Three Dots & a Dash.
One of TikiWorld’s finest delights, the Three Dots and a Dash was created by the great Don the Beachcomber to celebrate the end of the second world war. You see the strange name of this drink is the morse code for the letter V, which in turn stands for Victory. Which then enters into the drinks garnish in the form of three Maraschino cherries as dots and a skewer or pineapple stick as the dash. I suppose a dash two dots and another dash for Peace was just too tricky? Now if it’s so great why have I been holding out on you guys for so long? The simple answer is that the Three Dots uses a few tricky ingredients. While we’ve talked about Falernum and Rhum Agricole before we’ll have to add Pimento Dram to that list. So as usual let’s take a time out to get up to speed:
This typically Tiki liqueur – sometimes also called Allspice Dram/Liqueur – is based on the pungent flavour of the allspice berry which, confusingly is also known as the pimento berry despite having nothing to do with that little red pepper that lives inside a cocktail olive. Allspice gets its name because it contains flavour elements similar to clove, nutmeg and cinnamon in one handy package. It is heavily used in Jamaican cuisine (such as jerk chicken) which is also where it originates. When transformed into a boozy liquid form the St. Elizabeth and Bitter Truth versions are perfectly good but it’s also fairly easy to make your own. A little goes a long way and it keeps particularly well so it’s not an exercise you need to repeat very often. My recipe goes like this: Fill a 2oz jigger with dried allspice berries acquired from any decent spice shop. Crack them open in a mortar and pestle (not into a powder!) and add them to a jar containing 400ml of white (or gold) Jamaican rum of at least 40%ABV*. Leave for a week shaking daily. Add a broken up Ceylon (this being the crumbly kind rather than the harder cassia type) cinnamon stick and leave for a further week, agitating daily. Strain through an unbleached coffee filter and discard the solids. Mix 250g of demerara sugar with 125ml of boiling water until dissolved and add to the spiced rum mixture. Bottle in a clean and sterilised bottle. As it’s used in small quantities – typically 0.25oz / 7.5ml per drink you could easily make a half sized portion.
This dotty drink is heavily dependent on the quality of the rhum agricole you use and I strongly recommend the excellent Clement select barrel if available to you. I found standard Clement agricole a bit meh and the more expensive Clement VSOP a bit too smooth. The smaller amount of demerara rum is less crucial but my top pick in the Three Dots is El Dorado 8 year old – a superb mixing rum with somewhat less sugar content than its siblings**. Furthermore, while the tiny amount of orange juice might seem insignificant, it most certainly is not and must be squeezed from a fresh fruit immediately prior to use. Now at this point you may be starting to think “Upon my word, this be a most persnickety beverage to concoct!” But trust me – it’s worth it. The reality is this: If you can perfect the Three Dots with all its peculiarities and esoteric ingredients you have truly reached the high plateau of Tiki excellence.
Three Dots and a Dash.
1.5oz / 45ml Rhum agricole (preferably Clement Select Barrel).
0.5oz / 15ml Demerara rum (El Dorado 8 is ideal).
0.5oz / 15ml fresh lime juice.
0.5oz / 15ml (very) fresh orange juice.
0.5oz / 15ml honey syrup (1:1 honey/water) slightly less if using 3:1
0.25oz / 7.5ml falernum.
0.25oz / 7.5ml Pimento dram (see text).
One dash of Angostura bitters.
Pulse blend (5 or 6 pulses) with about 6oz / 180ml of crushed ice. Do not fully liquidise.
Garnish with three maraschino cherries on a stick. A pineapple “dash” can also be added, but I went for a pineapple leaf “V” instead. Serve with a bamboo straw – yes, I forgot to.
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*I like to boost the alcohol content by including some overproof Jamaican rum which helps the extraction of the flavours. If you do the same you can cut the two weeks down to around ten days (2×5).
**Although I hear El Dorado are gradually reducing the sugar content of all their rums which is very welcome news.
By Quiddity 20th July 2020 - 4:54 pm
So here’s a possibly unanswerable question. I’ve now acquired the Beachbum Berry book. That is a lot of drinks! That is a lot, lot, lot of rums! An overwhelming variety. What do you reckon (if you do have a reckoning) is the best way to approach it? Like, what might be the best three or four types of rum to start with and work out from? (I am quite happy making falernum, pimento drams, and all the rest)
By Andy 20th July 2020 - 10:57 pm
This is indeed a tricky question but an excellent one. In fact I’ve been thinking of writing an article on the subject so watch this space. In the meantime I’d suggest that Havana Club 3 Anos, Mount Gay Eclipse (gold) and El Dorado 8 should cover most bases. Plantation Original Dark is also a very versatile rum. All four are fairly widely available and inexpensive.
By Quiddity 22nd July 2020 - 2:13 pm
That’s helpful and intriguing—thanks! I’ll start with those brief suggestions and watch out for the article. Better get going with this before the summer ends and tiki drinks seem less appealing.