With its distinctive transportive flavor, coconut is a versatile building block in many cocktails. It’s a fundamental ingredient in the tropical drink canon, where coconut cream provides rich texture to classics such as the Piña Colada and the Painkiller. But in other forms, too, the salty-sweet flavor of coconut has become a powerful tool in the bartender’s arsenal, well beyond the tropical classics.
Coconut water, for example, works well as a stand-in for soda water in highballs, as in the beloved Caribbean drink Scotch and Coconut, or its agave-forward riff, the Snake Eyes. It even works in a spritz, alongside a mineral-forward rosé in Chantal Tseng’s The Americanah. “Coconut water is a great way to make the dilution in a cocktail more interesting without changing the texture of the drink,” says former bartender at the now-shuttered Lost Lake Vince Bright, who leans on a coconut water syrup in his low-proof Rob Roy riff, the House No. 3.
In oil form, coconut lends its signature flavor through fat-washing. Infused into rhum agricole, for example, it bolsters the tropical flavor in Leanne Favre’s Ti’ Punch variation, Lime In Ti’ Coconut. Infused into gin, meanwhile, it provides “a whisper of coconut” in Garret Richard’s revamped Blue Hawaii, softening the spirit so its botanical profile shines.
But to get coconut flavor without adding more volume to a drink, “coconut blasting”—a technique developed by bartenders at The Rockwell Place in Brooklyn—offers a more efficient shortcut. Used as a “finishing move,” the method involves dashing a tincture made from a coconut-washed neutral spirit into a cocktail before serving.
Perhaps the most overtly coconut-forward cocktails, however, are those served in, well, coconuts. Whether it takes the place of a rocks glass, as in Morgan Schick’s “Wilson” cocktail, or becomes an integral part of the drink-making process, as in Ryan Casey’s coconut-aged Negroni, serving cocktails in coconuts is a fast track to tropical flavor with endless possibilities. As Casey observes, “Quite frankly, it seems like there’s an opportunity to do a lot of other things in [coconut].”