Island Julep {a pineapple rum cocktail}

Polish up those silver cups! May approaches, and the equine curious will be donning their hats and duds, heading for the track, and grabbing for that prestigious and ever-so-delightful mint julep. This, however, is about a completely different cocktail. The Island Julep is a pineapple rum cocktail bearing little resemblance to its namesake but delivering fresh and surprising flavors.

Island Julep - a pineapple rum cocktail

As with most cocktail culture, mystery, distortion, confusion, and downright stupidity shroud the mint julep. Some say it was never originally prepared with bourbon, but with cognac or rum. Some highlight its early use as a morning jolt to get farmers ready for the toiling hours in the soil. We could also speculate for hours on its role in the Kentucky Derby and its requisite delivery in a silver cup. All of this aside, the drink is simple: spiritous liquid, pulverized ice, sugar, mint; no lime, no soda! (Ok, so the silver cup may be arbitrary, but it is an icon). This simple formula is where I began, but my mad wizardry brought me to entirely new climates.

Island Julep - a rum take on the Mint Julep

During a recent visit to Nashville–an enchanting city–I noticed cocktail menus were making an impressive use of the intractable Velvet Falernum. This super-sweet liqueur is widely used in gaudy and cloying Tiki drinks. However, its wonderful flavors, like ginger, lime, clove, vanilla, and allspice, should not be overlooked; they just need the proper context. Bartenders have been using Falernum in the Dark ‘n Stormy recently, and it’s magical. I knew that Falernum would be my spin on the julep–It would be my sugar replacement. I could have left things there, but that’s boring.

Island Julep 4 WM

My julep was going to need some fruit and acid to balance the sweetness and to bring out all of the intricate spices and flavors of the Falernum. I wanted to pay some homage to Falernum’s proper parlay with tropical flavors, but not make a big fuss out of it. Pineapple gum syrup would do just fine, and it provided such a luxurious, silky mouthfeel. Small Hand Foods makes an incomparable version here.

Island Julep 3 WM

Ok. I had my sugar and my acid. Now, finding a “spiritous liquid” was a no-brainer…RUM! But I knew ordinary rum wouldn’t make the cut. I needed something with some funk. Black Strap Rum, what a Dark ‘n Stormy should be made with, has a rich, dark, and earthy flavor without being too sweet. This would ground what otherwise would be flavors too sticky and fruity for this julep mutant, bringing everything down to earth…literally.

Island Julep WM

It looks like a Mint Julep, but nearly a hemisphere away. This pineapple rum cocktail drinks rich and complex and lingers cooly on the palate to give way to a crisp, and vibrant finish. The aroma of mint hinting ever so stubbornly to the drink’s forefathers. What could be more American than sneaking the tropical flair of an island getaway into a stuffy and out-dated tradition? Drink up and enjoy the races!

Island Julep
This pineapple rum cocktail is a tropical spin on the iconic mint julep. It's savory, surprising, and refreshing all at once!
Serves: 1
  • ½ ounce Velvet Falernum
  • ½ ounce Pineapple Gum Syrup (I used Small Hand Foods)
  • 2 ounces Black Strap Rum (I used Cruzan)
  • A few dashes of Angostura Bitters
  • Mint Leaves (at least 5)
  • Crushed Ice
  1. Slap 4 mint leaves and place at the bottom of the cup (This is enough to release their oils and fragrance; no need to pulverize them and release their bitter elements)
  2. Add pineapple gum syrup and Falernum
  3. Add enough crushed ice to just under the rim
  4. Add bitters
  5. Stir the drink until the outside becomes frosty
  6. Add more crushed ice to create a small mound atop the cup
  7. Pour over the rum
  8. Garnish with a mint sprig

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Nicholas Stanton

Bartender/Sales Associate at Craft Wine & Beer
I am strongly rooted in the Reno community. I believe in radically local ethics and the consumer support of micro communities. A large component of this is in the arts to express our realities, outdoor activities to encourage health and a deep care for the environment and food and drink culture to support local producers, farmers, and businesses. When I'm not geeking out and purveying new and exciting products at Craft Wine & Beer, I can be found cycling around town, reading literature of the Americas and dense philosophy and critical theory. Oh yeah, and keeping my two neurotic Border Collies entertained.
Filed under: Cocktail Recipes, Other Cocktail Recipes
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