What’s Your Desert Island Cocktail?

Ever wondered what you might drink while cast away on a tropical island, equipped with limited resources and plagued by boredom and isolation? We asked bartenders that very question, and got five drinks that ranged from the whimsical to serious survival aid.

Erick Castro's Piña Colada: SPF 126. [Recipe]

The Golden Ananás: Tropical AF. [Recipe]

Morgan Schick's "Wilson": Put the lime in the coconut. [Recipe]

Ezra Star's Jungle Bird: A bitter oasis. [Recipe]

Coconut Water Highball: Hydration station. [Recipe]

Anyone who’s built their career in the cocktail world undoubtedly has their proverbial “desert island drink,” the one they’re happy to turn to time and again, regardless of mood, season or circumstance. But what happens when those individuals are asked to choose their literal desert island drink—presuming themselves cast away on a deserted shore, considering the plights of dehydration, malnutrition, boredom and isolation and making do with just a few resources at hand?

The bartenders we spoke with dreamed big while still taking practicality into account—considering not only tropical flavors, but garnishes and glassware. Scurvy and sunburn, too.

“My personal desert island drink, since the accessibility of glassware might be an issue, is made directly in a coconut,” says Trick Dog’s Morgan Schick, who would be bringing gin to his island, along with Amaro Montenegro and soda water to cap off his beachfront arsenal. Since “no one will be ordering it from me,” he adds, “I will just refer to it as ‘The Drink.’ Or perhaps ‘Wilson’ when I start to lose my mind.”

In keeping with the isolationist theme, Boston’s Ezra Star would build her take on the Jungle Bird—that bitter tiki classic made with Campari and pineapple—in a mug adorned with a face, “so that I would always have someone to talk to,” with crushed ice for hydration, limes to fend off scurvy and a pineapple, cherry or seaweed garnish for a nutritional boost.  It’s not unlike Erick Castro’s inspiration behind a similarly classic drink choice, the Piña Colada: “Something tells me that a little coconut cream and some pineapple juice would be a comforting treat when . . . attempting to survive against the elements,” he says.

In the most ambitious stab at the desert island prompt, Lynnette Marrero of Brooklyn’s Llama Inn serves her drink, The Golden Ananás, in an entire, hollowed-out pineapple. “I’d make an extra-large batch and enjoy it while listening to the crashing waves,” she says of her cocktail, which is fortified with rum and mezcal—plus an ounce of fino sherry. “If I was stuck, it would most likely be off the coast of Spain,” explains Marrero, hoping for a gracious, sherry bottle-studded tide.

Unsurprisingly, few bartenders take the charge more seriously than Giuseppe González, who is unusually mindful of the concerns facing a post-Apocalyptic earth. “This is actually something that I have thought about,” he says, before diving into the practical merits of coconuts as both weaponry and sustenance: a source of sterile hydration (“You can hydrate intravenously using coconut water,” he explains), sunscreen (“rub some [oil] on your skin”), fuel (“coconut fibers dry out and can be lit . . . if you have some flammable booze, life just got easier”), fishing spears (“the center spine of the coconut tree leaf is very stiff and easy to shape”) and even weaponry (“coconuts can be used like baseballs. Baseballs are weapons.”) Add to that overproof rum—which can be used as everything from a food preservative to a disinfectant—and you arrive at survival in a cup: the Coconut Water Highball.

As for the garnish, on your island, it’s your call. Star’s recommendation, for her drink and beyond: “Garnish as if the world were ending and you had no choice but to party.”

Many thanks to to Llama Inn for hosting our photoshoot at their El Techo rooftop bar.

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