A Tale of Three Drinks Featuring Pineapple Syrup

Spring is a season you just can't count on here in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, you may get a week of eighty degree weather, but often it is chased by a dreary rainy patch where the temperature swings twenty degrees back into the low sixties. But even as I will summer to arrive by wearing lightweight coats that keep me shivering, I figure I have to make my own sunshine. While I have a friend who says that when he tastes a bit of rum, how can the sun not be out, I opt for a different tack. Pineapple. Not only is fresh pineapple simply a blissfully tasty snack, but a single pineapple can also create a syrup that can compel sunshine from the door of your refrigerator. The best part is that pineapple syrup is incredibly easy to make. All you need is a knife and a cup of simple syrup. Breaking down the pineapple is the only obstacle. But once you've got this delicious syrup, what do you do with it besides pour it generously over ice cream or pancakes?

A San Francisco Legend
Born in the late 1800s, pisco punch is one of the earliest, more famous uses for pineapple syrup. Duncan Nicol, proprietor of the Bank Exchange Saloon in San Francisco, saw his pisco punch gain notoriety far and wide. Travelers from all over the country heard tales of this potent concoction and then made their way in droves through his doors to get a taste. The drink centers on pisco, a spirit first introduced to the United States by South American sailors as they passed through San Francisco. Even today pisco is very popular in San Francisco. And while this lesser known spirit forms the base, it is the pineapple that makes this drink sing. For years, the recipe for pisco punch was a mystery. At the beginning of Prohibition, Nichols refused to disclose the recipe as he closed up shop forever. Thankfully, a discovery made in the 1970s brought the drink back. In truth, it is a very simple punch. Which begs the question, What made it so famous that its praises were sung coast to coast?  Rumor has it that cocaine is what really gave this drink its kick. Still others have posited that the secret ingredient was actually the syrup. Instead of pineapple macerated in simple syrup, the original recipe called for pineapple gomme syrup. The pineapple is steeped in a syrup with gum arabic in it, a common ingredient in the 1800s that fell out of popularity. The cocktail renaissance has, however, brought it back. Gomme syrup provides a drink with a velvety texture and a richness that are unique.

Pisco Punch

2 ounces pisco
1 ounce water
2/3 ounce (4 teaspoons) pineapple gum syrup
3/4 ounce lemon juice.

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a punch glass. Garnish with a syrup-soaked pineapple chunk.

Note on Ingredients: I used Piscologia pisco. I also used a 2:1 simple syrup for the base of my pineapple syrup in place of the pineapple gum syrup. The richness adds a similar but not exact texture to cocktails While it is not the same as gum syrup, it is easier to make at home.

Blast from the Past
Fixes are a product of a long forgotten era--when individualized pours were steadily overtaking the communal punch bowls of old. Long before the cocktail would become a catch-all phrase for any drink in a conical glass, drinks that followed a formula were popular--sours, fixes, daisies, fizzes, and Collins just to name a few. Collins and fizzes both preserved the soda water element. Sours became concentrated punches in short form. Daisies and fixes revolved around different choices for sweetener, though no clear pattern was ever established. While differences come and go between the daisy and the fix, the treatment of the ice creates the distinction--fixes are served over crushed ice, daisies, like sours, are not.

Though liqueurs and various other sweeteners were used in fixes, my favorite variation is still Harry Johnson's Brandy Fix. Pineapple syrup was a common choice among bartenders of the time, but it is the green chartreuse that really caught my attention. Green chartreuse and pineapple go extremely well together--the sweetness of the fruit works balances out the herbal intensity of the chartreuse. The Dean surely stumbled upon a great pairing there.

Brandy Fix (Harry Johnson, Bartender's Manual, 1900)

2 ounces brandy
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce pineapple syrup
dash of green Chartreuse (1/4 ounce)
1/4 ounce simple syrup

Shake with ice and strain into a wine glass or tumbler filled with crushed ice. Add a splash of seltzer, adorn with lots of fruit and go to it.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac, and a 1:1 simple syrup.

A Bittersweet Variation
 During the summer, Campari goes in everything and variations of variations of Negronis abound. I am also not ashamed to admit that I do very much enjoy the reddish pink hue that every Campari-laced cocktail takes on. The shade reminds me of perfect summer sunsets, of watching the sun steadily drift behind the Olympic mountains. Perhaps not surprisingly, Campari pairs quite well with pineapple. I first learned this on a Tiki Sunday while I was visiting Drink in Boston a couple of years ago. After asking for something unusual to follow a lovely champagne cocktail, I was presented with a Jungle Bird. This exotic tiki drink originated from the Avery Hotel in Kuala Lumpur in 1978 and it combines dark rum,lime juice, Campari and pineapple juice.

With a new batch of pineapple syrup in my fridge, I remembered the Jungle Bird and began looking for other drinks that match up pineapple and Campari. My search led me to the Argonaut, a drink created to celebrate Campari's 150th anniversary in 2010. The drink could easily be seen as a play on the pisco punch, where the interaction between the Campari and the pineapple take center stage. This is definitely a drink to witness the day as it transitions into night.

Argonaut (Marco Dionysos)

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce pisco
3/4 ounce pineapple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice

1/2 ounce orange juice
2 dashes orange bitters

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with an orange twist.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Piscologia pisco, Angostura orange bitters, and Gran Classico and Aperol to approximate the Campari.