I’ve always been a huge fan of the Jungle Bird cocktail. The drink is by all accounts a fairly straightforward mix of standard Tiki cocktail ingredients, until you get to the Campari. The drink purportedly got it’s start at the Aviary Bar in the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, circa 1978 (the year I was born). Traditionally it is made with dark rum. But if we’ve learned anything from the Negroni, it’s that gin and bitter liqueurs go incredibly well together. So for this version of the drink, I wanted to use gin, and Oxley Gin is a great example of a fresh, bright gin that isn’t a giant juniper bomb. It works incredibly well in tiki cocktails for this reason. To add a bit of rum “funk” to the mix, I chose to use a bit of Banks 5 Island Rum. With it’s notes of green banana and pineapple, it seemed like the perfect addition to this new riff on a classic.
Another “unusual addition” to this drink is the coconut cream. Since gin has a lighter mouthfeel than the dark rum usually used in the standard Jungle Bird, I wanted to add something a little more viscous to the drink, to give it more of a roundness in the mouth. I doubled down on the pineapple factor, and used a pineapple gum syrup instead of a standard simple syrup. This also helped balance the sharpness of the bitter liqueur, and the acidity of the pineapple and lime.
Last but not least, I used a newish addition to the Martini & Rossi catalogue, Martini & Rossi Bitter 1872. While Campari is a bit more biting and aggressive, the Martini & Rossi Bitter is smoother, rounder, and more complex. It’s lovely in a spritz, and especially in a Negroni. With the use of the gin instead of a dark rum, I really wanted to be sure the texture of the drink was rich and supple, and the 1872 helped accomplish this. What I ended up with was a lovely pink tiki drink with character and complexity, without being bracingly bitter. Give it a try if you’re looking for a twist on this delicious classic.
1 1/2 oz Oxley Gin
1 1/2 oz Pineapple Juice
3/4 oz Martini & Rossi Bitter 1872
3/4 oz Coconut Cream
1/2 oz Banks 5 Island Rum
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Pineapple Gum Syrup*
Combine all ingredients in a cocktails shaker with ice. Shake and strain over ice. Garnish with pineapple leaves (flower optional).
Pineapple Gum Syrup
1 small Pineapple (cut into large chunks)
2 cups Turbinado Sugar
1 cup Water
1 oz Gum Arabic
Combine 2 oz of very hot water and Gum Arabic in a heat proof bowl. Stir until powder is fully incorporated. Set aside. In a sauce pan over medium heat, combine Pineapple chunks, water, and sugar. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain out solids and combine Gum mixture with Syrup. Bottle in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a month.