The Jungle Bird is one of a great number of cocktails that fell through the cracks of history until Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, author and renowned tiki historian, unearthed the recipe and gave it new life through one of his books, Beachbum Berry Remixed (SLG Publishing, 2009).
Berry claims to have found the recipe in the back of a three decade-old 600-plus page paperback, The New American Bartender’s Guide (Signet, 1989) by John O. Poister, which boldly boasts on its cover to contain more than 2,300 cocktail recipes. What made the Jungle Bird jump out among the crowded competition? One simple, odd ingredient that has fascinated bartenders since its creation: Campari.
Not expecting to see a bitter Italian amaro in a tiki classic? Neither was Berry. Pineapple and Campari, two of the drink’s main ingredients, don’t seem like they should pair together at all. But pineapple’s natural sweetness balances the bitter and mildly spicy touch of amaro and adds a captivating new dimension to the standard tiki flavor profile. Campari’s subtle citrus notes of orange peel and grapefruit also work well with the pineapple to enhance the tropical nature of the drink.
The Jungle Bird’s traditional garnish, a spread of spiky pineapple fronds, is patently ridiculous. You could put an eye out on one of those things. Rather, one small tweak elevates this drink in an incredible way: a small forest of mint. A garnish should always serve the drink and never exist solely for show, the idea here behind the seemingly excessive amount of foliage is that you get a big hit of mint aroma every time you take a sip, which enhances how the cocktail tastes.
Simply put, if you couldn’t feasibly hide a small bird in there, you’re not using enough mint.
One final tip, the shake is very important for a properly made Jungle Bird. This drink requires a slightly longer and more vigorous shake than your average sour so the pineapple will froth up and create a sturdy head when the drink is poured. In addition to helping create the cocktail’s signature texture, it also helps the mint not fall into the drink.