Named after the mythic sea witch, the Cecaelia is a dangerously potent cocktail full of overproof rum, fresh juices, and classic tiki flavors. A dash of Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial from Tamworth Distillery & Art In The Age gives this blueberry rum tiki cocktail an extra kick and a gorgeous purple color.
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This summer I have finally come to terms with something very important about myself:
I am completely and utterly tiki-obsessed.
I’ll get into the specifics down below, but a major reason is the creativity involved. Tiki culture isn’t just about making a drink – its about creating an experience. And if there is one thing I love, its edible entertainment.
In the spirit of the tiki bartenders of old, The Cecaelia is my personal take on a cocktail invented by Raul Marin and taught to us during a wonderful class at Art In The Age, a lovely craft cocktail boutique-turned-bar oasis located in the Old City district of Philadelphia. With inexpensive Caribbean rums, warm tiki spices, and fresh pineapple and lime juices, the drink recipe is already a relative of a classic Mai Tai.
What sets the blueberry rum tiki cocktail apart is the inclusion of Tamworth Distillery’s deliciously rich Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial. Created in partnership with AITA, this earthy and fruity elixir combines wild blueberries, black trumpet mushrooms, and local lavender and lemon verbena for a beautifully unique and delicious spirit. Audacious garnishes of vibrant mint, fresh berries, and a few flashy pineapple fronds finish off the wild look. True it’s namesake, you’re sure to be bewitched by the lovely and mysterious Cecaelia cocktail.
The Cecaelia | A Blueberry Rum Tiki Cocktail
As already mentioned, the idea of this blueberry rum tiki cocktail was born from a recent class hosted by AITA. Raul Marin, a fabulous bartender now over at Southwark Restaurant, spent the evening teaching advanced skills to a small class of only five of us. In addition to tiki recipes, he taught us a cocktail mixing technique known as a “Cuban roll”; the proper way to shock mint to release it’s oils; and even how to make an eccentric banana dolphin to decorate your finished drinks.
Most of all, Raul taught us the essential rule of Tiki – to entertain. Or, as he put it, to be “tiki weird”. Now, Raul isn’t much into social media, so I told him I was going to steal this hashtag. He didn’t seem to mind, but know that it is definitely his, even if I’ve adopted it as my new mantra.
One of the drinks Raul taught us utilized nearly the full arsenal of the prepared Tiki bartender, plus a dash of the aforementioned Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial. I was smitten with the bright purple color immediately and surprised at how prominently even a small dash of the liqueur shone through the many ingredients of the tiki cocktail. The Cecaelia is my homemade version of this blueberry rum tiki cocktail, with a few modifications to keep costs down for the home bartender.
According to legend, the Cecaelia is is a creature with the upper body of a human and the lower extremities of an octopus or squid. The origins of such a myth are murky, but the species was made popular through the depiction of the sea witch Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Like many beautiful water spirits, the Cecaelia is mysterious and odd, yet enticing due to its otherworldlyness. The lovely purple color is not often seen in tiki drinks, and the earthiness lent from mushrooms brings to mind in word (if not in flavor) of the depths of the underworld.
Basically, the Cecaelia calls to mind all the fantastic, whimsical imagery a really good, really weird tiki recipe should have.
The Rebirth of Tiki
Tiki culture has always called to me. The fruity drinks. The potent rums. The fun, anthropomorphic mugs. Something exotic and mysterious and full of pineapple fronds.
Little did I know that there was good reason for this. The phenomenon known as tiki is actually an escapist fantasy with no basis in any one culture. Started in the mid-1930’s, tiki combines fantastic elements from island cultures on either side of the United States (Caribbean islands, Latin America, Hawaii, and the Philippines) along with foods and flavors of Asia.
Despite its artificial (and at times culturally appropriative) beginnings, tiki culture has taken on a life of its own and has a complex, rich history as part of the American restaurant and bartending scene. What started as a fun whim of one wayward man was made into a profit-making empire of another, eventually turned to kitsch by the 70’s and 80’s, and then became passé. Today however, tiki is seeing a resurgence. Aspects are being reclaimed and the fun and excitement of bold new flavors, inventive drinks, and elaborate garnishes are being embraced by bartenders all over.
For more information on the fascinating of history of tiki culture, I urge you to check out Martin & Rebecca Cate’s book, The Smuggler’s Cove. It’s full of fun, historical facts and cocktail recipes spanning the nearly 100 year history of tiki in the United States. I’m not alone in saying that its a seminal classic for anyone that loves cocktail culture in general, or tiki more specifically.
Tiki combines my two favorite cultural traditions – Central Asia and the Caribbean Islands – into something unreal and (most importantly) delicious. Thanks to a random name drop from a good friend, I’ve decided to embrace my utter obsession and even adopted a nickname she coined – The Tiki Queen. This recipe for a blueberry rum tiki cocktail will be my first official contribution to the cause.
For the rest of summer, I’ll be sharing all sorts of Tiki-inspired ideas and recipes, and even an essential guide to making your own Tiki Bar at home. I hope you enjoy the recipes individually, or even together as a fun, tropical party any day of the year. I’ve even made a list of island-inspired recipes over on Buzzfeed to get you started.
Oh, and if you feel so inclined to post your own tiki adventures on social media, don’t forget the hashtag #tikiweird! Let’s get it trending friends!
The Cecaelia | A Blueberry Rum Tiki Cocktail
Named after the mythic sea witch, the Cecaelia is a dangerously potent blueberry rum tiki cocktail full of fresh juices and warm island spices. #tikiweird
Combine the rums, syrup, juice, blueberry cordial, and bitters in the base of your cocktail shaker, and top with ice. Shake until chilled and foamy.
Fill your tiki mug with ice, and top with the cocktail. To garnish a tiki cocktail, you have to go big: pluck a few leaves from a fresh pineapple and secure them together with a cherry (or blueberry) and a toothpick. Then add a handful of mint leaves, some fancy swizzle sticks, and a biodegradable straw. Ta Da! Time to get #tikiweird.
Shock the Mint: Before garnishing, take a handful of mint leaves and smack them against your arm. This is called shocking the mint, and it releases the lovely oils, adding a fragrant layer to your cocktail.
Blueberry Alternatives: If you aren’t able to get a hold of your own bottle of Tamworth Distillery’s Black Trumpet Blueberry Cordial, you can still make your own version of this drink. Feel free to use your favorite blueberry syrup instead, or try you hand at a DIY version, like the blueberry reduction in this recipe.