Aloha to Okolehao Liqueur and a Taste of Hawaii
Torrential rain, snow and hail on the first day home from a Hawaiian vacation – that’s the worst way to re-enter reality, especially in April. Fortunately I have new booze to keep me cozy as my “tan” fades.
Ever heard of ‘okolehao? Traditionally it was a form of Hawaiian moonshine (also called oke by Native Hawaiians) made from the ti root. After falling out of favor for a few decades, a Maui rum distiller has resurrected ‘okolehao as a liqueur, and I happened to run across it at a Big Island grocery store (this isn’t quite as random as it sounds, given that I’m frequently found scouring a liquor aisle).
Having now sampled it, I think the ‘Okolehao liqueur most resembles a spiced rum, though none specifically. It has that caramel-ly rum vibe, along with a bit of coconut and taste of Kahlua liqueur. Most information online references Haleakala Distillery’s re-creation of ‘okolehao, but includes very few recipes. So I tried a Bali Hai for my first ‘Okolehao Liqueur cocktail and then dabbled a bit to create my own. Both make me glad I got this souvenir for my liquor cabinet.
Bali Hai (changed a bit from the original)1 oz ‘Okolehao Liqueur 1 oz light rum ½ oz gin 2 oz lemon juice 2 oz lime juice ½ oz orgeat* ¾ oz simple syrup Top with champagne
Combine all ingredients except champagne in a shaker with ice. Shake well and pour into an ice-filled Collins glass. Top with champagne. Note: I felt this drink was way too sour and so added the simple syrup. Reducing the amount of lemon and lime juices at the start would be preferable.
Oke would probably make a fine substitute in most recipes calling for spiced rum. If you pick up a bottle on your next trip to the islands, I suggest keeping it sealed until you return home. The bottle top is the cork-plug type and would probably leak in your checked luggage (and they won’t allow you to carry it on). If you score a bottle, give my new recipe a try:
Oke? Okay!1 ½ oz ‘Okolehao Liqueur ¾ oz lime juice ¾ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water shaken until mixed) Club soda Scant dash of falernum (optional)
Shake all of the above with ice, and strain while pouring into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice.
Home may lack 80 degree weather and island breezes, but at least I can create a bit of vacation in a glass. Maybe I can make myself a lei when the Northwest rhodies bloom. Aloha!
*orgeat is a syrup made from almonds that is commonly used in tropical drinks. Commercial versions are available.