Welp! Another year is on my books. Today’s my birthday, Friend. Clearly, a celebratory drink is certainly in order. If it’s my drink, it needs to be fabulous, potent, and easy to make. A Jungle Bird cocktail fits the bill to a T.
What is a Jungle Bird Cocktail?
Similar to a Mai Tai, the jungle bird is a tiki drink of epic proportions. Because it only contains five ingredients, it’s a great “starter drink” for anyone looking to get into mixology. Since I’m all about flair, I up the simplicity with a spicy element and a killer garnish.
The jungle bird cocktail begins with dark rum, accented with Campari- an aperitif. Fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, and- my twist- a chipotle simple syrup finish the drink.
A wedge of pineapple, impaled with a pineapple leaf (to resemble a bird’s plumage) and a cherry is the typical garnish for a jungle bird. I went extra with mine, clearly, but you can keep it simple or leave it off all together.
Where was the Jungle Bird born?
As with most tiki drinks, the exact history of the jungle bird isn’t certain. According to stories, it was created in yet another hotel, this one in Kuala Lumpur. The jungle bird was served to tourists as a welcome drink, which, in the sweltering heat of Malaysia, makes perfect sense. Because of the heat and humidity in that part of the world, a refreshing drink becomes a necessity. I, too, need a refreshing drink in this Texas summer.
What do I need to make a Jungle Bird Cocktail?
The final element to the drink is a turbinado simple syrup. Because I’m me, I’m over here all, “Why be boring?!?” So, this simple syrup is going to tickle your tastebuds with the heat of chipotle pepper. I use ground chipotle pepper powder, but the syrup from a can of chipotle is a great option, too. Because I don’t have to worry about using it quickly, I prefer the powder to the syrup. Admittedly, the syrup makes for a more cohesive-looking drink, but my drinks aren’t made to be looked at. They’re for drinking.
So, let’s drink.
How do I make a flavored simple syrup?
Simple syrups are what bartenders use to sweeten up their drinks. Because sugar tends to stay grainy- especially when shaken with cold beverages- the simple syrup is the preferred way to add sweetness without compromising the overall drinking experience. This cocktail adds a wee-bit of heat with the chipotle pepper powder.
Simple syrup is stupid-easy to make. Here’s the formula: 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Remember that and you’re set to create limitless simple syrups. Change the type of sugar from plain white to turbinado and you’ll add a caramel undertone to your sweetener. Steep fruits, citrus peels, or herbs in your syrup and you create a flavored syrup. There really is no limit to the flavors you can create. Just master the formula and you’re golden.
To make this chipotle simple syrup you only need 1 part Sugar in the Raw, 1 part water, and as much Chipotle pepper powder as you, or your guests, can handle. Since I’m a fiery little one, I add a generous amount of the stuff to my simple syrup. Chipotle isn’t as sweat-inducing as habanero peppers are, but they do have a kick. The smokiness of chipotle is what gives this jungle bird cocktail its personality. Simply stir together the sugar, water, and pepper powder in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Because turbinado sugar has coarser grains than regular sugar, you need to stir the liquid constantly to encourage the grains to dissolve. Once the syrup boils for 30 seconds, pull it from the heat and let it cool completely on the countertop.
You can make the chipotle simple syrup a week ahead and store it in a jar in the fridge.
What kind of rum is in a Jungle Bird Cocktail?
Jungle bird cocktails are dark rum drinks. You can use amber or spiced rum in a pinch, but avoid using white rum. Dark rum contains caramelized sugar or molasses. If you’re fortunate enough to get your hands on the elusive blackstrap molasses rum, use that! Then send me the rest of the bottle. The great thing about dark rums- especially in this recipe- is that they’re aged, which means they actually have flavor. White rums, filtered and unaged, are best in cocktails where you want to mask their flavor. In this drink, we want the rum to be a pronounced flavor, which white rum just can’t manage.
Pour the dark rum into a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice cubes.
What is Campari?
Campari is the Italian liqueur used to make the popular negroni cocktail. If you’ve never tasted Campari, be forewarned: its flavor is somewhat of an acquired taste. It is usually served on its own as an aperitif, which basically means its a hype-man for your tastebuds. Aperitifs prepare your palate for the yummy stuff.
Campari sold in the States has an ABV of 25%, which is one of the highest alcohol contents within the brand. The thing about Campari that hems people up, especially people from the States, is how bitter and herbaceous it is. Campari is bright red in flavor, viscous as all get out, and tastes like you’re drinking a vase full of bitter herbs. I only enjoy Campari when used as a mixer, which means I love it in this cocktail.
Aperol is a good substitute for Campari if you can’t find the latter. Aperol is less bitter than Campari and has a lower alcohol content, so it works as a introductory aperitif if you’re not into the intense flavor of Campari. It is also less intense in color, so your jungle bird will be lighter in color than mine is.
Add the Campari to the cocktail shaker, along with the freshly squeezed lime juice.
Spice and sweeten your cocktail with the chipotle simple syrup.
And finish it with canned pineapple juice.
Cap the shaker and give it a vigorous shake: until the exterior frosts over.
How do I serve a Jungle Bird cocktail?
Crushed ice, in this case. I pour my mixed jungle bird cocktail into highball glasses over crushed ice. The smaller ice cubes dilute the campari and rum perfectly, in my opinion.
If you want a bolder kick in the mouth, use large cubes of ice. You can even omit the ice altogether, but that’s a boss move and I’m not there yet.
What is the proper garnish for a Jungle Bird Cocktail?
Clearly this is my favorite part of the cocktail. But, “proper garnish”? There isn’t one. You do you.
The most popular jungle bird garnish looks like a tropical bird made from the wedge of a pineapple, pineapple leaves, and a maraschino cherry. Because I spent a lot more time making this garnish than I did making the drink, I don’t recommend going all out and replicating it. You’re going to end up throwing it away, after all. A simple wedge of pineapple will suffice.
Since the drink is served in a highball, a bamboo straw might be helpful, too.
How do I alter this Jungle Bird?
Since the chipotle simple syrup is my variation, it’s something that’s optional. You can omit the chipotle pepper powder in the simple syrup, especially if you’re not a fan of heat.
The rum, again, is something you can switch up- within reason. Because we want that caramel flavor, nothing lighter than an amber rum should be used.
Instead of pineapple juice, try passion fruit or guava juice. Both have a sweet-tart quality that mimics pineapple juice.
Again, Aperol is a swap for the Campari if you want a less bitter flavor.
Can I make Jungle Bird Pitcher Cocktails?
Yes, you sure can! In fact, I highly encourage you to do so.
Quadruple or sextuple this recipe to supply all of your friends with their own jungle bird. Store it, sans ice, in a pitcher and allow them to pour their servings over ice as needed. This avoids excessive dilution of the cocktail. Store the pitcher of jungle bird in the fridge to keep it chilled.
Well! That’s that. I’m officially one year closer to an AARP card! I’m not even mad. Let’s see what this new year of life brings. Cheers! (And enjoy responsibly, please!)
Jungle Bird Cocktail
- cocktail shaker
For the Chipotle Simple Syrup
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2-1 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder (or chipotle syrup strained from a can)
For the Jungle Bird Cocktail
- 6 ounces pineapple juice
- 3 ounces dark rum
- 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) lime juice
- 2 tablespoons Campari
- 2 tablespoons chipotle simple syrup
- maraschino cherries
- pineapple wedges
- pineapple leaves
Make the Chipotle Simple Syrup (up to one week ahead)
- In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, water, and chipotle pepper powder.Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
- Once the syrup comes to a boil, allow it to boil for 30 seconds. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool completely on the countertop.You can make the chipotle simple syrup a week ahead and store it in a jar in the fridge. Shake the syrup vigorously to mix the pepper in case of settling.
Prepare the Jungle Bird Cocktail
- Into a large shaker, filled halfway with ice cubes, pour the pineapple juice, dark rum, lime juice, Campari, and simple syrup to taste.
- Cap the shaker. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds- 1 minute, or until the outside of the shaker frosts over.
- Divide the mixed jungle bird cocktail equally among two highball glasses filled with crushed ice. Garnish the cocktails with simple wedge of pineapple or your preferred garnish. Serve with a straw for sipping.
- Enjoy immediately after pouring over ice. Cheers! (And enjoy responsibly, please!)
Swaps and Substitutions:Omit the chipotle pepper powder in the simple syrup if you're not a fan of heat. Use amber or spiced rum instead of dark rum. Instead of pineapple juice, try passion fruit or guava juice. Both have a sweet-tart quality that mimics pineapple juice. Aperol is a swap for the Campari if you prefer a less bitter flavor.
For Pitcher Jungle Birds:4 1/2 cups pineapple juice
2 1/4 cups dark rum
1 1/4 cups lime juice
1/2 cup Campari
1/2 cup Chipotle Simple Syrup Combine the ingredients with a whisk in a large pitcher. Store it without ice in the fridge to keep it chilled.
Pour individual servings over ice and garnish as desired.