I’m about to hit you with some winter-time Tiki action, a drink that manages to feel like summer and winter at the same time. Long-time readers may remember a similar experiment all those years ago in which James and I paired parsnips and pears, but today we have pared this concept down to pearfection and we hope it will be apparent to you.
This tiki mug is one of my favorite pieces in my bar because it is so shamelessly gaudy. Tiki mugs are intentionally opaque, because most of the best tiki drinks are ugly, cloudy, swamp-brown colors. This is the price you pay for emphasizing flavor over appearance. For this drink, I didn’t want to be burdened by the aesthetics of the liquid itself.
I have never been a huge fan of pears, but there is a particular variety of pear called the Comice, or Christmas pear, which has a soft, custardy flavor and a pale green skin which, in ideal conditions, will exhibit a bit of blush. You can see it on the slices in the photograph. This type of pear is a hidden gem in all of the winter harvest. Its texture is like a ripe peach. I skinned such a pear, removed the seeds, and turned it into a smooth puree with a hand blender.
To be honest, the parsnip did not come through as much as we were hoping. An attempt to juice parsnips revealed that parsnip juice is a shockingly expensive ingredient per ounce, not even remotely practical as a cocktail ingredient. Instead, we tried caramelizing parsnips and then simmering them into a syrup with honey. It “worked” in the sense that there was a caramelly winter spice flavor, but there was nothing discernible as parsnip, per se.
To this I added light rum, fresh ginger juice, and prosecco, all over crushed ice. The prosecco did not keep any of its effervescence, of course, with so much crushed ice and pulpy pear puree, but its acidity and its flavor brought the balance to the otherwise sweet flavor profile of this drink.
~4 oz Comice Pear Purée
2 oz Light Rum (Bacardi)
1 oz Caramelized Parsnip and Honey Syrup
1/2 oz Ginger Juice
Top with 2oz Prosecco
Shake and pour over crushed ice into a tiki mug.
Garnish with Grated Tonka bean.
As delicious as that combination is, what really makes this drink stand out is an unusual ingredient called Tonka bean. Tonka beans are illegal to serve in the US, because they contain a high concentration of a chemical called coumarin, which has been shown to be toxic to the liver when it is fed to rats in quantities equal to their body weight. (Side note: Some types of cinnamon, specifically canela has a similar concentration of coumarin. No one has died from it yet, as far as I know).
Many thanks to the FDA for saving us from this dangerous, and delicious spice. Its aroma is like dried cherries, vanilla, gingerbread, and cloves, and yet there is nothing quite like it. I was able to buy some on ebay for a few dollars, and it came with a label warning me not to eat it, and a note about their use in “voodoo magick”. If that’s not Tiki, I don’t know what is.
This drink is named after a Chinese gangster who was active during the romance of the three kingdoms. When I read the story of this man, I knew instantly that I had to make a tiki drink that bore his name, and the “poisonous” Tonka bean was the perfect addition to drive home the theme of “Poison Yu”.