Going Native with the Missionary's Downfall

When talking tropical drinks, it’s so easy to extoll the virtues of their origins, their history, their varied palate of flavor, and even their exciting nomenclature. One thing most tropical drinks have in common that isn’t often discussed is the general “brownish orange” hue that comes with a good tropical drink. It’s even been thought that the tiki mug was developed just to hide this secret shame of tropical drinking! Well this next drink we’re going to discover brings a lovely shade of green to the line up, thanks to a heaping helping of mint. It’s the Missionary’s Downfall!

The Missionary’s Downfall originally comes to us from Don’s Beachcomber Café, where it was served to many of his celebrity clientele. Don the Beachcomber had a history with mint, using it extensively as garnish at his bars. When building his business in Hawaii and finding that no mint was grown on the islands, he quickly resolved the issue by smuggling some mint seeds and stems in his hat and giving them to a friendly nursery owner. 

When selecting mint for your cocktail, make sure the stalks are strong and the leaves don’t have any brown spots. Check the fragrance of the mint by rubbing a leaf to release some of the oils and giving it a nice big sniff to make sure it’s got that nice cooling aroma. Though it’s easy to think that the mint is just getting chopped up, the fresh green of good mint makes quite the difference! Fresh, high quality mint can be had all year round, even from your own garden! It’s a hearty plant, but do keep it in its own pot, as it has a tendency to take over in open soil.

The drink blends not only fresh mint, but pineapple, peach brandy, and good crisp rum. At Hale Pele, we have tried through a wide selection of rums. While quality white Puerto Rican rum does well, using a lovely blended rum, such as Plantation 3 Star or Banks 5 can make a real game changer for flavor. The range of peach liqueurs goes from dirt nasty to essence of heaven, and just a dash is used, so feel free to spend a little extra cash to get the good stuff. For the pineapple juice, fresh is best if you’re equipped with a juicer and a few pineapples to spare, but I can’t knock going with the canned stuff. If you’re looking to make these in volume, a blend of canned and fresh still gives you the ripe acidity and foam of fresh pineapple. For honey, don’t use the stuff straight, but mix it ahead of time half and half with warm water. Any kind of honey will do, but I personally avoid clover honey, as the taste tends to dominate other more delicate flavors. The amount of crushed ice is a crucial step too. If you’re going to be serving it in a larger vessel, double up the size of everything! I’m sure your guests won’t mind.

The Missionary’s Downfall takes some technique to make right. The mint has a tendency to try and escape the whirling blades of your blender. Your best bet to make sure it gets nice and chopped, and not as strands in someone’s teeth, is to ball up your mint leaves nice and tight before throwing it in the blender, and blend it with crushed ice for at least 30 seconds. Another little something that will happen is a separation of the liquid of the drink and the frothy foam of fresh pineapple juice. Once it’s done blending, let it sit for a minute or so. There will be enough separation where you can hold the foam back with a spoon, letting the liquid into the glass first. This step is important if you’re using a small vessel, such as a coupe, so that the drink doesn’t end up all foam and no cocktail!

This delightful little taste of tropical drinks history will add some much needed color to your repertoire of rhum rhapsodies. Its flavors are agreeable with almost everybody, from the tiki neophyte to the ghost of Don the Beachcomber himself. So raise your glass to the Missionary’s Downfall! Cheers!

Missionary’s Downfall

  • ½ fresh pineapple ring

  • 10 mint leaves

  • ½ oz fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz Orange Blossom Honey Mix
  • ½ oz Peach brandy
  • 1½ oz light rum

Mixing instructions: Blend all ingredients with 4 oz crushed ice, let sit for 1 minute. Pour slowly into a 5oz. coupe and top with foam. Garnish with an orchid and mint sprig