Best of the Maldives: Kids Mocktail Making Class – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi - mocktail class 1

Soneva Fushi’s world-class Den kids club features not just kiddie “cocktails”, but a class to let them ply their mixological mocktail mastery…

“The children attend a session at Ess, where they creativity is tested. The bar staff attempt to inspire the children showing them different ways to produce delicious mocktails, before the children are let loose to create they very own, including naming their cocktail. Each cocktail is scored and each child receives a certificate for all their creativity.”

A toast to children everywhere today on International Children’s Day!

Soneva Fushi - mocktail class 2

Best of the Maldives: Chinese Drinks – Shangri-La Villingili

Shangri-La Villingili - chinese wine

The Maldives are renowned for their legendary sunsets, but the night time celestial displays of stars and moon are equally as dazzling on the light-pollution free skies reflecting on the glass-like seas below. The full moon is always an occasion for a special celebration and tonight’s full moon marks the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival in particular.

The event is a time of coming together with friends and family for prayers of thanksgiving for the harvest bounty. Like the American Thanksgiving holiday, there is plenty of feasting and to compliment the cornucopia of foods, Shangri-La Villingili offers the most exceptional range of Chinese libations…

  • Baijiu (Chinese White Spirit) – Distilled.
    • MOU TAI (mao – tai) Produced in Guizhou, Southwest China. Often referred to as Chinese vodka. Distilled from sorghum. Unique because of ‘sauce-fragrance’. Alcohol degree from 53 to 35 (the higher, the more expensive). Official alcohol beverage in Chinese governments. Claims to be one of the three most famous liquors in the world, besides cognac and whiskey.
    • WU LIANG YE – Produced in Chengdu. Often known as the magic liquor of China. Purest, most authentic baijiu distiller. Complex with a fragrant peppery nose, soft and mellow on the palate
  • Huangjiu (Yellow Liquor) – Fermented
    • SHAOXING WINE (shao – sing). Produced in Shaoxing, Zhe Jiang. Shaoxing is the most internationally known high grade yellow wine, made for drinking and cooking. Traditionally drank both chilled and warm.
    • NU ER HONG (nü-eR-hong). Produced in Shaoxing, Zhe Jiang Fermented from glutinous rice and wheat. Alcohol degree is less than 20 degrees. Traditionally drank warm. Nu Er Hong has a beautiful story. In the ancient times, when the baby daughter was born, the parent would carve or paint jars of wine and bury them underground until the daughter got married. Thereafter, the parents would dig the wines out for a feast with the guests, hence its name Nu Er Hong (Daughter Rice Wine)
  • Chinese Grape Wine – Fermented
    • White – Produced in Shaan Xi, Northwest China. Close proximity to Xi An, home of the Terracotta Warriors. Grace Vineyard is one of the most established winery in China, and has been in operations since 1997. The first vintage was produced in 2001. Grace Vineyards Tasya’s Reserve Chardonnay 2008. Color: Pale, straw Green. Aromas: Light oak, tropical fruits, cashews. Palate: Light oak, nuts, melon fruits. Mouth-filling with fresh acidity.
    • Red – Grace Vineyards Tasya’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Color: Deep Ruby Red. Aromas: Blackberry, blackcurrant, subtle oak. Palate: Soft, medium-bodied red wine with blackberry notes. Fine tannins and light oak, good clean finish.
  • Beer – TSING TAO BEER (ching-dao). Brewery was founded by German settlers in China in 1903. Tsing Tao is the number one branded consumer producted exported in China

The catalogue above is compliments of Winnie Toh (photo above) from Singapore who is herself a Certified sommelier by Court of Master Sommeliers and also received the WSET Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits as well as the Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence.

This occasion has made me realise how much material I have on the Maldives’ biggest guest country, China, so I am adding the tag “Chinese” today to bring together all these pieces.

Pina Perfection

Perfect Pina Colada

Coconut Full Moon tonight. The perfect time to toast that essence of equatorial elixir – pina colada.

Maldives is not my only tropical love. I am also an epicurean devotee of the pina colada. It is my tropical cocktail. I only really drink it in the Maldives because I do believe that ambience and context is as much a part of an exceptional drink experience as the drink itself. Like port with cigars and cards. Or Pimms at one of The Season events. I have occasional sampled pina coladas when I am at establishments renowned for their mixology just to explore their spin on this classic. But the experience is more clinical and investigative than my sensual savouring in the Maldives.

My pina passion has reached a higher profile as a part of my annual Maldives Tour posts to the Trip Advisor Maldives Forum. I post a daily thumbnail sketch of each resort highlighting things like the weather, my favourite dish, snorkel spottings. And I include a headline assessment of the resort’s pina colada.

For me the pina colada is as iconic a tropical drink as the Maldives is a tropical destination. And it can be an emblematic indicator for the resort overall. It’s complicated and varied enough that the resort’s own quality of ingredients, attention to detail, creativity, flair and even personality can shine though in this little alcoholic microcosm. You can have foamy vs. flat, shaken vs. blended, iced vs. chilled, not to mention a range of ingredient variations (eg. coconut cream, coconut milk, coconut flavouring). And it can be presented in simple tall glasses with a sprig or garnish to coconut shells with a cornucopia of fruit and frills.

Last year, the epicenter of all things coconut, Kurumba resort, rose to the “Pina Colada Challenge” with an unprecedented flurry of pina colada artistry on the occasion of my visit. The exceptional evening got me questioning my first principles. With all of the options and variations, what was I looking for in the “perfect pina colada”. That led to a bit more “research” and now my own recipe and guidance for the quintessential pinoconut concoction.

FUNDAMENTALS – What are my basic principles for the ultimate pina colada?

  • TemperatureFrozen. This is the counterfoil to the sun drenched tropics. You are melting away in the warmth and so part of the experience is the frigid coldness of the drink. The best pina colada is the coldest pina colada. Some tips to achieving this frigorific chill…
    • Store all of the ingredients in the freezer. Including the rum and the glass along with frozen coconut cream and pineapple juice. Note that you will need to freeze the coconut cream and pinapple juice in small chunks or cubes in order for them to blend effectively on mixing.
    • Serve in a “stem” glass so the hand does not warm the drink while holding it.
  • ThingsFresh. Fresh, top shelf ingredients should be a given, but I am always surprised at how many top resorts try to get by with inferior ingredients.
    • Fresh pineapple juice. Not from a can or concentrate (which almost always has added sugar).
    • Coconut cream (not coconut milk, coconut flavouring, or pina colada mix)
    • Top quality white rum. Not the cheap stuff. Not dark rum.
  • TextureFine. Another bad bit are…the bits. Yes, it is a “style” thing. Much like the difference between the more finely textured Parisian bisque as opposed to the more rustic and thicker Normady bisque. The pulp might seem to add to the appearance of freshness, but the mouth feel distracts from the focus on the flavours and the frozenness.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 parts Coconut Cream – (not Coconut Milk, it’s too thin and not coconutty enough)
  • 4 parts fresh Pineapple Juice – (not pulpy, see above on Texture)
  • 2 parts White Rum – (not flavoured)
  • 1 part medium sugar syrup (3:4 ratio of sugar to water)

Despite many classic recipes call for it, I first tried to avoid the Sugar Syrup ingredient. I thought one could get the desired sweetness with the pineapple juice and even the coconut cream would contribute a bit. However, in depth experimentation showed that the syrup really helped to smooth out and mellow the final product in a way no other balancing could (without sacrificing the rum kick). If getting or making the sugar syrup is just a step too far, then actually using Malibu Rum (the exception to the “not flavoured Rum” rule) provides the same sweetness and some of the mellowing effect (but unfortunately does introduce a distinctly “artificial” or even “chemically” tinge).

Also notice NO ICE. Ice just waters down the drink and interferes with the smooth sipping. The frozen ingredients provide all the frigidity that you need (and more than shaking over ice will ever do).

Perhaps the key objective here is balance.  You don’t want any individual ingredient overpowering the flavour.  You want all of the tastes to blend harmoniously.

RUMS

  • Baccardi Carta Blanca Superior White Rum – The classic and default option.
  • Brugal Especial Extra Dry Rum – The premium option for smoothness and distinction (“clean, dry rum which contains fewer of the heavy alcohols which tend to provide other rums a sweeter flavour profile. The Especial Extra Dry is blended from a mix of rum spirits which have been aged a minimum of 2 years and up to as many as 5 years in White American Oak casks. The rum is triple charcoal filtered, and was developed as a high-end cocktail spirit”).
  • Malibu Caribbean Rum with Coconut Flavour – The oft-resorted to shortcut for coconut and sweetness boost.

DIRECTIONS

Blend ingredients until smooth. Not too little so that it is lumpy. Not too much that it overly thaws the drink. Depending on the type of blender you have, you might want to pre-crush the frozen coconut cream as this can freeze quite solidly.

GARNISH

You can let your inner Carmen Miranda go crazy if you like, but there is only one classic garnish – a skewered Maraschino cherry and pineapple slice perched on the edge of the glass. Some say the cherry is dated and even twee, but I guess I am just too old school.  And no straw! The drink needs to be sipped from the glass like a fine wine. Straws are mostly for drinks with ice (see note above on “no ice”).

The Guardian has also published their pina perfection path “How to make the perfect piña colada”. It’s an okay recipe. I’m against the use of ice for a truly “perfect” pina, but I understand how it is an expedient way to achieve coldness. And the piece provides some in depth perspectives on some of the dynamics of the drink.

Happy Hour Coconut Moon everyone!

(special thanks to our friends Wayne and Lucille who contributed as research assistants in the methodical lab testing)

 

Best of the Maldives: Palm Wine – Soneva Fushi

Soneva Fushi - palm wine harvesting

Soneva Fushi’slet it grow” libations are its homemade palm wine. The photo above shows the vine-strapped ladder steps attached to a palm tree where a Maldivian climbs to access tap the sap (let it flow) from the palm flower. The entire process is done in traditional dress and with traditional techniques and then fermented on the resort.

Best of the Maldives: Glow – W Retreat

W Retreat - glow drinks

The Maldives radiates so much beauty…on land or sea, over water or beneath, as well as daytime or night. Most people first think about the sun drenched scenery, but the visual spectacles don’t stop with the fiery sunsets. The night time turns on its own display of lustrous luminescence. The Milky Way pageant of celestial sequins sashay across the sky. And the occasional bioluminescent displays bestow the Maldivian shorelines their own shimmering necklace.

The W Retreat is resort for night time radiance. Their recent “Resident Luminous Artist” Tom Bacher conducted “Let It Glow” painting classes where people learned the craft of playing with light. And he also worked on his own pieces (see below) which is plans to exhibit in the future.

Or you could also enjoy the luminous tonic-and-limelight just sitting back over a refreshing drink as they introduced their line of “Glow” drinks concocted with special ingredients that glow in UV lighting (see above)…

  • Elderberry Glowing Cocktail – blue curacao, fresh lime juice, sugar syrup, rum, gin, vodka, Cointreau, raspberry puree
  • Hendricks and Berries Glow – cucumber juice, lemon juice, sugar syrup, sliced cucumber, Hendricks gin, fresh berries (blue berries, raspberries, cranberries), tonic
  • Glowing Herb – lime juice, ginger syrup, sugar syrup, homemade rosemary infused gin, tonic cubes, tonic, rosemary, mint

Mind you, there are a few possibilities that I think they missed in their “Let It Glow” line up…

  • “Frozen” Margarita
  • GlOlaf
  • Cristal-off champagne cocktail

W Retreat - glow painting

Best of the Maldives: Cognac – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - 1888 Frappin cognac

For those with more refined tastes that Homer Simpson, today is the day to break out the ultimate tipple treat – Cognac Day (I’m not making these days up, seriously.  And the Maldives really does have something to offer every day of the year). And one of the finest and rarest blends in the world is offered at Sun Siyam Irufushi – the 1888 P. Frapin. London purveyor of finest wines describes its storied background…

  • “Cognac Frapin Cuvée 1888 is one of the rarest blends of cognac created in the recent years. It is selected from the most precious vines, some of which even predate 1888, passed down through the generations and a tribute to the extraordinary achievements of the company’s eponymous founder Pierre Frapin. In 1888 he replanted the vineyard, previously decimated by phylloxera, with American rootstock from Denison Texas. That same year, he was preparing to participate in the World Fair of 1889 in Paris. As Gustave Eiffel was entering the final stages of construction of his famous tower, Pierre Frapin was busy selecting the cuvee that would be awarded a gold medal. This Gold Medal is still kept in the ‘Eiffel Cellar’ at the Frapin estate in Segonzac,”

The decanter itself is part of its aesthetic distinction…

  • “Fashioned from blown glass at the Cristalleries Royales de Champagne, the magnificent decanter of 1888 has a 24 carat fine gold thread made by Les Etains d’Anjou. The elaborate wooden gift box that houses Cuvée 1888 is the epitome of refinement, it is also a highly decorative object. The elegant hues of the wood are reminiscent of the warm tones of the world of cognac and Havana cigars. The small drawer nestling in the base holds a beautiful fob watch with a flick mechanism, a reproduction of a model designed in 1880, gilded with fine gold. When the lid is opened, the watch reveals a solid perfume that will create the ideal scent environment in which to savour this unique cognac: 1888. A limited edition of only 1,888 of these 700 ml decanters in wooden gift boxes has been produced.”

And for truly appreciating its sublime nose tingling bouquet, you can always break out Irufushi’s “Nez du Vin” kit.

  • This is a blend created by cellar master Olivier Paultes, consisting of very old Grande Champagne cognacs that are distilled on their lees and matured in the cellars of the Château de Fontpinot. Cuvée 1888 demonstrates the alluring floral notes of the Folle Blanche grape, which is no longer used for making cognac. The aromas reveal notes of dried fruit, walnuts and hazelnuts, raisins and prune with candied orange and enchanting balsamic, roasted, toasty notes of cocoa and coffee beans. The palate is a showcase of sublime harmony, floral notes mingling with the sweetness of linden and peppery overtones, sweet spices, summer flower honey and vanilla, leather and aromatic woods. Powerful yet subtle, it combines history with blending expertise resulting in a tribute to Cognac’s Grande Champagne Premier Grand Cru vineyards.”

Very Superior!

Best of the Maldives: DIY Creations – Kurumba

Kurumba - welcome cocktail mixer

If you are inspired to be your own concoct your own cocktail creations, then arrival at Kurumba will start your holiday on the right foot. They provide all the fresh ingredients to make your own mojito precisely to your liking when you walk into your room. We loved the concept because it spurred us to indulge in a way we wouldn’t have otherwise done. When you arrive, it doesn’t feel appropriate to raid the mini-bar right off the bat. And if you did, all you can really do is have a simple drink like a beer, glass of wine or neat liquor. But the layout inspired us to create an especially refreshing and interesting drink to accompany our unpacking and settling in.

Cheers!

Best of the Maldives: Cocktail Creations – Sun Siyam Irufushi

Sun Siyam Irufushi - cocktail creations

Researching yesterday’s croquet piece, I was struck by the curious terminology of the game much of which seemed like a menu for exotic cocktails – Super Shot, Dambuster, Dolly Rush, Mangler, Octuple Peel, Straight Triple. It brought me back to our Sun Siyam Irufushi visit and wiling away too many hours at their “Water’s Edge” bar.

Over 90% of cocktails there are custom recipes made by Anil. As our waiter commented, “No one wants to drink Coca Cola at the Maldives”.

While I tend to stick to my ritual pina coladas during my resort visits I nonetheless always appreciate inventiveness. And Lori always seems to be interested in trying an unconventional concoction. I’ll often sample hers and more often than not the cocktails are more oddball than highball.

But Irufushi was a truly refreshing change. Their “Shanghi #1” is a resort favourite which Lori tried (bracing with a bit of fizz and not too sweet). I had a “Login” which is like a tropical mojito”

If you want to indulge in the taste of the Maldives, Maldives Complete has scooped the recipes for their top three creations…

  • Sun Siyam Delight (Signature cocktail) – Vodka, Triple sec, Mango Liqueur, Fresh Passion Fruit plums, Fresh Mint Leaves, Mojito Mint Syrup and Soda Water. Shake with all the ingredients and pour into glass and add mint leaves. top up with soda water and stir well. it is very interesting refreshing cocktail.
  • All Rounder (competition winning cocktails) – Vodka, Peach Liqueur, Triple Sec, Fresh strawberry, Fresh Orange Juice and Grapefruit Juice. Muddle the strawberry and add all the ingredient and shake well. it is well balance, sweet and slightly better taste and refreshing.
  • Login (competition winning cocktail) – Vodka, Midori, Fresh Pineapple Juice, Fresh Lemon Juice, Mojito Mint and Fresh Basil Leaves. Shake all the ingredients with fresh basil leaves and strain into the glass. Serve on the rock and it is wonderful refreshing sweet herb cocktail.

Best of the Maldives: Vintage Cocktails – Velaa

Velaa - vintage cocktails

Vintages are the marques of distinctive quality for the finest wines, but how about “vintage” cocktails?  Velaa bills them as the Maldives’ “Rarest and Most Expensive Cocktails”.  Starting at $1,230, they would make a Top 10 list in the world are a mostly certainly the most exclusive in the Maldives.   But anyone can throw together lots of expensive ingredients. What I like is their distinctive attention to the story behind each…

History in a glass – the cocktails celebrate vintages from bygone years – using the finest vintage Ports, Cognacs and Armagnacs, such as Guy Lheraud, Vieil a unique 1930’s vintage as the base liquors for each drink…The dedicated mixology team at Velaa has developed their first-class repertoires for these fine aged cocktails and aim to transport guests back in time to the prohibition years in New York or Chicago.”

  • The Goal of 1934 (USD$2,090) – Inspired by the 1934 World Cup in Italy, where Czechoslovakia lost 2-1 to the host nation in the final. This cocktail is created with Guy Lheraud “Carafe Eve” 1934 and Bollinger “RD” Extra Brut, 1996.
  • A Good Year Cocktail (USD$1,930) – 1930, known as the year of peace and tranquillity, heard BBC Radio from London on 18th April reporting that “There is no news” and a good year for all, uses vintage Armagnac – Guy Lheraud, Vieil Armagnac 1930 and topped with Louis Roderer Cristal.
  • Lucky & Al (USD$6,530) – Homage to the Prohibition era in the US, this cocktail is created with a vintage 1930’s Guy Lheraud, Vieil Armagnac and Salon 1988 Champagne.
  • The Belle Époque (USD$4,285) – A time of peace and prosperity, this era is considered the start of the ‘golden age’ post World War I and is made with a rare Guy Lheraud, Vieil-Armagnac, “Baron Gaston Legrand” 1888 and Dom Perignon Cuvee Rose 1982.
  • Eiffel Tower (USD$2,470) – For 1990, when the Paris World Exhibition celebrated the Eiffel Tower, this cocktail is created with Guy Lheraud, Vieil-Armagnac “Baron Gaston Legrand” 1900 and Dom Perignon Onotheque 1996.
  • Fly me to the Moon (USD$1,230) – Based on the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, uses Vintage Port- Graham’s 1969 or Cognac Guy Lheraud “Fins Bois” 1969 and is topped with Salon 1999 champagne.

So you can toast today’s 127 anniversaire of the Tour Effel’s opening with a double distillation of “drinking stars”.