Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Blue Hawaii Cocktail

Blue Hawaii Cocktail with Elvis bobblehead

Elvis lives!

Hawaii was on fire in the early 1960s. And not just from volcanoes. It had become a state in 1959, the 50th to join the US. Then Elvis Presley made a hit movie called “Blue Hawaii” in 1961 — just as a cocktail of the same name was gaining popularity.

These events combined to generate a burst of interest in the Hawaiian islands, at the same time that jet travel was making them accessible to mainlanders. The Elvis movie in particular highlighted the beauty and fun available in what was (for most people) still an exotic part of the world. It also didn’t hurt that Tiki restaurants — very popular at the time — were drawing attention to Polynesia, the ultimate source of Hawaiian culture. No wonder Hawaii became such a popular vacation choice (and has remained one ever since).

But even if you can’t jet off to Honolulu, you can still enjoy a taste of tropical paradise with this blue-hued drink. Mix up a round and let your imagination set the scene: pristine beaches, cloudless skies, sighing surf. Elvis bobblehead optional. 


Blue Hawaii Cocktail garnished with pineapple and maraschino cherry

Recipe:  The Blue Hawaii Cocktail

Many people assume the Blue Hawaii Cocktail got its name from the Elvis movie. In fact, however, the drink preceded that movie’s release; it was created in 1957 by Harry Yee, a bartender at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The drink did have a Presley connection — just not the obvious one. Yee actually named his cocktail after a 1937 song that Bing Crosby made famous in the film “Waikiki Wedding.” Years later, Elvis sang the same song in his film — and it gave its name to his movie. 

So it’s complicated. But the name confusion doesn’t stop there. Because there are in fact two different blue cocktails with almost identical names: The Blue Hawaii Cocktail, and the Blue Hawaiian Cocktail. What’s the difference between them? Well, the Blue Hawaiian always contains cream of coconut (Coco Lopez) and is usually served frozen (whirled in a blender with ice). The Blue Hawaii is never frozen (it’s served over ice) and usually doesn’t contain coconut flavoring (though this does sneak into some recipes — more on that in the Notes).

This brings us to yet another source of confusion: the multitude of different recipes you’ll find for the Blue Hawaii. Well, don’t let all that confusion put you off. I’ve tested many of the Blue Hawaii recipe variations, so you don’t have to. My favorite? The one that Jeff Berry — aka Beachbum Berry — champions in Beachbum Berry Remixed. In the Notes, I discuss a couple of other recipes in case you’d like to try them (including one for the Blue Hawaiian).

This recipe serves one, and takes a few minutes to prepare.

Ingredients
  • 1½ ounces vodka (can substitute light rum; see Notes)
  • ¾ ounce blue curaçao (see Notes)
  • 2 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice (I buy this juice in little cans since I use it only to make cocktails)
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ ounce simple syrup (optional; try the drink without first — if you find it too sour, then add the syrup)
  • ½ teaspoon cream (not traditional, but excellent; see Notes)
  • garnish of pineapple spear or wedge and maraschino cherry (optional but fun)
Procedure
  1. Combine all ingredients (except the garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. Shake until the drink is nicely chilled (10 to 20 seconds, depending on how vigorously you shake; the shaker will be frosted when the drink is cold).
  2. Strain into an ice-filled tall glass (such as a Collins or hurricane glass) or a double rocks glass (traditional for this drink, although I prefer a tall glass). Garnish with the pineapple and cherry, and serve.
Blue Hawaii Cocktail garnished with pineapple and maraschino cherry

Notes
  • You can use either vodka or light rum in this drink (the original recipe contained both, as discussed below). I’m not generally fond of vodka in cocktails, but I prefer it in this particular drink. You might feel otherwise.
  • Curaçao is orange-flavored liqueur. Most varieties are either colorless or amber-hued (like Grand Marnier, which is a premium curaçao). Blue curaçao, which was invented by the Dutch distiller Bols, gets its color from dye.
  • The Blue Hawaii Cocktail was created at the request of a Bols sales representative, who asked Harry Yee to invent a drink using blue curaçao (Bols was trying to boost sales of the liqueur, and needed to showcase some drinks that used it). Yee experimented with several variations of the Blue Hawaii, finally settling on a mix of ¾ ounce light rum, ¾ ounce vodka, ½ ounce blue curaçao, 3 ounces pineapple juice, and 1 ounce of sweet-and-sour mix. 
  • This original recipe wasn’t bad — but it’s better if you reduce the pineapple juice to 2 ounces. And use real citrus rather than sweet-and-sour mix (which is vile); just substitute 2 parts lemon juice to 1 part simple syrup. 
  • Even better than the original, IMO, is a recipe from The Internet Cocktail Database that uses lime instead of lemon. This recipe calls for 2 ounces vodka, 1½ ounces blue curacao, 2 ounces fresh lime juice, and a float of ½ ounce Galliano. You can lose the Galliano if you want — it’s pleasant enough, but not really necessary. 
  • People who like coconut flavor in the Blue Hawaii sometimes use coconut-flavored rum. If the idea appeals to you, Barb at Creative Culinary has a recipe that’s interesting. 
  • And if you fancy a frozen drink, try the Blue Hawaiian: 1 ounce light rum, 1 ounce blue curaçao, 1 ounce Coco Lopez, and 2 ounces pineapple juice. Add all these to a blender, along with a cup of cracked ice, and whirl until you have a nice slushy mix. 
  • Beachbum Berry’s recipe for the Blue Hawaii (the one featured in this post) uses a touch of cream. It provides some of the same mouth-feel as coconut cream, but without the heavy flavor. His recipe tastes fine without the cream, but adding just that little touch improves the drink considerably. The Bum knows his stuff.
Blue Hawaii Cocktail with Elvis bobblehead

Tiki Month, from the Top

“Gosh, Tiki month has been fun!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, taking a sip of her Blue Hawaii. “I’ll be sorry to see it go.”

“Me too,” I said. “We made a lot of great dishes for the Pupu Platter. That Crab Rangoon was wonderful! And I loved the color of the Grilled Pineapple.”

“Don’t forget Candied Bacon,” said Mrs K R. “That’s my favorite platter item. Although I have to admit that Shrimp Toast Dip was pretty good too, especially in those little cucumber boats.”

“And all those great Tiki-style cocktails we featured — like this one,” I said, holding up my Blue Hawaii. “This is right up there with the Hula Hula.”

“My favorite Tiki drink from this month was the Scorpion,” said Mrs K R. “Though it’s hard to beat the flaming presentation on the Volcano Bowl.”

“Yeah, it’s all been fun,” I agreed. “And though Tiki month is coming to a close, we still have one more drink to go in our Summer Sippin’ Series — which this year extends to the Wednesday after Labor Day.”

“And what drink would that be?” asked Mrs K R.

“Well,” I said, “since we honored the 50th state with the Blue Hawaii, I thought it would be only fair to do the same for the 49th state. So we’ll be doing The Alaska Cocktail.”

“Perfect,” said Mrs K R. “I wouldn’t mind a harbinger of cooler weather. And we had a great time when we visited Alaska a couple years back. Remember the lumberjack show and the great totem poles? Not to mention bald eagles and whales and sea otters!”

Ah yes, I do recall. It was far from the tropics, but still a vacation paradise. Wonder where I can get a lumberjack bobblehead.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Simple Syrup
Hula Hula Cocktail
Scorpion Cocktail
Volcano Bowl Cocktail
Shrimp Toast Dip
Crab Rangoon
Candied Bacon
Grilled Pineapple
Or check out the index for more recipes

96 comments:

  1. My kind of cocktail John! There are two blue hawaiis? O.o That's indeed very confusing. So which one was the first created? That would be the one who earned the name, no? ^.^ anyhow.. I would enjoy it now!

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    1. Hi Helene, I assume the Blue Hawaii was the first drink, the Blue Hawaiian the second - but it is confusing! Love the color of it! Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I saw the name of the cocktail in my email and instantly started humming. :)

    Cute.

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    1. Hi Maureen, I spend more time that I care to admit finding just the right Elvis bobblehead! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. You said you would and you did! All in the interest of scientific experiment of course, I added some vodka to some of the leftover cocktail and admit...I prefer it that way myself. This was fun...aloha!

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    1. Aloha, Barb! Always important to experiment with cocktails, isn't it? Mrs K R and I really did have a whole lineup that we sampled. Didn't finish them all, of course, but it was fun taste testing. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Love this...It's one of those drinks I order the most when I go out, I don't too tipsy and I have a beautiful cocktail in my hand..Pretty one.

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    1. Hi Asha, it's really a fun drink - love that color! Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Haha omg this is so much fun :D
    And the little cute Elvis makes it even better!
    Beautiful recipe!

    Cheers
    CCU

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    1. Hi Uru, I couldn't resist the Elvis bobblehead! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I came {this close} to posting for Hawaii's statehood anniversary, John. (Aug. 21st) I'm soooooo glad i didn't. Now I get to bookmark this post and save it for next year, lol...who wouldn't want to have The Blue Hawaii as a cocktail stash anyway:) I've never experienced one in person so it will give me lots of time to take note and "play."

    I'm a little upset Tiki Month is coming to a close. I have really enjoyed it. I still think there should be a Tiki revival!

    Thank you so much for spicing up the month of August for us John. It really has been one delicious learning experience!

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    1. Hi Louise, I'm really sorry to see Tiki month come to a close, too! Maybe another next year? Who knows! I've always wanted to do a suckling pig. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Great post! I definitely learnt a lot more about this wonderful cocktail reading your post. I can definitely imagine sipping it and being transported immediately to Hawaiian shores.

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    1. Hi Amanda, it's basically a vacation in a cocktail! Lots of fun. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  8. A little pineapple, a little cream, and that picture of Elvis strumming his ukelele transports me John! Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Hi Monet, isn't that little Elvis awfully cute? I couldn't resist using it in some of the photos! Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Blue Hawaiians are my favorite drink of all time!! I love the color, the taste, everything about them :)

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    1. Hi Ashley, that blue is really interesting, isn't it? Loads of fun! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Love the figurine and the themed cocktail. Makes me want to watch "The Descendents'' all over again. Well, plus, George Clooney is in it. So how can you go wrong? LOL

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    1. Hi Carolyn, that was a fun movie! And this is a fun drink. You don't see that many electric blue ones. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Oh what a beautiful drink ... just take me away on a gentle wave ... thanks for a terrific Tiki month and so glad there's one more drink to go ....thanks for sharing :).

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    1. Hi Nee, no worries about the drinks - I usually do a drink a month. But for the Summer Sippin' Series, it was a drink a week. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Fun post with some fun information :) Insanely beautiful images :)

    I have this huge never-ending crush on Elvis and his bottom bad-ass pants...
    And this Blue drink is just the right 'thing' to tickle my fancy :)

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    1. Hi Nusrat, this post was so much fun to write! And to photograph. ;-) Fun drink, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I used to watch Elvis movies religiously growing up :) Just because of that, I am interested in this drink, though I am not into blue drinks much. Next trip to the liquor store will include that ingredient on the list. Feel like there is limited time to drink this before the fall gets here. Last sips of summer :)

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    1. Hi Ilke, it's a fun drink. Not the best I've ever had, but it just screams summer. You should Neflix Blue Hawaii as you sip your drink. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  14. I'd love to jet off to Hawaii for a while. I have never been there, but this drink may be a good start! Yum.

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    1. Hi Amy, I've never been to Hawaii either, but would love to go sometime. And I agree this drink is a good start! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. I love this retro drink! I have already started singing in my head that song by Linda Ronstadt..."

    I'm going back someday
    Come what may
    To Blue Bayou
    Where the folks are fine
    And the world is mine
    On Blue Bayou
    Where those fishing boats
    With their sails afloat
    If I could only see
    That familiar sunrise
    Through sleepy eyes
    How happy I'd be"

    This has been such a fun Tiki month! I am sad to see it go but i know you will have more fun on the way. I loved the appetisers and the cocktails and most of all your little tidbits about how the drink came about. Have a super Week. Take Care, BAM

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    1. Hi Bam, I haven't thought of that song in years! I'm going to miss Tiki Month, too. :-( But there so much else to cook and write about! Glad you've enjoyed it, and thanks for the comment.

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  16. How fun, John! I have a thing for both pink desserts and blue cocktails! I didn't know there was a connection between curacao and grand marnier! But this looks fantastic....I really love the tropical flavors....a mini vacation in a hurricane glass! And I'm not even going to ask where you got the bobblehead! Great post!

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    1. Hi Anne, they're both the same essential flavor, although Grand Marnier has much better quality. This is a fun drink. And I actually know a pink dessert or two that I need to make sometime. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Oh my! This is such a gorgeous cocktail. I don't think I've ever tried the blue curaçao before. But I love all kinds of orange liqueur. This is truly a brilliant Hawaiian cocktail. Gotta give this a try this weekend.

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    1. Hi Amy, isn't it pretty? And although it looks much better than it drinks, it's not at all a bad cocktail - fun to try. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. It's amazing how just a small bit of blue curaçao can create such an intense blue color. A gorgeous drink and I'll definitely go for the one with the coconut. Love fruity drinks with a coconut flavor.

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    1. Hi MJ, I'm guessing there must be pretty strong dye in those bottles! Great shade of blue, though. And coconut is always good. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I agree with you both, Tiki Month has been fun. The Blue Hawaii is as fitting a cocktail in the series as any you've shared. Just look at that color! The only place you'll find that shade of blue is in a tiki cocktail -- or on the tongues of those sipping them. I admire your restraint, too. Writing a post dealing with 60's Hawaii and no mention of Arthur Godfrey or Don Ho. Well done, sir. ;)

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    1. Hi John, there are other Hawaii-themed cocktails that I may or may not want to discuss in the future. ;-) Plenty of time to get more Hawaiian lore in! And that blue really is wonderful - it's so unreal! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. What a gorgeous drink John! I don't think I have ever had blue curaçao but I have had Grand Marnier. :) This sounds like my kind of drink when I'm vacationing somewhere beach-y. Looks delicious!

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    1. Hi Anne, this really is a great vacation drink! One of those slow sippers that is so welcome when you're putting in quality pool or beach time. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  21. What an absolutely gorgeous blue color! Love the little figure of Elvis in a Hawaiian shirt, how cute! As always, the photo against the black background is gorgeous, so I pinned that one, but I also had to pin Elvis and the drink against the white background. :) Too cute.

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    1. Hi Julia, black really makes colors pop, but who can resist Elvis? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. such a cool blue cocktail...it sure makes us remember the blue oceans of hawaii...beautifully presented and gorgeous snaps as always... :-)

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    1. Hi Kumar, isn't that blue wonderful? I totally love it! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. I will get extra attention from my kids if I am drinking this cocktail - what are you drinking, why your drink is blue... LOL. It looks mysterious and I love the color! I'd imagine I was in Hawaii and drink this...:)

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    1. Hi Nami, I think it's pretty much a given that if I ever get to Hawaii I'll have one of these. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Hahaha, I'm loving the bobblehead prop. Such a tropical drink... I imagine I'll be keeping this one in my arsenal of makeshift sunny happiness during the snowy New York winter.

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    1. Hi Irina, this would be a great drink to chase away a gloomy NY winter! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. I'm not a big cocktail drinker, I think I never have the patience/time to really make them when a glass of wine or a beer is so much easier. But this one? It's making the "I must have it" list. It not only looks delicious, it's so pretty, too!

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    1. Hi Kim, this really is a pretty cocktail - that blue is amazing! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I think every time I watch 'Blue Hawaii' I absolutely must have a cocktail in hand. I know it's a cheesy film but it is a major source of escapism and reminds you of a wonderful time in the world - America at its finest! xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, I haven't seen that movie in ages - need to again! Thanks for the comment.

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  27. I've enjoyed the Tiki series...nice cocktails and delicious drinks. Now I have to shake the sand out of my shoes. :)

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    1. Hi Karen, sorry about that sand! Tiki Month has been loads of fun for me, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I know I'll have another Summer Sippin' Series next year, but haven't yet decided if I'm going to do a theme month - plenty of time to decide, though! Thanks for the comment.

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  28. This cocktail is not only super pretty but it also sounds great. I love that you've introduced me to so many new cocktails to try, thanks John!

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    1. Hi Nancy, this cocktail really does have great looks - who won't love that blue?! Glad you enjoyed the cocktails, and thanks for the comment.

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  29. Nice back story with the Blue Hawaiian cocktail. Summer days seems to be over, we are getting lots of rain.

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    1. Hi Shibi, don't cocktails have interesting history? I can't get enough! Send some rain our way - it's blazing hot, and we've had maybe an inch of rain in the last 6 weeks (although it's raining all around us). Thanks for the comment.

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  30. John I enjoyed this story so much and your conversation at the end with Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. However, you forgot to share your Blue Hawaiian!

    I've had the Blue Hawaii that a bartender made for me and loved it but couldn't recall the name. I'm so glad you shared this.

    When I first saw the name Blue Hawaii with Elvis it brought back so many fond memories. When I saw that movie it was the first time I'd ever been to a drive-in. My mom and dad took us (me and my sisters)and I can recall lying on the hood of the car watching the movie and eating our snacks. It was so much fun. I wish I could relive that again.

    Now that I have the recipe for this I will be sure to make it. Although I love Coco Lopez so if you locate the recipe for the Blue Hawaiian I hope you post it.

    Have a great holiday!

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    1. Hi Vicki, look again - the Blue Hawaiian recipe is there. It's under Notes, second bullet from the end. I remember drive-ins! It's been ages since I've been to one. There are still a few around, but they're a dying breed. Thanks for the comment.

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  31. I think I'd prefer that nice tall frozen version. Since I have no hopes of dashing off to Hawaii this year, I will just have to console myself with a refreshing libation instead. One of these days though, I'm going to enjoy my cocktails from my beach chair.
    -Gina-

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    1. Hi Gina, the frozen version is quite nice, and the coconut works particularly well in that. We're taking a virtual vacation this year, so we're pretending we have beach chairs. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Looking at the colour of the cocktail, I am transformed to the tranquil beaches of Hawaii...Loved the recipe...it is something great to please the guests! I loved the model of Elvis. Cute! :)

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    1. Hi Purabi, isn't that color great? Unreal, but great! That Elvis bobblehead is a lot of fun, I must admit. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I love the blue color on this drink, a very pretty and refreshing cocktail.

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    1. Hi Nik, isn't the color wonderful? Unreal, but pretty. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Replies
    1. Hi Greg, Tiki year would be a lot of fun! And there are certainly enough Tiki drinks to fill a full year. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Haha, you just happened to have an Elvis bobblehead doll? So funny and appropriate! Another fantastic cocktail!

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    1. Hi Liz, can you believe I actually went out and bought that Elvis bobblehead just for the picture? Yeah, I know - I'm nuts! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. I'm a pina colada girl, but need to try this fun drink sometime. So tropical :)

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    1. Hi Kiran, the frozen version (Blue Hawaiian) is somewhat similar to a pina colada, although IMO not quite as good of a drink. But this is a fun drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  37. This sounds like my kind of drink. I think that it is cute that you went out and bought a Elvis bobblehead for your picture. I always love your pictures, they are always great.

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    1. Hi Dawn, yeah, once I got the idea for the Elvis bobblehead, I just had to do it! And this is really a fun drink - love the color! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  38. I can't say I'm necessarily attracted to blue drinks but that second photo really got me! Like Wow! And this is such classic drink. I really think you ought to continue tiki month and do it in the winter so all us landlubbers can feel the heat! Great month. Man, I can't believe it is the end off summer!

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    1. Hi Abbe, I love the unreality of the blue! And I had fun playing with the light in the second photo. I'm sorely tempted to extend Tiki month, but I've got so much other stuff I want to do! Maybe I'll have a Tiki special sometime in the winter. ;-) And I'm with you on being all amazed that summer is over! Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I was hoping to see a blue cocktail! They've all been beautiful but all kind of orangey, this one is gorgeous!

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, I just love the way it looks - unlike any natural food! So of course it's total fun. ;-) And you're right that so many other drinks look more or less the same - nice to have something totally different. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. This represents all things that are Hawaiian. From the beautiful color of the ocean to the magical tropical flavors. No Hawaiian party should be without one!

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    1. Hi cquek, amen to that! Thanks for the comment.

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  41. Impressive cocktail, and it's blue?! I had a Pastis, and once you add water to it, it turns blue. The ingredients seem doable, maybe I will try some vegan whipped cream, would that work?

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    1. Hi Vganmiam, you could try the vegan whipped cream - I've never had that, so I don't know. Or you could just leave the whipped cream out (although it does add a bit). The blue comes from dye - I know, I know. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  42. Love the pic. Truly cute. Thanks for the run down on the Blue Hawaiian.

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    1. Hi Debra, I had fun with the picture - glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the comment.

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  43. I love the history behind this beautiful cocktail, John! It's so summery and fresh looking. Love the festive little umbrella, too. I can't resist a drink with an umbrella, hehe...

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    1. Hi Georgia, umbrellas are so much fun! I can't resist them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  44. I can always count on a good drink recipe when I go to your blog!
    The first time I tried this drink was last month actually, and it was one of my favorites. This looks like a fantastic recipe!

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    1. Hi Cathleen, isn't this such a fun drink? And the color is outrageous! Thanks for the comment.

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  45. Hi John, Excellent posting. This cocktail is really beautiful and refreshing. I'm very impressed with your Tiki month postings, they all very impressive and classy. Thank you for sharing.

    Have a great weekend.

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    1. Hi Amelia, wasn't Tiki month fun? I had such a good time with it! And this is a great way to end it. Thanks for the comment.

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  46. Hi John, loving all these retro drinks! Brings back lots of good memories. You do such a great job of photographing your cocktails. I'll be coming back to your blog the next time I need a good cocktail recipe! Great post!

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    1. Hi Bill, classic and retro cocktails are the best! Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

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  47. Congratulations John on this series of gorgeous cocktails.
    Great recipes and such fun reading!

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    1. Hi Daniela, hasn't this been a great series? I've loved every minute of it. Thanks for your comment.

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  48. Boy, I remember all of those corny Elvis movies. It would be fun to make this cocktail as part of a nostalgic '60's kitsch' party!

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    1. Hi Fran, this cocktail would work well at a 60s party like that! Sounds like a fun idea. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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