Tiki classic, "The Nui Nui" is the perfect Christmas cocktail

It's that time of year, a signal like the "Mensch on a Bench*" on the shelf at Target, tells us, it's Christmas.  I love holiday cocktails. For me it all started years ago, on a month long, winter consultant in trip to Alberta, land of the bloody caesar.  Over and over, bartenders told me how much they loved to drink Bailey's, and some where, after my second cheese fondue and my third standoff with a moose, I started to love Bailey's and all winter cocktails too. Winter drinks aremostly obvious, warm or sweet, high production cocktails, that you should drink sparingly. But a cocktail too often ignored in cold weather is the Nui Nui.

Let me first say of the Nui Nui, never have I made one that the guest didn't love. It's a Creedence Clearwater Revival greatest hits record in a glass— you know all the words even if you don't give a shit about John Fogerty. The Nui Nui's appeal as a winter drink seems obvious at first, it's a mix of cinnamon, vanilla and allspice that smells like a delicious $75 scented candle you only light for company, but, a candle that can get you tipsy.  Here's what bar owner and syrup stirrer Blair Reynolds, has to say on the Nui Nui 

The Nui Nui is a cocktail well suited for Christmas drinking. Not only is it another great use for your spice cabinet, and the oranges from the bottom of your stocking, but a big kick of rum really helps make it a happy holiday.

But the other reason the Nui Nui is such a great winter cocktail is that it's orange and citrus heavy. And northern hemisphere citrus as just beginning to reach perfection in November. 

Here is a basic recipe** for the Nui Nui before we go any further 

The Nui Nui 

2 oz rum    1 oz orange    3/4 oz   cinnamon syrup      3/4 oz lime    1/4 oz   vanilla syrup      1/4 allspice    Dash bitters     Shake and strain over crushed ice,     garnish like on a cooking competition show     **tips on changing recipe to follow**

2 oz rum

1 oz orange

3/4 oz cinnamon syrup

3/4 oz lime

1/4 oz vanilla syrup

1/4 allspice

Dash bitters

Shake and strain over crushed ice, 

garnish like on a cooking competition show

**tips on changing recipe to follow**

To continue with the less obvious reason to indulge in the Nui Nui for the holiday season,  listen, remember and tattoo upon your arm if necessary: 


Citrus is harvested in the fall and winter.


What’s that you say? What about those crazy finger limes and exotic citrus that show up in the summer?  Well, those are grown in the Australian winter of June and July.  Those oceanic folks are crackers, putting their winter in the wrong months, calling large marsupials “skippy,” and having universal healthcare. Anyway, up here where water flows the right direction, our best citrus comes into season in the late fall and winter that we call "November through February". Those are the best months for citrus cocktails.  Note your local grocer’s stock of tiny sweet oranges, vibrant blood oranges and, just a bit later you’ll see Texas oranges and grapefruits.  The Nui Nui benefits greatly from bold, fresh and this time of the year, sweet citrus.  

To consider the Nui Nui as a template, it basically has three flavors: citrus, baking spice and rum.  And to truly enjoy this cocktail, start substituting those flavors with seasonal analogs.


No need to ever use 2 oz of just 1 rum.  Whenever possible, blend your rums for a better cocktail.  The spice flavors with hold down the base of this cocktail, so you needn’t rely too heavily on a dark rick rum, I’d instead to go with tropical flavors from Jamaican Rum, Cachaça or Agricultural Rums. 


You can make vanilla syrup by buying fresh vanilla beans from a local spice store (your grocer likely sells old beans), gently simmering them and stirring in high quality Demerara sugar and letting cool.  This mixture can be repeated with cinnamon.  Both will not grow mold for almost 2 weeks in the fridge and won’t taste as fresh after a couple days.  Conversely, but the syrups from a professional.  For vanilla syrup, look for syrup in which you can actually see particulates of vanilla beans.  Obviously B.G. Reynolds is designed to hold up in complex tiki cocktails.  As for cinnamon, the original Nui Nui called for various secret "Don's mixes," that have since been decoded and are no longer secret. These mixes were pre-batched flavor compilations designed to add efficiency to the bar and prevent bartender’s knowing the real recipe.  The recipe above basically contains that mix “exploded.”


Get some.  Get crazy.  Meyer lemons are in season for you to blend with lime juice.  Blood orange can be substituted for navel orange even though November Texan navel oranges might be the best an orange can be.  Satsumas, though hard to juice and a mysterious sweetness when muddled into a cocktail. And the aromatic peel of a buddha’s hand is an intoxicating garnish.  Drink all of the winter citrus.


You can basically riff on the Nui Nui if you have equal parts rum, spicy sweetness and citrus.


With all that in mind, this is how I would make a Nui Nui to get the best of winter flavors

Winter Nui Nui

1 oz Jamaican Rum (perhaps Appleton VX or Hamilton Black)

1 oz Aged Cachaça (Perhaps Novo Fogo)

3/4 oz Blood Orange Juice

3/4 oz Lime Juice

1 smashed satsuma

1 oz Kraüterlikör of your choice (perhaps Becherovka, Bittermens Hiver Amer or Pür Blood Orange)

1/4 oz Vanilla Syrup

1/4 oz St Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram

2 dashes Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters

shake and strain into tiki mug

Tiki is travel without traveling.  Tell your family you love them enough to stay in.  Have a Nui Nui, chase it with and eggnog, get a cab and go to bed early.


*I love him so much. I mean, Hanukkah doesn't really need a mascot, but c'mon, equal opportunity commercialization right? And, this the mascot is just "you know, like a good guy,  someone who would help you move a sofa."


** No, this isn’t the original recipe of secret Don’s mixes and it’s not blended, this is a flavor template you can follow along with, adapt it for yourself.  It is unreasonable to make Don Beach’s Nui Nui, make your Nui Nui.  If you want to make it like Don, g pick up a copy of Jeff Berry's book Potions of the Caribbean  or The Cate's Book Smuggler's Cove.  Otherwise, visit a tiki joint near you like:

Latitude 29

Smuggler's Cove

Hale Pele



Lost Lake

Mother of Pearl