Yael Vengroff, the beverage director at The Spare Room in The Hollywood Roosevelt and the 2018 Spirited Awards American Bartender of the Year, created this coconut-sherry liquid sunshine.
Her menu of Tiki cocktails often gets overlooked as crowds flock to the visiting bartenders to get a taste of their imported drinks. But even though James Beard award-winning Brooklyn bar Maison Premiere was in the house this past July serving up elegant Jungle Birds and Hurricanes, a record-scratch moment jolted the room when Tiki-attired revelers first sipped her Cabana Club cocktail.
The drink is simple and yet more layered than your standard patio pounder. It compels its drinker through a journey of creamy coconut, rounding it out with the nuttiness of amontillado sherry, holding attention with herbaceous absinthe and then bringing it home with cinnamon spice. “My goal is: How do I make something so incredibly simple but next-level mind-blowing also?” says Vengroff.
The idea for the Cabana Club first came to Vengroff years ago in her hometown of Houston when she survived a particularly hot summer by drinking sherry and coconut water. And that combination, which she calls her desert island go-to, married perfectly with one of her favorite cocktails, a Prohibition-era Bahamian classic, the Gully Wash. “I loved that flavor profile,” she says. “And I just took those two ideas and merged them.”
Even though this coconut drink is ideal for summer, it transitions seamlessly into fall. “It’s definitely not your May summer cocktail, which is more like watermelon fizz,” says Vengroff. “It’s guiding you toward warm, more obscure, complex flavors that you typically experience in the fall or winter but still retaining that delectable-treat aspect.”
Add all ingredients into a blender and blend with crushed ice.
Pour into a coconut.
Garnish with shredded coconut, grated nutmeg and an edible orchid.
Serve with a cocktail umbrella and crazy straw.
*Cinnamon syrup: Add 2 ceylon cinnamon sticks (crumbled and toasted in a pan), 4 cups sugar and 2 cups water to large pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit 20 minutes, then strain and chill.