The notion of throwing coconut water into a highball is nothing new. At least not in the tropics, where locals from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago have turned to the salty-sweet mixer as an accompaniment to spirits—particularly Scotch—for decades. Even in small doses, it adds a characteristic funk to everything from mezcal to rum, and an unparalleled fast track to tropical escapism.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Scotch and coconut has inspired more than a few riffs. Lynnette Marrero’s Vintage Coco, for example, maintains the two core elements of the classic; she adds a tropical burst courtesy of pineapple juice and tops it all off with sparkling lime and yuzu soda. At Brooklyn’s Grand Army, meanwhile, the Snake Eyes swaps in smoky mezcal in lieu of Scotch while a teaspoon of banana liqueur adds an extra fruity kick.
Other Caribbean classics inform the coconut-topped drinks of Paul McGee and Demi Natoli. McGee’s Ti’ Punch Highball stretches the rum and lime mixture with the addition of coconut water and a small pour of tonic water, while Natoli’s Sitting Pretty reads like a Mojito meets a Paloma by way of a Saoco, a Cuban cocktail made with rum, lime, sugar and coconut water.
While not a traditional highball, Morgan Schick’s Wilson makes the case for coconut water as the key to transportive, refreshing cocktails. The gin base is paired with fresh lime juice, Amaro Montenegro and mace syrup, which offers baking spice notes to complement the tropical hit of coconut, all made tall by a generous splash of sparkling water. But it’s Giuseppe González’s Coconut Water Highball, which simply tops overproof rum with coconut water, that proves the flexibility of the spirit + coconut combo. Easy to throw together and even easier to drink, González was onto something when he labeled the mixture his “desert island drink.”