joyful extracurricular activities.)

Tiki drinks are pleasure and pain.  And this one, called Strange Brew by the good people at Death & Co, is no exception.  It is, however, arguably much more balanced than some other tiki cocktails, which can be overly sweet and high octane and, thus, prohibitive regarding regular and continued consumption.

Strange Brew is decidedly more delicate, and floral.  It has pineapple and Velvet Falernum, a spicy syrupy liquor from Barbados, to offer up subtle sweet notes. It also has a dousing of IPA for bitterness, which I suppose is falling out of favor with many beer geeks, but I still love it.  You can float the hoppy brew on top, but I prefer to swizzle it in, so it lends a slight fizz to the length of the cocktail.

But perhaps the best part is that the drink gets better as you continue to sip it.  This might also be because you get looser on the way down too.  I guess, technically, it is impossible to judge the fluid merits of an alcoholic concoction with an unsullied sober mind.  And you need other drinks for comparison. Which, I suspect, is a secret motive fueling the craft cocktail scene.  And I wager, with their strange brews, these people are on to something.

Strange Brew


9 ice cubes, divided
2 ounces gin (try Tanqueray or Alchemy Dry Gin)
¾ ounce Velvet Falernum
1 ounce pineapple juice
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
2 ounces of an IPA beer (such as GreenFlash IPA)
Mint sprig, for garnish


Place 6 ice cubes in a plastic freezer storage bag and bang with a rolling pin until well crushed.  Place the crushed ice in a highball glass (the cubes should fill a 12-ounce glass to the top).  Store in the freezer until needed.

In a cocktail shaker, place the remaining 3 ice cubes and add the gin, Velvet Falernum, pineapple juice, and lemon juice and short shake them (shake quickly and briefly, just to mix the ingredients).

Strain the liquid into your prepared highball glass and top with the IPA.  Stir briefly and garnish with mint.

Makes 1 cocktail

-Alchemy is my new favorite gin: it’s incredibly delicate and hails from Portland, Maine. Their distillery is also very happening.

-Be sure to choose a quality IPA, I’d recommend one that might be described as grassy or like fresh cut lawn.