This Tiki drink is a Hawaiian original
We often use the term “sundowner” for any alcoholic drink we sip when relaxing at the end of the day. Preferably while watching a gorgeous sunset. But the Sundowner is also the name of a specific cocktail—several different ones, in fact.
The Sundowner Cocktail we’re featuring today was created for the Kon Tiki restaurant at Sheraton’s Waikiki resort in Honolulu. More about that history later.
Right now, just focus on the bracing and refreshing flavor that will be coming your way when you mix up one of these beauties. The Sundowner is the perfect end-of-day relaxer or pre-drinner appetite teaser. It’s definitely a drink you should get to know, and soon. Because it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
Recipe: The Sundowner Cocktail
One striking feature of this drink is its enticing aftertaste—rich with a pleasant anise note and suggestions of vanilla (both courtesy of Galliano liqueur). Galliano isn’t used much in cocktails these days, but you can still find it at most liquor and grocery stores. They’ll probably stock Liquore Galliano L’Autentico (which is what you want to use in this drink). There’s also Galliano Vanilla, which (as the name suggests) has a more prominent vanilla flavor. That version is much harder to find though, and is not as widely known. When people say Galliano, they almost always mean Galliano L’Autentico.
We learned about the Sundowner Cocktail from reading Jeff Berry—aka Beach Bum Berry—who is the best source for information on Tiki and Polynesian-style drinks. He features the Sundowner in his book Beachbum Berry Remixed, and it’s his recipe that we use here.
This cocktail takes about 5 minutes to mix, and serves one. But double the recipe and make two—sunsets are better enjoyed with company.
- 1¼ ounces cognac or brandy
- ¾ ounce Galliano L’Autentico
- ¾ ounce Cointreau
- 1 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- lemon wedge or twist for garnish (optional)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker that’s half-filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled (20 seconds or so).
- Then either: Strain into an ice filled old-fashioned glass. Or—if you prefer to serve this drink “up”—strain into a cocktail glass, preferably one that’s been chilled.
- Garnish with a lemon wedge or twist, if you wish, and serve.
- Galliano, an Italian liqueur, was created in 1896. In Italy, it’s most often sipped as a digestif—an after-dinner drink. Its anise flavor is reminiscent of Sambuca, but the vanilla notes give it a different complexity. (It also has notes of other herbs, plus citrus.)
- In the US, Galliano is most often used as a cocktail ingredient. It’s rarely consumed as a digestif, though it’s sometimes drunk as shots.
- Other cocktails that use Galliano include the Harvey Wallbanger and the Blue Hawaii.
- You can use brandy or cognac for this drink. Cognac is brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. (Brandy is what happens when you distill wine.) We tend to prefer the flavor profiles of Cognac, so that’s what we often buy. But we use—and like—both in this drink.
- You don’t want to use expensive brandy or cognac for this cocktail—something in the range of $15 per bottle (or even a bit less) should work fine. We generally use a VSOP like St. Remy or Raynal. If in doubt, ask a salesperson at your local liquor store—they’re usually very helpful.
- As noted above, there are several drinks called “Sundowner.” Among the better known is the South African Sundowner Cocktail. Its distinctive flavor comes from Van der Hum liqueur—a South African liqueur flavored with tangerines.
- Tiki and Polynesian restaurants (and the drinks they served) were very popular in the mid-20th century. Donn Beach started the craze with his “Don the Beachcomber” restaurant chain. Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr. (better known as Trader Vic) quickly joined in. But there was a third, less well known Tiki maven—Stephen Crane.
- So you’re probably picturing the 19th century author named Stephen Crane, who wrote The Red Badge of Courage.
- But there was also Joseph Stephen Crane, a 20th-century chap who dropped his first name when he became an actor. Crane’s acting was forgettable—he’s probably better known in Hollywood for the celebrities he dated than for the movies he made. Among his amours was Lana Turner, to whom he was married for a brief period.
- Crane was much more successful at the restaurant business. In the early 1950s, he opened the Polynesian-themed Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills. He later partnered with Sheraton Hotels, opening a chain of restaurants called Kon Tiki in Sheratons around the United States—including Hawaii.
- Reportedly, the Sundowner Cocktail was created specifically for the Kon Tiki restaurant at Sheraton’s Waikiki resort in Honolulu.
- Programming Note: We’re taking the rest of the month off for some down time. So we won’t be doing any additional posts this month (and we won’t be visiting other blogs for a while). We’ll be back with a new post on Wednesday, October 1.
A Toast to Summer’s End
“Labor Day has come and gone,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “So I guess summer is officially over.”
“And today we bid farewell to our Summer Sippin’ and Snarfin’ Series,” I said.
“It’s been fun to do some extra cocktail posts over the past few weeks,” said Mrs K R, eyeing her Sundowner. “And this drink is perfect for the grand finale.”
“Yep, since the sun is setting on summer in our part of the world,” I said. “Plus the name of this cocktail is appropriate because we’re taking a few weeks off.”
“Right!” said Mrs K R. “No more posts this month. Down time! R&R! Vegging out! Can’t wait.”
Me neither. See you in October.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Straits Sling Cocktail
Dr. Funk Cocktail
Rum Daisy Cocktail
Brandy Smash Cocktail
Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
Queen's Park Swizzle Cocktail
Monkey Gland Cocktail
Or check out the index for more