Sometimes behind the bar, you have your own personal trends. Take, for example, this week's cocktail. A year or two ago, I got on a streak of making this drink for almost everyone I knew. I sang its praises far and wide. But somehow, it never made it into Chow Bella.
Then last week some friends and I were talking shop. Someone asked if I had heard of the Jungle Bird cocktail. They said I'd like it, that doesn't take itself too seriously but has a sophisticated side. I found the recipe in my library and immediately remembered that I'd made scores of these not too long ago.
I'm glad I dusted off my archives. The Jungle Bird cocktail is a damned fine drink.
The Jungle Bird is a oddball in the already weird world of tiki drinks. For starters, it was created in 1978 when the tiki fad was getting pretty long in the tooth. Second, it's one of the rare tiki cocktails that was actually created in the South Pacific, at the now-defunct Aviary Bar in the Kuala Lumpur Hilton.
At first blush, the Jungle Bird is a textbook forgettable umbrella drink. There's rum, plenty of pineapple juice, and a little lime and sugar (which in the late 1970s was almost certainly bottled sour mix). But then, the simple becomes unforgettable by adding just one ingredient, Campari.
Campari is usually seen teaming up with vermouth (in Negronis and Boulevardiers) or just a healthy splash of orange juice. Here, it plays off the sweet and tangy notes of the pineapple juice in a unique fashion. Indeed, it's one of the only cocktails in the tiki pantheon that calls for Campari. Since Campari has quite an assertive flavor, dark rum is called for; light rum would be obliterated by Campari's bitter notes.
Even with Campari, you may still find that the drink leans a little much into umbrella drink territory. If you do, the solution is simple. Just cut the amount of pineapple juice down to an ounce or two. Make sure you leave in at least a little pineapple juice, though. It's what creates the attractive foamy head on the drink.
Jungle Bird 1/2 ounce lime juice 1/2 ounce simple syrup 1 1/2 ounces dark rum 3/4 ounce Campari 4 ounces pineapple juice
Shake well with ice cubes. Pour into a double rocks glass. Garnish with an orchid if you have some.