Trying to find an idea for last night’s cocktail was like solving a riddle. I wanted something tiki – I’ve been blogging for a few days already but there has not been a single tiki or tartine in sight! Clearly, this sad situation could not last any longer. I had just received my CSA with a generous amount of fresh fruit and vegetable including plenty of citrus: grapefruit, oranges, and lemons. It looked like I was all set for a nice tiki cocktail when I realized that I only had half a lime left. Of course all my favorite tiki recipes include generous amounts of fresh lime juice, so I was stumped for a few minutes.
Looking through the various books by Jeff Berry and his very handy Tiki+ app, I soon realized that there are only very few tiki recipes that don’t require lime juice. The Halekulani cocktail caught my eye because it uses okolehao as the base spirit. Okolehao is a traditional Hawaiian spirit that is made from the root of the ti plant. It is more or less the local moonshine. After being almost impossible to find for a very long time, it was re-created by Jim Sargent at Haleakala Distillers. The taste is funky, earthy and vegetal. You can detect tropical notes but it’s not for the faint of heart – it is quite powerful.
From an article in Honolulu Magazine (June 2010):
To make the Maui Okolehao, Haleakala Distillers takes the starch of East Maui-grown ti root, converts it into sugar, ferments it with evaporated cane juice and then distills it. What results tastes like a cross between rum and tequila, with hints of honey and a coconut finish, which, Sargent says, “is a distinctly Hawaiian flavor [that] doesn’t taste like any other spirit.”
The recipe for the Halekulani cocktail does not have a lot of sweetener (just a little bit of grenadine). But that was fine because the okolehao liqueur is a little sweet on its own. The final cocktail ended up being daiquiri-like, slightly tart with a complex exotic flavor.
- For those interested about okolehao, there is a detailed post on Inu A Kena that is worth checking out.
- For a story about okolehao and mischevious feral hogs, you can read Matthew Rowley blog post at his Whiskey Forge.