Bartenders talk a lot about the delicate role which balance plays in the success of cocktail making. Acidity is a fundamental part of drinks, and pineapple adds piquancy to cocktails like sours (unsurprisingly) but extends further into the realm of highballs, shorts, and most notably, tiki drinks.
The Essence of Tiki
When people think about tiki, the mind tends to default to certain images in the first instance. Kitch palm tree prints and pineapple-shaped barware immediately leap to mind. But this is pageantry and can obstruct the fundamental idea of ‘tropical’ escape.
Pineapple at its Best
While tiki bartending is genuinely complex, pineapple is undoubtedly one elemental flavour that embodies the style. It’s not just an icon, though, but a wonderfully versatile fruit, that when used correctly, is shown off to the fullest in tiki cocktails. So how can we cross the pineapple over from tiki to become a mainstay in the average bartender arsenal?
Practically, pineapple gives us a highly versatile flavour profile, offering enough of an acid zing to brighten up lighter drinks but not so much acid that you’ll overpower the drink. It brings a natural sweetness, combined with a zingy freshness that isn’t found in any other juice forward fruits such as stone fruits or berries. The primary organic acids in pineapple fruit are citric and malic acids accounting for approximately 60 and 30% of the total organic acids. Malic acid is found in apples. It’s that tart, puckering flavour found in drinks like white wine. Citric acid is the bitter, sharp taste named after citrus fruits. It’ll balance pH levels in a cocktail and add a cheek popping zest flavour.
The other element pineapple offers is a creamy mouthfeel thanks to the foam that occurs naturally in the juice, as you can see in classic pineapple cocktail recipes like the French Martini and the Piña Colada. Simply shaking or blending will aerate the liquid, and some venues serve the mousse as a garnish, adding a lighter flavour and texture than the juice itself. You could also replace dairy-based foam in classic cocktails with pineapple foam. This vegan alternative will add some flavour, unlike aquafaba, but that can be a good thing, depending on your drink. The combination of fermentation, natural air found in the fruit’s flesh, and acidity contribute to this bubbly texture.
Incorporating Pineapple into Cocktails.
Pineapple juice powder is made by spraying pineapple juice on tapioca maltodextrin and leaving it to dry.
You can char or roast pineapple to reduce the acidity and bring the sweetness to the foreground.
Dried, freeze-dried or dehydrated pineapple make great garnishes.
A traditional Philippine dessert called Nata de piña is made by fermenting pineapple juice with Komagataeibacter xylinus — a food-safe bacteria.
The Philippines, Honduras and Mexica all have their recipes for pineapple vinegar, making for an excellent shrub recipe.
Clarified pineapple juice removes the textural element whilst maintaining the flavours.
Pineapple contains bromelain, a chemical that burns the tongue. To reduce this effect, bath the pineapple in salt water before you peel it.
Save your waste and create Tepache, a fermented drink made from pineapple peels and core mixed with sugar.
You can riff a simple classic like a Bacardi daiquiri into something more challenging by just adding in some pineapple.
Or you can play with new combinations; infuse some tequila with pineapple and tarragon to see the places it can go.
The nature of pineapple is inherently a strange one. It represents escape and hospitality, sophistication and kitsch. Pineapple has only endured for so long because of its versatility and its quality. What an absolute juggernaut our spiky little friend really is.