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Donga Punch

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This is one of those cocktails that has led me to full-on cocktail geekery due to conflicting recipes. Jeff Berry included a recipe for Donga Punch in Sippin' Safari:

1 1/2 oz Aged Martinique Rum

3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice

1 1/2 oz Don's Mix (2:1 Grapefruit Juice/Cinnamon Syrup).

Berry says the source of the recipe is Don the Beachcomber bartender Dick Santiago's notebook. In 2013, the documentary "Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession" premiered and included a quick scan of old bartender notebooks. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, there's a recipe for the Donga Punch that's quite different.

1/2 oz Lime

1/2 oz Grapefruit

1/2 oz Munrelaf

1/4 oz Passion Fruit

1 1/2 oz Martinique Rum

It took me forever to be able to read that third ingredient, but once I recognized the letters I had my aha moment knowing that it was falernum spelled backwards. I asked Jeff Berry about the descrepancy and he confirmed that the recipe he printed is as it was shown in Santiago's notebook, and that Berry assumed that the recipe shown in the documentary is from a notebook of Mariano Licudine, who worked at Don the Beachcomber before taking over at the Mai Kai. But since the same notebooks show recipes for the Don Beach and Don's Swizzle, these recipes would appear to be from Don the Beachcomber rather than the Mai Kai.

We know that Don Beach tinkered regularly with his recipes, and the recipe from Santiago's notebook seems awfully simple for a Don recipe. So I'm guessing that the Santiago recipe was a short-lived version, and that Don Beach made it more complex within a few years.

I wanted to whip up the later version, but I've no grapefruit juice in the house at the moment. And I'm not running out to the store tonight just to buy one fruit (I'm not that obsessed).

The "Plastic Paradise" doc is on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z1stMWqa2o. Fast forward to about 38:35.


Whipped up a couple of these Donga Punches this evening. Excellent! Well balanced, juicy.

Donga Punch

1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice

1/2 oz Fresh Grapefruit Juice!

1/2 oz Falernum Liqueur (homemade)

1/4 oz Finest Call Passion Fruit Puree

1 1/2 oz St. James Royal Ambre

Shake with crushed ice, pour into a tall glass and garnished with spent lime.

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