What Does The Pearl Diver Taste Like?
The Pearl Diver is a unique cocktail. Even in the tiki world, its inclusion of Creamed spiced honey butter is unusual. The Gardenia mix adds a creamy texture and hot buttered rum flavor to a tropical drink. I have consistently found that people who don’t like hot buttered rum also don’t like this. I have also noticed that people who want hot buttered rum also like this. It tastes like a citrusy cold buttered rum, and I love it.
Don the Beachcomber’s Forgotten Recipes.
Immediately after the 21st amendment had repealed prohibition, Donn Beach opened Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood, California. Donn single-handedly created the first Tiki bar and, with it, tiki culture. But like most innovators, Donn was worried about others copying his Hollywood-style Polynesian-themed bar and profiting off his ideas. Donn would show up a few hours before the bar opened, mix large batches of his spice mixes and mixers, and give them nondescriptive labels like Donn’s spice mix #1, #2, #3, or Donn’s Zombie Mix, Grog Mix, Gardenia mix. This was all done to hide the recipes. Donn never told the other bartenders or published a recipe, and while he did open other bars, his recipes never got out. Thus Donn’s original recipes died with him in 1989. So keep that in mind anytime you see a Don the Beachcomber cocktail; it is never an original recipe, just the best guess. And some guesses are better than others. Tiki was a lawless free for all for a little over a decade with no continuity between drinks of the same name. There is still a lot of that today. How many Mai Tai recipes have you seen even though we know the original canon recipe for it?
In the late 90s, a Tiki cocktail enthusiast named Jeff Berry came along with the intent of preserving the old recipes and Tiki culture and helping revitalize the public interest in it. Jeff interviewed old bartenders of Donn the Beachcombers and set out to recreate Donn’s secret recipes to the best of their knowledge. Gathering whatever information he could and testing recipes against people who remembered what the old drinks tasted like, he is credited with having saved recipes that would otherwise be lost to time. Remember that these are not Donn’s original recipe but Jeff’s best attempts at recreating them and that Jeff Beachbum Berry is probably the closest one to get it right.
What is Gardenia Mix and How to Make It.
The secret Gardenia mix recipe Jeff Berry eventually settled on was:
- 1 oz Honey
- 1 oz unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Syrup
- 1 tsp Cinnamon Syrup
- 1/2 tsp Allspice Dram.
The stuff taste and smells fantastic. Although not everyone has vanilla or cinnamon syrup around, I wrote a recipe that is a bit more accessible. Here is my specific article on gardenia mix and how to make it.
The Most Important Part Of This Cocktail.
The most important part of the pearl diver is how you mix it. Butter is mostly milk fat and protein, and it does not stay emulsified in water. So you have two options. 1). Use a blender and turn it into a slushy. 2). Use an emulsifier like gum syrup or something to mix the gardenia mix while making it evenly and it is still warm. If you don’t blend it or use an emulsifier, the butter oddly sits at the top and looks pretty gross.
The first option of using a blender is the more common one. There will still be tiny butter particles, but the blender’s speed helps to mix them evenly, and the slushy ice prevents them from forming together. If slushies are not your style, then try option #2.
The second option is to use an emulsifier while making the gardenia mix while it is still warm. You’re not fighting the fat when the cocktail is cold. I’m not the most versed in that method but guides online talk about how to do it that way.