Whip up and share a Scorpion

Brian Rung

    Around the end of World War II, American fascination with Polynesian began to grow at a feverish pace ringing in the golden age of tiki. The earliest stateside Tiki bars were expensive and exclusive, a far cry from the tiki-themed bars found in theme parks and resorts today.
    The original Don The Beachcomber location was the first true American tiki bar and one of the top locations for star gazing in Hollywood. Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx and Howard Hughes were all regulars at Don's, birthplace of the Navy Grog and the Zombie.
    Don's only competition in the early days of tiki was Trader Vic Bergeron's bar in the Golden Gate District of Oakland. Don opened his restaurant in 1933, one year before Bergeron's bar opened, ushering in what became a tiki arms race of sorts, one in which the two tiki pioneers constantly tried to one-up each other.  
    Both restaurant chains established a presence in most major metro areas, both had out of this world mid-century tiki décor, and both had the biggest and best collections of commercially available rum, bar none.
qAt the end of the day, none of that really matters. I say that because the Polynesian-themed restaurant fad ran its course and now exists only in Disney parks, resorts and a few establishments that have licensed the Trader Vic's or Beachcomber name.
    The legacy or Donn Beach and Trader Vic isn't restaurants and merchandise, their true legacy lies in the original recipes of legendary tiki drinks.
    Don and Trader Vic have a collective highlight reel of iconic tiki drinks: Beach gave us the Navy Grog and the Zombie while Trader Vic gave us the Mai Tai, the Fog Cutter and the Scorpion.
    Of those five classic cocktails, all but the Scorpion have survived. To be fair, the Scorpion is out there somewhere but I have yet to see one in a neighborhood bar.
    Why is that? Citing sources close to Vic (and Vic himself) the Scorpion is regarded as one of his greatest inventions. Perhaps the Scorpion fell out of favor once the famous Fog Cutter came along. More likely is that a true Scorpion is served in a bowl and contains six, yes six ounces of rum.
    The Scorpion Bowl was meant to be shared, served with three or four straws in a ceramic tiki bowl complete with floral garnish.
    Most bars and restaurants simply do not keep ceramic tiki bowls (similar to a tiki mug) on hand, and some state liquor laws frown upon serving literally bowls of liquor with multiple straws.
    The Scorpion is big, blended and delicious, a drink that every tiki enthusiast must try. Unless you plan on visiting one of the few remaining Polynesian-themed bars, you will have to make your own Scorpion if you would like to sample this island classic.
    Need a tiki bowl?  You're in luck, turns out most of the scorpion bowls used at the iconic tiki bars of yesteryear regularly turn up on ebay. You can buy originals or reproductions, and you can spend as much as you care to spend. If you already collect tiki mugs, add a Scorpion bowl to your collection. Run a search for “vintage Scorpion Bowl” on ebay, some are quite elaborate and quite cool.
    The original Scorpion is a surprisingly balanced five-ingredient cocktail using rum, orgeat, orange juice, lemon juice and brandy. The drink is a blended drink, but not one that should be over-blended.
    The ideal consistency is achieved by blending slightly crushed ice for a maximum of 10 seconds, five seconds may be enough depending on your blender. Always use slightly crushed ice in your blended drinks, the large cubes from your refrigerator's ice maker will not yield a smooth consistency.
    If you're going to pour a drink with six ounces of light rum, might as well use good rum. In the Scorpion Bowl I like Flor de Cana 4 year, Bacardi, El Dorado 3 year or Cruzan Light Rum.
    Fresh lemon juice is always your best option. You have more flexibility on the orange juice so long as you're using 100 percent juice.  
    Trader Vic loved almond syrup, also known as orgeat. Orgeat is a key ingredient in many of Vic's creations and the Scorpion is no exception.
    The dominant flavor note in orgeat is unmistakably almond, but it is an incredibly sweet syrup. A little goes a long way, be careful when adding orgeat as less is definitely more.
    Orgeat non-alcoholic and can be found in the gourmet coffee section of your grocery store, or ordered online. The brands for cocktail applications are Monin, Fee Brothers and Torani.
    Remember, and this is important, ask your guests if they are allergic to almonds before serving this or any other cocktail containing orgeat. Most orgeat syrup is made from real almonds, something to lookout for when hosting your next luau.
    By the way, the Mai Tai also contains orgeat, at least it should.
    There is no need to break the bank on a bottle of brandy in the Scorpion or any other tiki drink that calls for brandy. I like Christian Brothers, E&J will also perform will in mixed drinks.
    The Scorpion is built in a blender, served in a tiki Scorpion Bowl.
    Combine in blender:
    6 ounces orange juice
    4 ounces fresh lemon juice
    1 1/2 ounces orgeat syrup
    6 ounces light rum
    1 ounce brandy
    2 cups crushed ice
    Blend for 8 to 10 seconds then pour into a tiki bowl.
    Garnish with mint sprig and gardenia, serve with long straws.
    Sevres 3 to 4
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.