Wine & Spirits: Cuckoo for Coconut

by WL Author

Mixologists crack open creative uses behind the bar for this tropical fruit.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

The Filipino Iced Coffee at Zengo mixes vanilla vodka, espresso liqueur and coconut water.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been dreaming about my upcoming Hawaiian vacation and have Tiki drinks and palm trees on the brain, but it seems to be the summer of coconut at D.C. bars. I’m not referring to the ubiquitous frozen Pina Colada (which, when made correctly is deliciously decadent and infinitely cooling in its own right), but to other cool uses for the hard-shelled, white-flesh fruit. Whether you head out to any of these three bars to sip one sans effort, or mix them up poolside, these libations are tropically terrific:

Siamese Crocodile cocktail at Bourbon Steak, with a house made Coco Loco coconut puree.

Siamese Crocodile
Duane Sylvestre and Jamie McBain, the talented duo minding the shakers at Bourbon Steak, concoct a house-made sweetened coconut purée for this spectacular swizzle-esque sip. But they suggest home cocktailians rely on commercially made Coco Lopez. It’s easy to find; just look for it by the Bloody Mary mix and other mixers in your grocery or liquor store. Basil leaves are a nice change from the typical mint found in rum drinks, and using finely crushed or pebble ice gives the drink an enticing crunchiness.

1 ½ oz Mount Gay X/O Rum
¾ oz Lime juice
¾ oz Coco Lopez, or house-made Coco Loco (see Note)
5-6 Fresh basil leaves

Add all except 1 basil leaf to a mixing tin. Add ice then shake and strain into a Collins glass. Add crushed ice, and garnish with a basil sprig.

For the house-made Coco Loco: Take coconut milk (from juicing dry coconut through a food juicer) or coconut purée (such as Boiron or perfect purée), and mix it with equal parts sugar. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Cool before use.

The housemade tonic for Estadio's Tiki Tonic tipple includes coconut, ginger and lime.

Tiki Tonic
Estadio Bar Manager Adam Bernbach says coconut milk’s ability to be at once both creamy and refreshing makes it a great ingredient in a summer drink. Bernbach has more than several house-made recipes for tonic that are completely different but equally delicious. This version mixes ginger-infused syrup with coconut milk, lime juice and a dose of the powder from the bark of the cinchona tree, the ingredient that gives tonic its indicative bitterness.

1 ½ oz Rhum Neisson Blanc
3 ½ oz Tiki Tonic (see Note)
Lime wheel, mint sprig and freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Add rum and tonic to an ice-filled Collins glass. Stir gently, and garnish with lime, mint and nutmeg.

For the Tiki tonic, combine 14 oz. ginger syrup (diced ginger infused overnight in simple syrup), 4 oz. coconut milk, 4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, 10 oz. water and 1 teaspoon red cinchona powder. Whisk, strain and funnel into a siphon.

Filipino Iced Coffee
The electrolytes in coconut water are believed to stave off a hangover after an evening of over-imbibing. Trucks selling the magic elixir park outside bars all over Southeast Asia to catch the late-night crowd. Zengo’s version of iced coffee mixes several ounces of coconut water with vanilla vodka and espresso liqueur for a bitter-sweet, tropical take on the chilly caffeinated favorite.

1 oz Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka
1 oz Stirring’s Espresso Liqueur
2 oz Coconut water

Add all to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake and pour unstrained into a double rocks glass.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on

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