The Joy of a Pineapple: Castle Harbour Special

Whenever I see pineapple, whether it is the actual word in a book or on a menu, or the actual fruit at the grocery store or even perched on the lip of a glass, I can't help but think of summer. And not these paltry Northwest summers, where we long for warm temperatures just as much as a break from the rain. And also not those disgustingly humid summer days of the East Coast, where you are trapped on your couch coated in a thin later of sweat, while the heat drains all of your energy. No, these are not the summer days that I associate with pineapple, or else I would probably never want to look at another one. Pineapple means sunshine, dry heat, and a slight breeze, but just enough to rustle the leaves and flowers and keep the bugs at bay. In short, a totally idealized, absolutely perfect summer day. So yes, pineapple makes me smile and dream of sitting outside in the sun. That is a nice reaction to have while looking at a Charles Baker recipe.

This libation is rimmed with a sense of yearning for the past. Castle Harbor, located on the northeastern edge of Bermuda, is a large natural harbor located between the northeastern edge of Bermuda and St. David's island. In 1928, when Charles Baker spent several weeks there, its isolation and beauty struck him so intensely that the very small description he offers rings with a nostalgia. To look at pictures of Castle Harbor today, with Bermuda's airport perched on one side and its golf course and numerous hotel resorts situated on the other, it's hard to imagine unsettled islands with "white and pink beaches in utter seclusion except . . . the screaming nesting sea birds." I imagine this vision of a vacation paradise untouched by civilization was almost as rare by the time Baker was writing the Gentleman's Companion as it is now. He was lucky to have experienced it, and sometimes you even get the sense that he knew it. But just sometimes.

The drink itself sounded delicious. A mixture of rum, lime juice, syrup and fruit--it could easily be described as a type of rum punch. Though, as with many other Baker drinks, a substantial amount of rum provides the very firm backbone of this drink, the pineapple is definitely the star. As Baker describes the Bermuda-based Gosling Brothers outfitting his little hotel, his Castle Harbor Special most likely revolved around Gosling's Black Seal Rum, the dark black strap rum used most famously in the Dark 'n Stormy.

The drink also calls for sweet pineapple soda fountain syrup. Though the consistency or actual sweetness of this syrup remains a mystery, I would guess it falls somewhere in the region of what Torani might offer. Some bars and bloggers have used pineapple gum syrup as a substitution. On top of the smidgen of pineapple syrup, the recipe also includes a teaspoon of grenadine. When I first read it, I was worried about the sweetness level. Baker must have agreed because just a sentence later he says the drink is perfectly good without the grenadine. Also, he says leaving out the grenadine makes for less competition between delicate flavors. Though I would never describe either pineapple or grenadine as delicate, I followed his suggestion and omitted the grenadine. I'm sure that even in such a small amount, the grenadine was primarily used to ramp up the color and make it look more tropical.

Castle Harbour Special (original)

4 small pieces pineapple
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp sweet pineapple soda fountain syrup
1 tsp grenadine
1 1/2 jiggers dark rum (2 1/4 ounces)
1/2 jigger light rum (3/4 ounce)

Stir with a lump of ice and strain into a goblet half-filled with crushed ice.

Soda fountain syrup must have been really sweet. When I made this with my homemade pineapple syrup, I quickly heard Tracy say, "Um, I think this is a bit sour." Now, in general we appreciate tart, refreshing drinks, but this was a bit much. The teaspoon of pineapple syrup couldn't even touch the lime juice. I never taste a Baker drink for balance--the point is to taste it the way he intended, not the way I would fix it. Usually it is a flaw in the design of his recipe, but here it is a flaw in the substitution. So, instead of tossing it, I adjusted the sweet-to-sour ratio, matching the lime juice with pineapple syrup. It was much better.

The drink tasted mostly of lime and rum, but there was a nice pineapple hint to it. Perhaps if I had used pineapple gum, the original proportions would have worked and maybe the pineapple flavors would have been more apparent. I also chose to shake this drink with the semi-candied pineapple chunks that were left over from making the syrup. Perhaps muddling those pieces would have encouraged even more pineapple flavor and also provided more balance to the lime juice. I also decided to stick with the original amount of rum. Three ounces of rum is not so unusual for a tropical drink, and is an amount commonly seen in tiki drink recipes. Given the fact that the drink is served over fresh cracked ice, I figured over time the ice would take care of the proof.

Castle Harbour Special (as adapted)

4 small pieces pineapple
3/4ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple syrup
2 1/4 ounces dark rum
3/4 ounce light rum

Shake ingredients with cracked ice. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with pineapple chunks.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Lemonhart 80 Demerara rum, Cruzan light rum, and homemade pineapple syrup (see below).

Pineapple Syrup (as originally published at cocktailchronicles.com)

4 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 small pineapple
smidgen of vodka or other neutral-flavored spirits

Mix the sugar and water until fully dissolved. Add the pineapple (skinned and cubed), and let sit for 24 hours. Remove the pineapple, pressing with a hand juicer to get some juice into the mix. Strain through cheesecloth or a fine strainer, and add the spirits for preservative. Refrigerate.

Truly wonderful summer days are the stuff of legend and yearning, just ask anyone mid-winter.  But the idea of nostalgia can't really contain them, namely, because technically tomorrow could be one of those days (not really). Sure there is a certain pang of longing. But it is not the same as the feelings associated with a place, or time, you can never go back to because it doesn't exist any longer. Even in the 1940s, Charles Baker could not rediscover the joys he found on his first visit to Castle Harbor. And perhaps there really is no way to re-experience even a fictionalized, idealized version of a perfect summer day, if we ever really have truly have. Maybe our memories of what a perfect summer day can be, as exaggerated over time as they are, create the need for feeling like as if something has been lost in time, something that is unreachable in the future. I don't know--it's certainly is complicated. What I do know is that for me pineapple symbolizes blissful days and a certain carefree feeling. This drink took me to a different place, away from the dreary Spring, away from the need for coats and sweaters. It seems that this is an important part of what the Gentleman's Companion has to offer a contemporary audience, a certain measure of escapism--even to an imperfect past.

No comments:

Post a Comment