Long straws keep your hair away from the flaming “lava”
Tiki drinks strive to be exotic — which is why they’re often served in unique mugs and glasses. And one of the best Tiki potions is the Volcano Bowl Cocktail (sometimes called the Flaming Volcano).
Traditionally, this drink is served in a communal volcano-shaped bowl (usually one adorned with “South Sea” images — the tackier the better). It tends to be prepared in hefty quantities — enough for four people (or at least two particularly enthusiastic drinkers). Everyone sips from long straws to avoid getting singed by the flaming crater at the center of the bowl.
Unless you’ve been to a Tiki- or Polynesian-themed restaurant, you may never have sampled one of these. After all, your local housewares shop probably doesn’t carry volcano bowls. And unless you’re serving a crowd, the quantities that most recipes yield are a bit unrealistic for a casual before-dinner drink.
But no worries. You can easily scale down this recipe and serve the drink in an ordinary glass.
Or, if you’re planning a party, why not go all out? It’s easy enough to buy volcano bowls online. And this recipe is perfect for a crowd.
So light those Tiki torches, don a flower lei, and mix up a Volcano Bowl Cocktail. (Just check your fire insurance first.)
Recipe: The Volcano Bowl Cocktail
This recipe contains 6 ounces of booze and almost 10 ounces of other ingredients, so it makes a lot — at least enough for 2 people, and still generous for 3. If you don’t want that much, it’s easy to cut the recipe in half (or less) for a “glass” rather than a “bowl” sized recipe. The pictures accompanying this post show both.
But this drink really is fun to serve in a volcano bowl, particularly at a party. If you can’t find a volcano bowl locally, you can buy one from Amazon (that’s where I got mine). While you’re at it, you may want to order some long (17-inch) straws so you and your guests can drink from the bowl (Amazon advertises these prominently when you search for the bowl).
Your handy volcano bowl will work with other Tiki drinks, too — though you’ll probably need to double or triple their recipes. The bowl I’ve linked to holds 32 ounces. You’ll fill about half of it with ice, so you’ll need about 16 or so ounces of liquid to fill it properly.
There are many Volcano Bowl recipes out there, but I trust Jeff Berry (a/k/a Beachbum Berry) when it comes to Tiki. The recipe I use comes from his Beachbum Berry Remixed. And BTW, if you have any interest in Tiki drinks, you need this book.
The Volcano Bowl Cocktail takes several minutes to mix, and serves 2 to 4. You can serve it either in a bowl (volcano shaped or otherwise) or in glasses.
- 3 ounces Demerara rum (see Notes for discussion of brands and substitutions)
- 2 ounces gold Jamaican rum (see Notes for discussion of brands)
- 1 ounce gold Puerto Rican rum (see Notes for discussion of brands)
- 6 ounces white grapefruit juice (may substitute red or pink in a pinch — see Notes)
- 2 ounces fresh lime juice
- ¾ ounce maple syrup (you’ll be sorry if you use the imitation stuff; use 100% pure Grade A)
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- a small amount of 151-proof rum or pure grain alcohol to fuel the flaming cone (optional; see Notes)
- Add all ingredients except the optional 151-proof rum or pure grain alcohol to a large cocktail shaker half-filled with ice. (See next step if you don’t have a cocktail shaker large enough to hold everything.) Shake vigorously until chilled, 20 to 30 seconds.
- OR if you don’t have a cocktail shaker that’s large enough, add the ingredients to a large glass or pitcher that’s half filled with ice. Slowly pour the contents of that container into another container, then pour the contents back and forth between the containers — being careful not to spill anything — until the contents are well chilled. (This process is called “rolling.”)
- Fill the large outer circle of the volcano bowl with ice cubes. Place the volcano bowl on the serving table (so you don’t have to move it after you’ve filled it) and strain the contents of the cocktail shaker (or other container) over the cubes. If using glasses, strain the contents into tall or rocks (Old-Fashioned) glasses filled with ice cubes. If you’re going this route, a garnish of lime wedge and a little cocktail umbrella are nice touches.
- If you want to ignite the crater — and be aware you're literally playing with fire; you are risking an accident so be very careful, don't do this after you've had a round of drinks, and did I say be careful? — fill the crater of the volcano cone with a small amount of 151-proof rum or pure grain alcohol (the crater will probably hold no more than 2 or 3 tablespoons). Cap the bottle before you even think about lighting a match (you don't want to ignite the vapors from the bottle). Be aware that the vapors from both these alcohols are extremely flammable — so be careful about how you light matches around them. Use a match with a long handle, and light it away from the bowl. Then, making sure your head isn't above the bowl in case the alcohol flares up momentarily, carefully move the match over the crater, maybe an inch or two above it. The vapors from the alcohol will ignite. See Notes for more safety precautions!
- Distribute long straws to your guests, and enjoy.
- Demerara rum, which comes from Guyana, has a seductive “smoky” flavor. It’s authentic for this drink, but it can be difficult to find. In US liquor stores, you’re most likely to see either the Lemon Hart or the El Dorado brand. If your liquor store doesn’t carry demerara rum, ask whether they can order it for you. Alternatively, you can order it directly from online liquor sources.
- If you can’t get demerara rum, you can substitute dark Jamaican rum (Meyer’s would be a good choice). The flavor of the drink won’t be exactly the same, but it will still be quite good.
- For gold Jamaican rum, I suggest either Appleton Special Estate or Appleton Estate V/X. But if you favor a different brand, it will probably work OK (just don't use one that’s spiced). You can even use a non-Jamaican gold rum. Again, the flavor of the drink won’t be exactly the same as the original — but IMO, this is a cocktail you can take a few liberties with.
- The brand of Puerto Rican gold rum you’re most likely to see in liquor stores is Bacardi.
- Beachbum Berry often substitutes gold Virgin Islands rum for Puerto Rican in this drink. The brand of VI rum you’re most likely to see is Cruzan.
- White grapefruit juice works best in this drink IMO. But if you can’t find white grapefruit, you can substitute pink or red.
- Citrus juices always taste best when freshly squeezed. When it comes to lime juice in particular, there’s really no substitute. But for this drink, you can probably get away with using canned unsweetened grapefruit juice (you’ll lose some brightness in the flavor, though).
- It’s a good idea to pour freshly squeezed juices through a strainer before adding them to this drink, to reduce the amount of pulp.
- You should use real maple syrup in this recipe. Even though the quantity of syrup called for is small, you’ll notice the difference. The artificial stuff tastes, well, artificial — and it leaves a distinct aftertaste.
- The recipe calls for using 151-proof rum or pure grain alcohol to light the fire in your “volcano crater.” In liquor stores, the brand of overproof rum you’re most likely to see is Bacardi. For pure grain alcohol, Everclear is the brand I always see.
- The recipe specifies these types of alcohol because their vapors are so flammable. So be very careful about lighting matches around them. Make sure you don’t have your head over the volcano bowl when you light it — otherwise, you risk being singed by a fireball.
- DON’T EVEN THINK about using anything other than high-proof alcohol for your fire source. Using anything else (lighter fluid, for example) could be a disaster.
- When you light the vapors of overproof alcohol, the flame may initially reach 5 inches or more, but will quickly settle down. With the amount of alcohol you’re using in this recipe, the flame will probably burn about 5 minutes or so.
- If you happen to dribble some overproof alcohol down the outside of the volcano cone, you may see a line of blue flame run down the side. Don’t worry — it will soon burn itself out.
- An additional note about fire safety: It’s unlikely that you’ll set anything else on fire when serving a Volcano Bowl Cocktail, but accidents do happen. So have a fire extinguisher handy (you want one that’s rated ABC, so it can handle flammable liquids). You don’t need to keep the extinguisher at your side, but make sure it’s located where you can readily access it if necessary.
- Although restaurants usually serve this drink in a volcano bowl, it also looks swell in a glass. I mixed a big batch so I could take pictures, but it was too much for the two of us — we didn’t finish it. Next time I’ll cut the recipe in half, and serve it in glasses. Unless we’re hosting a luau, of course.
“That’s quite a flame!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs after I (nervously) lit up our Volcano Bowl Cocktail. “I’d say you’re playing with fire there!”
“It is,” I replied, relieved that I hadn’t set our table ablaze. “Look at it flicker – it’s going like a house on fire! Must be a draft somewhere.”
“Say, this isn’t a bad drink!” mused Mrs K R as she took a sip through her long, neon-hued straw. “Puts fire in my belly.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Gets me all fired up!”
“It sorta reminds me of a Mai Tai,” she added. “That’s another cocktail that’s really on fire these days.”
“Hey, we could serve Mai Tais in this volcano bowl someday!” I said. “Or would that be too many irons in the fire?”
“Why not?” said Mrs K R. “We could also try filling it with Planter's Punch. Or almost any Tiki or tropical drink. Maybe we should do that at our next party — it would set the world on fire!”
The flame on the volcano bowl sputtered and flared up momentarily. Mrs K R and I looked at each other and giggled. Then we shouted in unison, “Great balls of fire!”
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