It’s not often that you encounter a cocktail whose list of ingredients includes meat or seafood. The closest is probably the savory eye-opening Bloody Mary and its ilk, whose garnishes may include a jumbo cocktail shrimp on a skewer or a leathery slice of smoky beef jerky; crazy over-the-top versions are even adorned with an entire cheeseburger or a barbecue pork sandwich. Add a splash of beef broth to the traditional recipe and you’ve just made a Bloody Bull; sub in tequila for vodka and you get a Bloody Maria; swap out regular tomato juice for Clamato and you end up with a briny Bloody Caesar, created and beloved by our Canadian neighbors; plus many more variations on the drink.
But one resort in the South Pacific adds something to one of its drinks that seems a tad odd at first but actually goes along swimmingly with the island’s French Polynesian culture and cuisine. Le Méridien Bora Bora, a luxury resort on Bora Bora with overwater and beach bungalows overlooking iconic Mount Otemanu, actually uses raw fresh fish in a cocktail available at the property’s Miki Miki bar.
The Mad Fish starts with chunks of red Polynesian tuna, which are muddled in a cocktail shaker and then combined with Smirnoff vodka, triple sec, pineapple juice, coconut and ginger syrups, and lime juice. The mixture is given a strong shake for at least one minute, double-strained into a snifter, garnished with freshly ground black pepper and served on a plate. (The fish is marinated before it’s muddled, but the bar’s staff prefers to keep the exact process secret.) It’s listed on the Signatures section of the bar menu for 2,400 French Pacific francs (CFP francs), the equivalent of about $22 USD, but is subject to availability based on whether staff can procure a fresh catch on any given day.
So just how did an ingredient that’s more often scooped up by tortilla chips as a tartare or sliced paper-thin and drizzled with sesame oil turn up in a crafty libation at a tropical resort frequented by honeymooners more likely to order a Piña Colada?
“The inspiration for this drink came from a traditional local dish based mainly on fresh tuna and coconut and lime,” says resort bartender Bruno Schleicher, who created the Mad Fish. Poisson cru translates from French to “raw fish”; it’s basically the Polynesian answer to Latin ceviche. (The Polynesian name for the dish is “ota ika.”) Raw fish such as tuna or salmon is marinated briefly in lemon or lime juice until the surface turns opaque, after which it’s mixed with coconut milk and diced vegetables like tomato, red onion, cucumber, green onion and chile peppers. Ota ika is the national dish of Tonga, and it’s also extremely popular in Samoa, the Marianas Islands, and Tahiti and her islands, including Bora Bora. “It’s basically food revisited into a cocktail,” says Schleicher.