Key to indulgent cocktails like the Piña Colada and the Painkiller, coconut is typically associated with creamy texture and rich flavor. Coconut water, however, provides a refreshing, lighter sweetness that can be a secret weapon behind the bar.
“Coconut water is a great way to make the dilution in a cocktail more interesting without changing the texture of the drink,” says Lost Lake bartender Vince Bright. “It’s super versatile in its pairings, working well with bright tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, but also can sit in a drink that features a nuttier palate such as almonds or something sweet like chocolate.”
When poured straight from the bottle, coconut water can dilute a drink while doubling as a flavoring agent, adding a hint of salinity without overpowering. Swapped in for regular water in simple syrup, meanwhile, it adds complexity with its subtle nuttiness; frozen into ice cubes, it can upgrade just about any blender drink.
For a touch of the tropics, here are three ways to coconut your cocktail.
Proof Down Spirits
Overproof rum is no exception to the tried-and-true pairing of coconut and cane spirits. When mixed with overproof Jamaican rums like Wray & Nephew or Rum Bar, coconut water complements the funky profile with a slight nuttiness, while yielding a standard, more sippable, proof.
Adding 20 percent coconut water can temper high-proof rum, whiskey or even absinthe, but it shines exceptionally well alongside rhum agricole, whose characteristic vegetal notes are underscored by the pairing. Sip it neat or try it in a Daiquiri.
Freeze It Into Ice Cubes
Designate an ice tray just for coconut water in your freezer and keep it on hand for a slower alternative to proof down your rum or whiskey on the rocks, letting the cubes melt and the flavor evolve. Or better yet, toss them into your blender for upgraded frozen Daiquiris and Piña Coladas. From there, turn to a few riffs that call on everything from green Chartreuse to Fernet Branca Menta.
Make Your Simple Syrup Smarter
A straightforward swap of water for coconut water transforms simple syrup into something far more complex. Try it in a Ti’ Punch or Bright’s own House No. 3, which calls on a teaspoon of coconut water simple syrup to deliver a tropical-leaning sweetness that ties together the Rob Roy riff. “It carries some nutty qualities and is also much lighter than coconut syrup or coconut cream,” says Bright. “It was a no-brainer for me.”