Why the Jungle Bird Should Be the Cocktail of Summer 2020

The beauty of a cocktail like the Jungle Bird is that it is greater than the sum of its parts. It is like a musical chord: When in-tune, or balanced, it is one sound, or note, with depth and complexity. The Jungle Bird is exactly that; a perfect harmony of rum, lime juice, pineapple juice, Demerara syrup, and bitter Campari.

The recipe was discovered by tiki cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry who published it in his book Intoxica and cited The New American Bartender’s Guide by John J. Poister in 1989 as the original source. The cocktail was created in 1978 in the former KL Hilton’s Aviary Bar in Malaysia, and was later brought back into vogue by ex-New York City Giuseppe Gonzalez.

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Now, this tropical cocktail has established itself as a modern classic and deserves some love for what it is: A damn good, juicy, boozy, tipple that is begging to be drunk all summer long (accompaniment by the Kid Rock song of the same name optional). Hot weather calls for a drink that keeps you both hydrated and buzzed, and the Jungle Bird delivers. Here are a few other reasons why this bitter tiki cocktail should be the drink of the Summer.

Easy to Make, Yet Complex

Tiki, or tropical, cocktails are exciting to drink because of their fruit juices, alcoholic strength, and visual appeal (who doesn’t love a drink on fire?); but most of them involve seven or more ingredients and special ice which makes them difficult to recreate at home. “It’s the perfect summer libation because of its approachability,” Christian Suzuki-Orellana, a San Francisco-based bartender and finalist at Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition, says. “It’s appealing for those who may be looking for a sweet, or bitter, or funky cocktail.”

The Jungle Bird maintains the complexity of the tropical drink genre, but uses simple ingredients that are all easily purchased at your local grocery store. It’s sophisticated and affordable.

You Can Put Your Own Spin On It

Rum is an incredibly diverse spirit category, so the Jungle Bird can taste completely different when using one style, or brand, versus another. “I’ve used [Plantation] Stiggin’s Fancy pineapple rum, or Hamilton Demerara rum in my Jungle Birds,” Suzuki-Orellana says. In addition to those rums, he explains how splitting those bases with a small dose of another rum can also augment the flavor of the cocktail.

In Berry’s Intoxica, he recorded the original recipe with Jamaican rum, but Gonzalez’s updated version uses a richer, blackstrap rum. Aside from employing different rums, new riffs on the cocktail include infusions like coffee-infused Campari, or other bitter liqueurs to change the flavor profile completely, while still maintaining the classic template. “The traditional spec leaves an opportunity for original cocktail development,” Connor Dineen, bartender at The Amsterdam in Rhinebeck, New York, says, “particularly when diving into more complex flavor techniques and uncommon ingredients.” That’s all to say that you can really get creative and swap out one similar ingredient for another (i.e lime juice for lemon juice, or Campari for Averna) and make this refreshing cocktail your own.

You Can Batch it For Convenience

At small gatherings or outings where you have to BYOB, batching cocktails is an absolute lifesaver. It is a nuisance to constantly be shaking cocktails when you want to spend time with friends and family, so making a large batch of the Jungle Bird beforehand will save you the headache of mixing, while still reaping the benefits of a complex drink. Just transpose the recipe below into cups instead of ounces and add it to a large pitcher with ice, and pour into your glass to serve — it’s that simple. While you won’t get the frothy texture that the shaken pineapple juice provides, if you are using fresh juices, there won’t be one complaint about the quality of the drink.

Jungle Bird:

  • 1.5 oz Jamaican rum
  • .75 oz Campari
  • 1 oz pineapple juice, preferably fresh
  • .5 oz lime juice
  • .5 oz Demerara syrup (1:1 sugar to water)
  • Garnish: pineapple wedge and frond

Method:

  1. Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously for 7 seconds.
  2. Strain into a double rocks glass over ice and garnish.

Suzu’s Jungle Bird Variation

  • 1.5 oz Plantation Stiggin’s Fancy pineapple rum
  • .5 oz Campari
  • .5 oz clarified lime juice*
  • .5 oz simple syrup (1:1)
  • 2 oz Topo Chico mineral water
  • 5 mint leaves
  • Garnish: mint sprig

Method:

  1. Fill a tall glass with crushed ice.
  2. Add all ingredients to a shaker (except the Topo Chico), add ice, and shake vigorously for 7 seconds; then add the Topo Chico into the shaker to mix.
  3. Strain the mix over crushed ice, and garnish to serve.

*Clarified lime juice (at-home version)

Method: squeeze lime juice and let rest for a couple of hours to let the pulp separate, then strain through a coffee filter to clarify.

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