How the Angostura Colada Turned a Trendy Traditional Cocktail

St. John Frizell retains detailed notes, enabling me to inform you the exact date that the Angostura Colada made its public debut: October 2, 2013. Frizell was the longtime proprietor of Fort Defiance, the Brooklyn bar located within the waterfront neighborhood of Pink Hook that shuttered within the wake of the pandemic. In August of that 12 months, Zac Overman, then a cub bartender working for Frizell, had persuaded his boss to green-light a weekly pop-up tiki night time. It was first often known as Forbidden Island, and later renamed Sunken Harbor Membership on (per Frizell’s notes) January 23, 2014. 

Overman’s strategy to campaigning had been to let his drinks do the speaking. “He actually needed to work on me,” remembers Frizell, who spent a lot of his cocktail upbringing beneath Audrey Saunders at Pegu Membership, a Manhattan bar recognized for its tightly composed drinks. “It took him weeks of bringing blue drinks to my desk—dropping them after which strolling away—for me to relent.”

Fort Defiance, Overman says, “all the time had an expat-bar vibe, and there was an enormous affect on the cocktail checklist from the journey writing and consuming of Charles H. Baker Jr., so it was a reasonably pure match to work in an evening devoted to extra ostentatious and escapist tropical drinks.” The general public response, he says, was nice. “Pink Hook at the moment didn’t want a lot of an excuse to have a superb time, and Thursday nights fairly shortly grew into a giant occasion.”

Overman’s Angostura Colada was one among two Sunken Harbor Membership cocktails that shortly grew to become crowd favorites and signatures of the Thursday-night tiki program. (The White Zombie, additionally by Overman, was the opposite.) Because the title suggests, it’s a play on the Piña Colada. But the drink is hardly a typical tropical cocktail. In truth, it’s not a typical cocktail in any respect. As an alternative of a conventional rum base, Overman opts for one and a half ounces of Angostura bitters (44.7 p.c ABV) and a half-ounce of Smith & Cross overproof rum (57 p.c ABV). 

Overman says he owed the freedom to go so heavy on the bitters to a different uncommon but influential cocktail, the Trinidad Bitter, a drink created within the late aughts by Giuseppe González that mixes orgeat, lemon and whiskey with loads of Angostura bitters. “Let’s be sincere, the Ango Colada is a trashy Trinidad Bitter,” says Overman. “[The Angostura Colada] wouldn’t exist with out that drink. I wouldn’t have thought to make use of bitters as a base spirit in any other case.”

In accordance with Frizell, the thought sounded ludicrous on paper. “When [Overman] proposed the thought to me, I assumed he was insane. I imply, there’s no manner that that drink was going to work. And naturally it does and it really works splendidly.”

The Angostura Colada additionally bucked the rising development of housemade every part. “Round that point, there have been loads of bars making their very own bespoke, artisanal cream of coconut, however I unabashedly love Coco Lopez, and making use of the Trinidad Bitter formulation to a Lopez-based Piña Colada to steadiness the sweetness simply appeared just like the transfer,” Overman says. “It was a kind of uncommon one-and-done recipes—I haven’t actually tweaked it since.” 

Regardless of its misfit demeanor (or perhaps due to it), tiki practitioners throughout the nation embraced the Angostura Colada and began together with it on their menus. One notable homage got here when tiki aficionado Martin Cate, who runs Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, featured the Angostura Colada on the debut drinks menu he wrote for Max’s South Seas Hideaway, a two-story, 200-seat tiki bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Angostura Colada stays on the menu at Max’s practically 5 years later. 

Allie Stage, a longtime bar supervisor at Max’s, says, “I bear in mind from our days of coaching again in 2019 that the Angostura Colada was positioned on the menu as an ode to Zac Overman and his trendy traditional cocktail, as there aren’t many on the earth of tiki.”

However Cate’s first encounter with the Angostura Colada was not at Fort Defiance. His first style got here in Anaheim, California, on a go to to Dealer Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar on the Disneyland Resort, the place apparently the cocktail hadchecked in beneath a pseudonym. “They referred to as it the Angolada, nevertheless it’s clearly our drink,” says Frizell. “I don’t know if it will get any extra complimentary than that—to be ripped off by Walt Disney.”

After years in distant lands, by October 2021 the Angostura Colada was on the cusp of a type of Brooklyn homecoming, however not earlier than present process a makeover. Frizell and his enterprise companions had been reviving the Sunken Harbor Membership idea, not as a pop-up however as a brick-and-mortar institution—this time in downtown Brooklyn, positioned on the ground above the landmarked restaurant Gage & Tollner. Frizell felt the membership’s return wouldn’t be full with out favorites just like the White Zombie and Angostura Colada on the menu.

He enlisted Garret Richard to not solely handle the bar but in addition revisit these touchstones of the unique pop-up. On the time, Richard was within the midst of co-authoring the modernist cocktail recipe guide Tropical Customary, a guide that acknowledged tiki as one of many first cocktail actions to embrace Twentieth-century developments like ice machines, drink mixers and blenders. Richard’s strategy within the guide and at Sunken Harbor Membership was to use Twenty first-century strategies to additional improve the improvements launched by tiki’s forebears.

In reinventing the Angostura Colada, Richard integrated acid-adjusted pineapple juice, permitting that taste to pop extra whereas dialing again the drink’s perceived sweetness, and permitting the lime from the unique recipe to be neglected. Richard additionally reduce the Coco Lopez with coconut milk to cut back its sweetness to that of an ordinary easy syrup. To combine the drink, he flash-blended the liquid components with a measured quantity of crushed ice, then dumped that combination onto recent crushed ice within the glass—a solution to orchestrate time-delayed dilution and to higher launch the drink’s aromatics. 

That model of the Angostura Colada grew to become often known as “2.0.” In the present day, Sunken Harbor Membership’s menu has a “3.0” iteration, the objective of which, Richard tells me, is to “put extra ‘colada’ within the Angostura Colada.” To that finish, the cocktail is ready in a blender utilizing pineapple chunks and xanthan gum to assist stabilize the mix, preserving the ice and liquid higher integrated. The recent fruit taste and the slushy-machine texture are two quintessential markers that call to mind the traditional seashore bar colada.

Overman, who moved to Seattle within the 2010s to run bars like L’Oursin and Bar Bayonne, now watches the cocktail world’s ongoing fascination with the Angostura Colada from a distance. “It’s fairly enjoyable and trippy—I get tagged on social media each on occasion as a result of some dude in Germany or Argentina discovered the recipe on-line and determined to make one and submit it,” he says. “It’s hilarious to me that this very whimsical and tongue-in-cheek ripoff drink has had this sort of endurance, nevertheless it’s clearly additionally very flattering.”

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