One of the joys of buying a new bottle for the home bar is the opportunity to recreate a perfect memory. Two years ago, I visited San Francisco’s temple of rum Smuggler’s Cove. There, I savored one of the finest cocktails I’ve ever had. With the purchase of some apricot brandy, as discussed last week, I was finally able to try my own hand at the drink.
Taylor’s reputation was made with a cocktail perfected during his stint at the Nacional, which Baker would immortalize as “one of the three finest Bacardi drinks known to science.” It’s a daiquiri variation – in some circles it’s known as a Nacional Daiquiri – but what a variation. A few words on the ingredients.
Rum. Recipes call for either an aged or a white rum. Aged, obviously, is preferred. I used white.
Pineapple juice. For the most part, canned pineapple juice is viewed as an acceptable substitute in cocktails. I’d make an exception for the Hotel Nacional Special, where that intense flavor is the entire point. Hold out for fresh juice.
Apricot brandy. Again the question is raised of whether to use apricot brandy (read: a sweet apricot liqueur) or a drier eau de vie. Taylor, in his original recipe, specified “dry apricot brandy,” which would indicate the latter. I don’t have an eau de vie, so the choice was easy. Besides, the liqueur’s additional sweetness is far from an obstacle here, blending with the pineapple’s fulsomeness in splendid style.
Simple syrup. Reliable sources endorse using pineapple gomme syrup, a sweetener made with gum arabic, which combines the simple and the pineapple juice into a single element. I cannot speak to that innovation myself, but regular simple in conjunction with fresh pineapple juice worked magic.
Lime juice. Just regular fresh lime juice. Nothing to see here. Move along.
My rendition of the Hotel Nacional Special didn’t match the one served at Smuggler’s Cove in terms of sheer transcendence – they frothed a pineapple right in front of me, for God’s sake – but it was still a roaring success. The luxuriant taste of the pineapple crossed with the apricot’s sweet earthiness isn’t a memory any more. It’s only a few shakes away.
The Hotel Nacional Special
2 oz. rum
1 oz. pineapple juice
½ oz. lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup
¼ oz. apricot brandy
Shake. Strain. Garnish with a lime wheel.
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