The Shrunken Skull
Tiki can be tricky. Even saying “Tiki can be tricky” can be tricky. Especially if you’ve had a Shrunken Skull. Thankfully there’s nothing tricky to making one. There’s a basic similarity to the Mai Tai here; an ounce each of two different rums, and ounce of lime juice and an ounce of sweet. In this case the sweet is grenadine. Now that means we have to talk about grenadine. A long time ago grenadine used to be a pomegranate syrup. But pomegranates are kind of expensive and over the years kept getting replaced with cheaper ingredients until we get to a point where there is little (usually none) of the original juice left. As far as I’m aware all commercial grenadines are rubbish. Most are just sugar, artificial flavourings and food colour. But the real thing is a revelation. And essential to the Shrunken Skull – really do not bother trying this recipe with commercial grenadine. So before we get the the Shrunken Skull recipe let’s have a look at my home made grenadine recipe which owes its roots to recipes by Jeffrey Morganthaler and Tiare of the (excellent) A Mountain of Crushed Ice Tiki blog. Actually Morganthaler’s The Bar Book is pretty essential too. There are two grenadine recipes below, which are self explanatory. You will use the grenadine in a wide range of drinks and it’s also pretty damn tasty in a glass of sparkling water too.
Basic home made grenadine.
Warm up some POM Wonderful pomegranate juice in a clean pan to a low to medium temperature. Stir in an equal volume of fine sugar until dissolved. Bottle in a sterilized bottle. Will keep in the fridge for at least 3 months.
Mega-delicious home made grenadine.
1 bottle (710ml) of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
750g fine sugar
Follow procedure above then while still warm add:
2oz (60ml) pomegranate molasses (from any middle-eastern grocery shop)
1tsp (5ml) orange flower water (ditto)
small handful of dried hibiscus flowers. Aka hibiscus tea. (ditto)
Stir and cover. Leave for between 1 and 2 hours.
Strain out the hibiscus flowers and bottle as above. You can keep the used hibiscus flowers (or at least the more intact ones) in a jar filled with some of the grenadine to use as a garnish. Especially nice dropped into a glass of champagne or cava.
The Shrunken Skull appears in Jeff Beachbum Berry’s Tiki bible Remixed but is not a prominent Tiki drink. That’s because, in its basic form, it’s just not that good. But it makes a great example of how a modest drink can be transformed by using the right ingredients. The following is my version which I sometimes call a Shrunken Heid (pronounced “heed”) when I use the Scottish* OVD rum. Not only the home made grenadine but the choice of rums are essential in this drink. The gold rum must be very dry because there is already enough sweetness in the grenadine. Havana Club Anejo Especial is rock solid here and widely available. A bit trickier is the second rum which ideally should be a British Navy style Demerara rum such as OVD, Wood’s 100 or Skipper. If that proves tricky try another inky black rum such as Captain Morgan Black which is widely available in Europe. Worth repeating is the 2:1:1 ratio of spirit to sour to sweet which is the secret formula for many Tiki drinks.
Shrunken Skull / Shrunken Heid
1oz OVD (Old Vatted Demerara) rum
1oz Havana Club Anejo Especial gold rum
1oz home made grenadine
1oz fresh lime juice
Shake with ice. I like a mixture of cubed and crushed in this particular drink but either is fine.
Pour unstrained into a DOF glass or skull shaped receptacle. Note: Using a real skull is considered impolite.
Toast Jeff Beachbum Berry for digging up all these old recipes for us.
This is a very quick and easy drink to make at a cocktail party and proves extremely popular if made well. It is suitable for pre-batching and keeping in the fridge.
*Obviously OVD isn’t actually Scottish but it’s aged and bottled in Scotland.
By Eduardo 16th July 2020 - 3:51 am
I live in Michigan, USA so I had to use Plantation dark Rum, couldn’t find the OVD but did make homemade grenadine per your recipe, which I love, but gave the drink more of a dark red appearance vs your picture, taste great but need a substitute for OVD maybe Pusser’s and true Havana club not Barcardi
By Andy 16th July 2020 - 7:49 am
Hi Eduardo! Great to hear your feedback. The picture is slightly backlit and so it is darker than it looks there so don’t worry about that. No, you won’t find OVD in the US as far as I’m aware but Plantation dark is a decent sub. But, Yes indeed, Pusser’s would be a bit better. If I was in the US I’d try for a combo of Mount Gay Eclipse (instead of Havana Club Anejo) and El Dorado 8 or Pusser’s. May peace and rum be with you always. Andy.