Tame summer heat with this 1930s Tiki smooth sipper
It’s hot outside (where we live, at least). So let’s seek relief in liquid refreshment.
Today we’ll quench our thirst with the Nui Nui Cocktail, a Tiki classic. It’s a delightful combo of rum, fruit juice, and flavored syrups.
Fearless ingredients combining forces to beat the heat? A heroic feat of satiation, we say.
Recipe: The Nui Nui Cocktail
The Nui Nui was created by Donn Beach, who kicked off the Tiki craze when he started his chain of Don the Beachcomber restaurants during the 1930s. Like many of his drinks, the Nui Nui calls for rum, fruit juice, and some specialty syrups – in this case, vanilla simple syrup and cinnamon simple syrup. You can buy both of these, but it’s easy enough to make your own (recipes and instructions are in the Notes).
Our recipe comes from Tiki maven Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Check out the Notes for an alternate formula.
This recipe takes about 5 minutes to prepare and serves 1.
- 2 ounces gold Virgin Islands rum (see Notes)
- 1/8 ounce allspice dram (AKA pimento dram; see Notes)
- ½ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
- ½ ounce orange juice
- ¼ ounce cinnamon simple syrup (see Notes)
- 1/8 ounce vanilla simple syrup (see Notes)
- dash of angostura bitters
- garnish of orange peel (optional)
- Place all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice. Shake vigorously until the contents are well chilled (about 20 seconds).
- Strain into a tall (highball) glass filled with chipped or crushed ice. Add more ice to fill the glass, if necessary. Then add garnish, if using. Serve and enjoy.
- Donn Beach made a lot of his drinks in a blender – including this one. His procedure: Add ½ cup of crushed ice along with the drink ingredients (sans garnish) to the blender jar. “Flash” blend on high speed for 5 seconds. Then pour the contents of the blender (ice included) into a tall glass, adding more ice if necessary to fill the glass.
- But we prefer to shake with ice – we just find it easier. We like to serve this drink over chipped or crushed ice, but you could use standard ice cubes if you want.
- Donn Beach was notoriously secretive about his cocktail recipes. He also tinkered with them over time. So it’s hard to find the original, “authentic” versions of his drinks. Beachbum Berry has done extensive, meticulous research on the topic, however. His books are worth checking out.
- An alternate recipe for the Nui Nui that we’ve seen (and like) goes as follows: 1½ ounces gold Virgin Islands rum, ½ ounce dark demerara rum, 1 teaspoon allspice dram, ½ ounce lime juice, ½ ounce orange juice, ¼ ounce cinnamon simple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla simple syrup, 1 dash Angostura bitters. Prepare as directed in the Procedure above. Garnish with an orange peel (and maybe a cinnamon stick).
- Both versions of this drink are quite good. In fact, we have trouble deciding which we prefer. So try both! And decide which one tickles your taste buds.
- To make cinnamon simple syrup: Crush a couple cinnamon sticks. Add them to a small saucepan, along with 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for at least 2 hours (3 or 4 hours is better). Strain into a jar and store in the refrigerator (the syrup will keep for a couple of weeks).
- To make vanilla simple syrup: Combine 4 ounces of sugar with 4 ounces of very hot water. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Let the mixture steep, then add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into a jar, seal tightly, and refrigerate (the syrup will keep for a couple of weeks).
- Donn Beach used gold (amber) Virgin Islands rum in this drink. VI rum has a bit more complexity than rum from Puerto Rico.
- Which brand of Virgin Islands rum to buy? Cruzan is what you’re most likely to see in liquor stores, and it’s good. Their gold rum is called “aged dark rum,” but its color is gold (on the dark side, but still gold), which is what you want.
- If you make the alternate recipe for the Nui Nui, you’ll also need demerara rum, which is from Guyana. El Dorado is the brand you’re likely to find. We buy the 8-year-old version for cocktails. You can also find longer-aged versions, which are more expensive. We like to save those for sipping, although of course they’re wonderful in drinks.
- Allspice dram (AKA pimento dram) is a liqueur infused with allspice and other flavorings. You can make your own, but it’s easier to buy it from a liquor store. St. Elizabeth is the brand you’re most likely to see, but others are available.
- Our usual disclaimer: We’re noncommercial and don’t benefit in any manner from mentioning brands. We recommend what we like and buy with our own money.
“Great drink!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I hear it originally was called the ‘Pupule,’ which means crazy in Hawaiian.”
“I like the Nui Nui name,” I said. “Kind of musical, don’t you think?”
“Do I feel a song riff coming on?” said Mrs K R.
“Yup!” I said. “Inspired by Louie Louie, that great tune from our youth:
Nui Nu-I, oh no
Me gotta drink
“That sounds pupule,” said Mrs K R.
Me gotta go now.
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