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Navy Grog and Tiki Puka Puka – A taste test of grog mixers

A while ago the Trader Vic`s website had their Grog Concentrate up for sale for a limited time and since that grog mix isn`t normally sold to the public except occasionally it was sold out in a matter of a day or two. Then a couple days later they sold another batch which did finish within a few days.

I`ve read about this Grog Concentrate in the threads on the Tiki Central forum and it had made me very curious since most everybody including Martin Cate did really hold this product superior for making the Navy Grog and the Tiki Puka Puka.

There are two different products from Trader Vic´s to not confuse with each other, one is sold to the public and is called Trader Vic´s Navy Grog mix and the other is the Grog Concentrate – and which is what they use in their restaurants. According to what i did read the Navy Grog mix is said to be inferior to the concentrate.

Outside of the US i doubt you can get hold of these products but i don`t know for sure. So i really wanted to try the Grog Concentrate and lucky me because one day a fellow tikiphile offered to send me a sample bottle…

Interesting also is a recipe that is in one of the threads on Tiki Central with a recipe for a homemade grog mix that is inspired by and a recipe for replicating the Navy Grog mix that was created by Hawaiian bartender David Chan who made it for his Honolulu Restaurant Style Navy Grog which is his own recipe.

I made a small batch of that homemade grog mix and then i made 3 Navy Grogs, one with the homemade grog mix, one with st Elisabeth allspice dram and one with the Grog Concentrate. The goal really is to see which one is the best for the Navy Grog and what are the differences between them and what possibly can be done to get as close to the concentrate as possible.

It´s never a good thing to be dependent on one product to get the right flavor in a specific drink but then again if that said product is what is used in the restaurants (Trader Vic`s) it´s a bit complicated if one doesn´t know what it contains.

The recipe i used for the Navy Grog mix is the one Martin Cate used when he did bartend at the SF Trader Vic`s in 2005. I used it because i read it`s the most balanced of the Navy Grog recipes and knowing Martin Cate and his ability to mix cocktails i trust that. The recipe i found of course at the Tiki Central – the place to go for anything tiki.

The tiki drink world is a confusing mess and to complicate it a bit further but also clarify…i want to mention that the Navy Grog recipe in the Grog Log is based on the Don the Beachcomber version of the drink which is different from Trader Vic´s. Just as the Navy Grog mix and the Grog Concentrate is not the same thing.

I also tried the Grog Concentrate in aTiki Puka Puka guided by the folks at the TC again..

Enough said is that the experiments made up for a very pleasure-filled tiki drink weekend! and you learn a thing or two..

In this picture of the Navy Grog test glasses are from the left to right – homemade grog mix, TV Grog Concentrate and St Elisabeth allspice dram.

I found that the Grog Concentrate is superior to all with it´s thicker, fuller taste and texture plus it´s much more complex and has something i cannot exactly define but it`s something like kola nut or coke, maybe a hint of root extract too. And even though it is an allspice syrup it´s more than that.

The home made grog mix i find better in the Navy Grog than the allspice dram because it has a coke reduction and doesn`t taste as one dimensionally allspice.

For a home made grog mix to sub for the grog concentrate i`d use the recipe at the bottom of this post and make a thicker coke reduction with more coke and more sugar and maybe a hint of a rootbeer reduction as well ( or at least test that) and then cut a bit on the lime and orange bitters. Also cook the spices longer to get out more flavor.

I`m gonna try that at some point to see how it compares to the Grog Concentrate. The recipe for the homemade grog mix will be at the end of this post but first i wanna post the drinks.

TIKI PUKA PUKA

I made my first Tiki Puka Puka with the grog concentrate and i omitted the lemon juice and used 1/4 grog concentrate and a generous splash of my homemade grenadine. Maybe i took too much and the drink got quite red but then again, the grenadine didn´t overpower the drink, probably because it was homemade.(hibiscus grenadine) With a commercial grenadine i would`ve taken much less. For rums i used Banks Five Islands, Appleton Extra and LH151.

1 oz orange juice
1 oz lemon juice – I omitted it altogether bec the drink is said to be better without whichafter making two to compare i agree with.
0.25 oz grog concentrate
0.25 oz grenadine (homemade preferably or a VERY good quality commercial)
1 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum
1 oz Lemon Hart 151
Crushed ice

Mix in blender or shaker and garnish with a gardenia sprayed with orange flower water mist.

It turned out a spicy and tasty drink, i cannot compare to the restaurant version since i never had it.

NAVY GROG (Trader Vic`s from Martin Cate)

Let´s see if you can see it…i tried to make the ice cone into the shape of a moai.

Juice of 1/2 lime, 0.75 oz grapefruit juice, dash simple syrup, 1/3 oz grog concentrate, 1 oz gold rum, 1 oz dark rum, 1/2-1/3 oz Lemon Hart 151.

In the 3 different Navy Grog`s where i compared the grog mixers i used 1/3 grog concentrate, 0.25 oz allspice dram and 0.5 oz homemade grog mix.

Shake together and strain into a rock`s glass with crushed ice, garnish with either a lime shell, a sugar swizzle stick or a ice cone.

I don´t have any gold rum so i used 2 oz dark rum (Appleton Extra) and then LH151.

Navy Grog Mix Recipe – Inspired by the Navy Grog mixed and served by David Chan, owner of the Late Great Honolulu Restaurant (posted on TC by WillTiki)

Mr Chan was a bartender at the DC Trader Vics before opening his own place. He made his own Navy Grog mix for use at his bar and it´s that mix that this recipe is trying to duplicate and NOT the Grog Concentrate.

But despite that i used it to compare with the concentrate along with the allspice dram just to see which one i liked the most.

Makes one 750ml bottle

Note, recipe can easily halved.

Ingredient List:

2 12oz cans Coca cola , preferably warm (no substitute)

1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger root (you CANNOT substitute dried ground ginger powder for this, the only acceptable substitute is candied ginger, whole or puree)

12 whole cloves (very important that they be whole and not ground for clarity of the finished product, if you absolutely must use ground cloves, substitute a scant ¼ teaspoon and use a fine sieve with cheesecloth to strain later)

2 Whole Dried Allspice berries (no substitute, you cannot put in little enough of the powder to not dominate the taste)

1 teaspoon Orange Bitters (available from Fee Brothers or put in the peel of one orange)

1 Tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon “sour salt” (this is pure citric acid powder used in canning and pickling, it can often be found near Kosher for Passover products, it allows you to add sour without adding sweet and keeps fruit from darkening due to exposure to air, if unavailable, leave it out and add more lemon or lime juice when making the drink itself)

Traditional Bitters to taste- 1 or 2 dashes

Instructions:

Open cans of coke and pour into pot or saucepan.
Scrub ginger to remove loose peel segments and slice thinly (dime thickness). Slices can be further divided if they are larger than about dime sized. It is important, however, not to be tempted to dice or shred the ginger too finely since it will break apart some when cooked and make it harder to strain out later.
Add ginger to pan of coke.
Add orange peel (if using) to pan. (If using bitters, it gets added later)
Add cloves to pan.
Add Allspice to pan. (if using)
Allow this to steep at room temp while the coke goes flat. (This keeps it from foaming too much when heated)
Add honey and sour salt (if using) and simmer the contents of the pan for about 30 minutes.
Allow to cool.
Strain out all solids (ginger, peel, cloves)

Add Orange Bitters (if using)
Add Traditional Bitters (if using)
Put into empty clean 750 ml bottle
Add water to make up full volume
Note, some alcohol: grain, vodka or even rum, could also be added as a preservative.

To make one Honolulu Restaurant Style Navy Grog Drink:

1 oz Navy Grog Mix
1 oz bottled reconstituted lemon juice (ReaLemon or equivalent)
1 to 1 ½ oz Pink Grapefruit Juice (to taste)
1 oz Amber Rum
1 oz Light Rum
¼ Lime squeezed and shell left in
Combine all; shake with ice, garnish and serve.

 

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