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Elements: Passion Fruit Cocktails

In the canon of tropical cocktails, passion fruit purée or syrup has long played a supporting role, from Donn Beach’s Tahitian Rum Punch, circa 1937, to J. “Popo” Galsini’s Saturn—a gin- based 1967 tiki original. While it may be surprising that such a notoriously low-yield, labor-intensive South American fruit was commercially available prior to the mid-20th century, cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, owner of New Orleans’ Latitude 29, has a theory. “As I recall, passion fruit vines grew all over Southern California in the 1920s and ’30s,” he says. “This might explain why it was a go-to ingredient in most famous tiki drinks by Don the Beachcomber.”

Expanding global cultivation—with advances in processing—made the fruit more widely available to consumers in the form of juice, flavored beverages, purées, and frozen concentrate, and the modern cocktail movement became likewise infatuated with the fruit. In the early aughts, Douglas Ankrah of London’s Townhouse bar made passion fruit the star of his wildly popular, and evocatively named, Pornstar Martini, while Berry is credited with rediscovering the Saturn, which led to its revival on bar menus. Products like high-quality syrups and purées, and liqueurs like those from Passoã, Giffard, and Chinola, have made the flavor of passion fruit even more accessible.

Coveted for its intoxicating floral fragrance and sweet-tart, jelly-like pulp coating edible seeds, the fresh fruit is excellent eaten out of hand but costly and impractical behind the bar. “Passion fruit is a bit of a nightmare to work with,” says Mike Capoferri, owner of Thunderbolt in Los Angeles. “Low yields, seedy, inconsistent brix and acid levels, snotty texture. That’s why we use premade purée at the bar.” With its logistical challenges removed, it’s “definitely one of our team favorites,” he says. “It’s so punchy and perfume-y, and it brings its own acid to the party.” In Capoferri’s mezcal-based Barcelonnette, the fruit balances “the otherwise polarizing bitterness of the Suze.”

Sharon Yeung, co-founder of Austin’s Daijoubu, an Asian cocktail pop-up, typically uses syrups from Liber & Co. or Tea Zone for their consistency but prefers the fruit fresh when available, which she utilized for her Kari Fizz. The combo of passion fruit pulp with Cocchi Americano and complementary citrus flavors yields a vibrant, low-ABV aperitif with a hint of herbaceousness and a slightly “chewy” texture. Working with fresh passion fruit can be costly and challenging when it comes to determining yield and a consistent sugar-acid balance, says Yeung, but the payoff is worth it. “Buy a few more than you think you need; the reward is the bright, intense kiss of flavor and texture you get from using fresh fruit.”

Barcelonnette

Passion fruit serves as counterpoint to the earthy and bitter notes of mezcal and Suze.

1 1⁄2 oz. mezcal (Capoferri uses Mal Bien espadín)
1 oz. passion fruit syrup
1⁄2 oz. Suze
1⁄2 oz. fresh lime juice
1⁄2 oz. fresh egg white (pasteurized if you like)

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: coupe or footed rocks
Garnish: aromatic bitters

Shake all of the ingredients until foamy, then add ice and shake to chill. Strain into a chilled coupe or footed rocks glass. Dash aromatic bitters across the foam
as desired.

Passion Fruit Syrup: Combine 250 grams of passion fruit purée (Capoferri uses Perfect Purée), 250 grams of water, and 300 grams of granulated sugar in a blender and blend at low speed until fully incorporated. Bottle and refrigerate for use within 2 weeks.

Mike Capoferri Thunderbolt, Los Angeles

Kari Fizz

This low-ABV aperitif cocktail sings with the flavor of fresh passion fruit.

2 oz. Cocchi Americano
1⁄2 oz. simple syrup (1:1)
1⁄4 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1 heaping Tbsp. fresh passion fruit
1 dash yuzu concentrate (or substitute 1⁄4 tsp. fresh lemon juice)
2 oz. chilled soda water, to top

Tools: shaker, strainer, fine strainer
Glass: Collins
Garnish: grapefruit twist

Shake all of the ingredients except the soda with ice and double strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with the chilled soda water, and garnish.

Sharon Yeung Daijoubu, Austin

If I Ever Cease to Love

Passion fruit adds its signature sweet-tart flavor and tropical aroma to this refreshing, spirit-free cocktail.

1 1⁄2 oz. passion fruit syrup
3⁄4 oz. fresh lime juice
1⁄4 oz. ginger syrup (1:1)
6 mint leaves
1 1⁄2 oz. chilled soda water, to top

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: highball
Garnish: mint sprig, 4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Shake the first four ingredients with ice, then strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Top with soda, then garnish.

Passion Fruit Syrup: Combine 3 parts passion fruit purée (Bar Marilou uses Les Vergers Boiron) with 1 part granulated sugar in a blender, then blend until well- combined. Bottle and refrigerate for use within 2 weeks.

Ryan Wilkins, Bar Marilou, New Orleans

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