One ingredient that we have a soft spot for, but…
The Tropical Itch is a cocktail that was first poured by Harry Yee at the Hilton Hawaiian Gardens resort in Waikiki back in 1957. Harry Yee was a bartender who turned out to be a bit of a tropical tiki drink pioneer, putting together drinks that we still enjoy today. In addition to the Tropical Itch, he is also credited with the invention of the Hawaiian Eye and the Blue Hawaii. The Tropical Itch is a combination of 151 rum, bourbon, passion fruit juice and triple sec, topped with a float of dark rum and a dash of bitters then garnished with a bamboo backscratcher that towers above the glass the cocktail is served in. It’s refreshing and has a great presentation. You can watch a Hilton-made video of the original cocktail here.
A lot of Tropical Itches are terrible. Really, really terrible. This is largely because they aren’t made with the original ingredients or they’re simply made with very little attention to detail. We had a bartender in Waikiki at a major resort tell us that the Tropical Itch was “just like a Mai Tai, except with POG (passion orange guava) in it.” Their version was garnished with a bamboo backscratcher, but there was nothing that tasted even remotely like a Tropical Itch in that drink.
Our Tropical Itch is just like the original, but with one small addition: lemon juice. Most of the time we use a commercial passion fruit puree in our drinks – though there are times when we also make our own – and brands like Finest Call are tasty, but a bit sweet. In a drink like the Tropical Itch, where there is so much passion fruit used, we add in a small amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice to give it a bit more acidity and help the floral passion fruit flavor really pop.
1 oz bourbon (we used Four Roses)
1 oz 151 proof rum
1/2 oz orange curacao or triple sec
1/2 oz lemon juice
3 oz passion fruit puree*
2 oz water*
1 oz dark rum (we used Meyers)
1-2 dashes bitters
bamboo backscratcher, for garnish
In a mixing glass, combine bourbon, 151, orange curacao or triple sec, lemon juice, passion fruit puree and water. Fill with ice and shake vigorously until cold. Strain into a hurricane glass filled with ice cubes.
Top drink with 1 oz dark rum and 1-2 dashes of bitters. Garnish with a bamboo backscratcher.
*We used Finest Call and cut it with water. If you have regular passion fruit juice, you can use a full five ounces. That said, we recommend using the puree for a better consistency in the finished drink.