Some kind of convergence happened this year and a whole bunch of snake-themed drinks have appeared on our radar for Halloween. Not exactly a classic symbol of Halloween, but they certainly inspire plenty of dread. I recall, as a child, being enamored of the brave Rikki Tikki Tavi when he challenged Nag and Nagaina—what sane person (or mongoose) would fight down two cobras?
Though we are all familiar with the hooded snake who came face-to-face with Indiana Jones, cobras are part of a larger (and scarier) family of snakes called Elapidae, which makes them kin to death adders, copperheads, mambas, corals and sea snakes. Being in such abjectly terrifying company would certainly earn them a fearsome reputation without their intimidating hoods, large fangs and fatal neurotoxin. Some species of cobras even have the ability to spit venom at their prey via small holes in the tips of their fangs. Yikes.
All of which is a long way of saying that a cobra’s fangs are no joke, and the sting delivered by this drink is serious business. As with most tiki drinks, the genesis and exact recipe for the Cobra’s Fang are unclear. There are a few primary sources: the Cobra’s Fang recipe found in Hawaii Tropical Rum Drinks & Cuisine by Don the Beachcomber written by Phoebe Beach, Donn’s wife at the time of his death; and two related recipes unearthed by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the Cobra from the Kon-Tiki in Chicago and the Sidewinder’s Fang from The Lanai in San Mateo. Both recipes date from the early 1960s. And, of course, our beloved Tiki-Ti serves the Cobra’s Fang (but good luck getting them to divulge the recipe). In digging through all of this backstory, I found an interesting mash-up recipe posted on Tiki Central by a user called arriano; this recipe incorporates elements from all three recipes and substitutes passion fruit syrup for fassionola (a defunct fruit punch-like ingredient). It sounded intriguing, if not wholly historically accurate—but if it’s delicious, does the accuracy truly matter?
½ oz lime juice
1½ oz orange juice
½ oz passion fruit syrup (B.G. Reynolds’ or homemade)
1 oz dark Jamaican rum (Plantation Jamaica, but Appleton 12 or V/X would also be good here)
1 oz 151-proof Demerara rum (such as Lemon Hart 151)
6 drops Pernod (or Herbsaint)
dash Angostura bitters
Add all ingredients to a blender along with 4 ounces crushed ice and blend at high speed for five seconds. Pour into a tall glass and, if necessary, add ice to fill. Garnish with an orange spiral and serve.
Tiki drinks don’t exactly spring to mind when considering Halloween but this one certainly fits the bill for the holiday, beginning with its lovely burnt orange color. The tart of citrus and sweet of passionfruit and rum play very well here, with just a hint of a fresh herbaceous flavor from the Pernod. The delicious clove and allspice notes of Angostura tie all the flavors together, teasing out a hint of the tastes and scents of fall. Be careful, though—the equivalent of three ounces of 80-proof liquor are in this drink and you can’t taste them. Too many of these and the Cobra’s Fang will definitely bite back.