Like coconut, pineapple is an ingredient that immediately renders a drink tropical, making it a must-have for crowd-pleasing tiki drinks, tropical spins on classics and fruit-forward ’tinis. But there’s more than one way to capture that flavor.
For cocktails that call on pineapple juice, fresh is best, as “canned juice tends to be lifeless,” according to Proteau founder John deBary. In his version of the Singapore Sling, he dials down the pineapple quotient while maintaining the classic’s juicy nature, balancing it with a hint of spice from Bénédictine. Also folding pineapple between layers of spice, New York bartender Jelani Johnson’s Jamaican Mule combines the fruit juice with ginger syrup and a candied ginger slice garnish to put a tropical spin on the template.
Though the majority of pineapple juice cocktails, such as the Tequila Matador, are shaken to achieve the expected froth, some take a different tack. Al Sotack’s South Bronx, for example, incorporates the ingredient “in the style of a Manhattan instead of the style of a sour,” he explains, showing how pineapple juice can work well in a stirred format, too.
To extend pineapple juice’s shelf life, it can be incorporated into a sweetener. This is the approach Alec Bales takes in his Rainmaker, where a simple cordial made with the fruit, sugar and water provides a caramelized tropical note. In Ned King’s Gem, pineapple juice imparts acid to either a gomme syrup (representative of the cocktail’s 19th-century origins) or a simpler rich cane sugar syrup, giving the drink a frothy finish.
Pineapple rum, such as Plantation Stiggins’ Fancy Pineapple Rum, which is made with both the rind and flesh of pineapples, provides a shortcut when pineapple juice isn’t on hand. In the Fairbanks Loan No. 2, a riff on the Douglas Fairbanks, Philadelphia bartender Brian Kane uses the spirit to channel the original drink’s fruit brandy base. And at Dante in New York, the rum adds even more pineapple flavor to the bar’s aperitiki take on the Jungle Bird.
No matter its form, pineapple makes an impression in any cocktail where it plays a role. In this dressed-up version of the Old-Fashioned, a wedge of pineapple is placed right in the glass, allowing the drinker to muddle it as much or as little as desired, as well as on the rim of the glass, where it acts as a show-stealing garnish. The over-the-top presentation for a typically austere cocktail is proof of the power of pineapple: With just a slice, the fruit can take any drink to the tropics.