How to Make a Missionary's Downfall (Yes, That's a Cocktail)
Welcome back to the Blended Summer drink series. I can only start out this week's column by saying... Oh, man, do I love this drink. It's one that I first discovered during my days behind the stick at Trader Vic's. I was always eager to show it off, even though it wasn't on our menu.
Suffice to say, it's about as Tiki as a drink can get. Rum? Check. Tropical fruit? Check. Lurid, licentious name? Big check. But for some reason, it fell by the wayside while the Zombie and the Mai Tai shot to stardom. I'm talking about none other than the Missionary's Downfall.
Why did the Downfall have an early downfall? I think it was just decades ahead of its time. Blended drinks in bars took off in the 1950s with the Piña Colada (but that's another column). Before that, any blender in a tiki bar was likely a milkshake machine deployed to make crushed ice just a little slushy. Since the Missionary's Downfall was created by Don the Beachcomber in the 1940s, it's likely that drinkers just didn't know what to make of it.
The big way the Downfall was before its time was its ingredients. Until very recently, the closest any bartender would get to fresh ingredients in a drink was a strawberry daiquiri. The Missionary's Downfall involves pineapple and honey, and goes where no other drink goes by blending in fresh mint leaves. At first glance, you'd think it's something fresh and modern, but the drink is old enough to collect Social Security.
There's a couple of grace notes involved when making a Missionary's Downfall. First up is peach brandy. Every bartender's initial instinct will be to reach for a sweet peach liqueur like DeKuyper's Peachtree schnapps. Remember the drink was invented in the 1940s, while Peachtree was created (and quickly copied) in the 1970s. To come closer to the true spirit of the drink, use a dry peach brandy, these days often labeled as eau de vie. Don't knock yourself out trying to hunt down some; I still use Peachtree and it comes out terrific.
The second slightly tricky part is the addition of honey. Honey becomes awfully difficult to mix once it gets cold, sticking to the bottom of your blender in a tenacious lump. There's an easy solution: Make honey syrup. Or, as I like to call it, runny honey. It's just like simple syrup, only with honey instead of sugar. Since the honey is already dissolved in water, it instantly blends with any liquid. Make sure you keep it in the refrigerator, possibly adding a little vodka as a preservative. Runny honey doesn't keep as long as simple syrup, so make small batches. Or, learn how to make mead.
Missionary's Downfall ½ ounce fresh lime juice ¼ cup chopped fresh pineapple 8 to 10 mint leaves 1 ounce Runny Honey ½ ounce peach brandy 1 ounce light rum
Blend with ¾ cup crushed ice at high speed for 20 seconds. Pour into a chilled wide champagne coupe or cocktail glass. Garnish with a small sprig of mint in the center of the drink.
Runny Honey ½ cup honey ½ cup water ½ ounce vodka (optional)
Heat honey and water in a small saucepan or in the microwave, stirring until honey is fully dissolved. Let cool, and add optional vodka. Pour into a bottle, and refrigerate until needed.
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