Do you have a desire to make new friends or perhaps to find your existing friends a tad more interesting? Have you contemplated how to transform an upcoming family reunion into oodles of fun? Are you ever in the need to convert a bad day into a lovely evening? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the Pineapple Martini might just be the answer for you (and yours.)
The proverb “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” also applies to making friends. Food is the common denominator. We all must eat to live. My best friend, Michelle and I (yes, we’re referred to as the two Michelle’s and to top it off, our daughters’ names just happen to rhyme) met through our daughters' themed birthday parties each held in the same month. Michelle and I quickly became friends through our love of throwing parties. We were both in a place in our lives where we wanted to have more fun, and the party started with us. One of our favorite parties, a birthday luau for Michelle’s daughter, was fun for both the young and the young at heart.
To reach BFF Michelle’s house, one must drive a nearly inhospitable bumpy dirt road lined with cacti – saguaros, prickly pear, and cholla to name a few – and it is not uncommon to see various scurrying reptiles, wandering coyotes, dashing Jack rabbits or birds of prey hunting the terrain. The first time I pulled into their unpaved driveway way back when, I saw a gorgeous adobe home (now a guesthouse) with a covered patio, brick floor and wooden beams that supported a corrugated metal roof – a beautiful melding of traditional and modern design. I also noticed an extensive apricot colored concrete foundation and partially built walls for two new buildings - the living area and a bedroom wing - connected by a huge patio, and in the center, a courtyard, anchored by a fenced pool and a play area nearby for the kids (where we could see but not clearly hear the amicable screaming of small children.)
In other words, my BFF and her husband, over the past decade, have created an ideal environment, an oasis in the desert suited for entertaining. The rooms and patios are perfect for intimate affairs, raucous parties and anything in between. For the luau, the plan was for the kids, sporting grass skirts and bright silk flower leis, to have an afternoon together racing around the property, and in the early evening, the parents would return to enjoy an island themed dinner featuring Roasted Pork and Hawaiian Skillet Vegetables.
A few weeks before the party, Michelle mentioned to me that she was searching for a fun cocktail to serve. I had recently run across a knock-off recipe for Roy’s of Hawaii’s Pineapple Martini and thought it would be a perfect complement to the menu. We made it and the rest, as they say, is party history. After sipping a martini or two, the guests, who were all for the most part acquaintances, had quickly progressed to back-slapping, story-swapping friends, bursts of laughter intersecting the conversations.
After a few similar effervescent events, Michelle and I started calling the concoction “Happy Juice” because everyone seemed so happy after drinking just one. Be warned though, consume more than two and expect an ecstatic evening to turn into a bad morning after.
My sister, Linda and I consider this particular martini a pantry staple. Yes, that’s right, as necessary as extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamic, all-purpose flour and the other hundreds of items we keep on-hand in the kitchen. Nice pineapples are available year round and the liqueur is easy to make and store. It is also well received as a holiday or hostess gift. Linda altered the recipe over the years to reduce the sugar in the original recipe and to use real vanilla beans instead of vanilla flavored vodka, which to us, doesn’t taste as good as Mother Nature intended.
Whether you serve the martini cold in a punch bowl ladled into small pretty glasses accessorized with a few ice cubes or vigorously shaken then poured into oversized martini glasses, make this signature cocktail and you are guaranteed to get the party started. The luau is optional.
Pineapple Martini a.k.a. "Happy Juice"
Not all vodkas are created equal. Recognized leading brands typically distill vodka from grains, wheat and rye. What most folks don't know is that vodka can also be distilled from byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing - no thanks! We recommend verifying the source on the label. If it's not listed, choose another brand.
While most of the vodkas made from grains are considered superior, we prefer to make the pineapple martini with Vodka Monopolowa, that is distilled from potatoes in Vienna, Austria and available stateside at a reasonable price. In California, you will find it on the shelf at Trader Joe's, and elsewhere at a well-stocked liquor store.
2 liters Vodka 80% proof
750 milliliters Malibu Rum
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and scraped, then chopped
1 ripe pineapple, remove top, bottom, rind and core; finely diced
Agave syrup or simple syrup, to taste
1. Combine vodka, rum, and diced pineapple into a large covered pan or wide mouthed jar with lid. Scrape the inside of the vanilla bean into the mixture, and then cut pods into 1/3 inch slices and add to liquid. Reserve empty liquor bottles to store martini mix once it is ready. Let mixture rest for 7 days, stirring daily.
2. Into a clean pot, strain solids. In a small sieve, one cup at a time, push on solids extracting as much liquid as you can. Alternatively, place pineapple, one cup at a time in swath of cheesecloth and squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible; discard pulp. Use a funnel to pour liquid from container to reserved bottles. Seal and store indefinitely in dark cupboard, or in the refrigerator.
3. To serve two generous portions, in a cocktail shaker add 8 ounces pineapple martini mix and scant 1 tablespoon agave syrup or simple syrup; taste for sweetness. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and vigorously shake (at least 20-30 times) and immediately strain into two martini glasses.
4. For a large party, pour the chilled mixture into a punch bowl and stir in simple syrup (recipe below), a little at a time, to desired sweetness. We prefer to keep the concoction on the drier side so friends sip and not guzzle. Garnish with chunks of freshly cut pineapple, if you like. Serve in small glasses over ice cubes.
To make simple syrup: Heat 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water over medium heat. Stir, occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat, let mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer to sealed bottle. The syrup will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.
Note: The flavor of the stored martini will continue to develop with age.
Yield: 3 Quarts (96 ounces)