This Malaysian charmer may be the only Tiki drink to use Campari
Ahh, Tiki drinks: The soul of sweet laid-backness. Nothing bitter about them.
So what is Campari doing in this cocktail? Just enjoying a tropical vacation with its new friends, Jamaican rum and pineapple juice. The result sings like a nightingale and ruffles no feathers.
Mix up a Jungle Bird next time you’re yearning to fly away to Kuala Lumpur. And make enough for your friends. They’ll flock to this one.
Recipe: The Jungle Bird Cocktail
The Jungle Bird Cocktail hatched at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton’s Aviary Bar during the 1970s. It served as a welcome drink for the hotel’s patrons. More history in the Notes.
As is the case with many Tiki drinks, the recipe for the Jungle Bird has probably evolved somewhat over time. We adapted our version from one we found in Jeff Berry’s Beachbum Berry Remixed.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 1½ ounces dark Jamaican rum
- ¾ ounce Campari
- 2 ounces unsweetened pineapple juice
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup (or to taste; we sometimes skip this)
- garnish of pineapple wedge, maraschino cherry, and/or pineapple leaves (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake until the contents are well chilled.
- Strain into a rocks (Old-Fashioned) glass filled with ice. Garnish, if you wish, and serve.
- When served at a bar, the garnish for this drink can be pretty elaborate. It almost always includes a pineapple wedge (sometimes an orange wheel) and a maraschino cherry. Pineapple leaves often adorn the glass. Sometimes the garnish includes an orchid, too. Or a sprig of mint.
- At the Aviary Bar, the Jungle Bird was served in a bird-shaped ceramic mug, usually with a pineapple garnish.
- We tend to prefer minimal garnish. But we don’t mind overdoing it on this cocktail.
- The recipe for this drink calls for simple syrup. We sometimes skip that (or reduce the amount) because we find the drink sweet enough without added sugar.
- We generally use Myers’s dark rum in this cocktail. But feel free to experiment. Some drinkers like to use blackstrap rum. We’ve never tried that, but it sounds like fun.
- If you see this drink on the menu at a good cocktail bar, it’s probably worth ordering. This cocktail has enjoyed a revival over the past few years because many bartenders enjoy experimenting with amaro and rum. This drink is a playground for them, so you’ll find several good versions of the Jungle Bird flitting around.
- The Jungle Bird was created by Jeffrey Ong Swee Teik, the beverage manager at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton. Sadly, Ong died in 2019 at age 71.
- Ong worked at the original Kuala Lumpur Hilton, which opened in the 1970s. The location later became the Crowne Plaza Mutiara (and the building was demolished in 2013). The current Hilton Kuala Lumpur, which opened in 2004, is a different hotel entirely.
Flights of Fancy
“Rockin’ robin!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This drink is graceful as a swan.”
“It’s a rare bird, especially with the Campari,” I said. “But great for cockatiel hour.”
“So emu-sing,” said Mrs K R. “Not.”
“Gee, I thought it was owlsome,” I said.
“Better duck now,” said Mrs K R.
Think I’ll stop this before we both have egrets.
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