“Most people think we’re all creating and drinking Lava Flows and other tiki abominations,” says Mixologist and ardent state-triot (?) Dave Newman of Honolulu’s Nobu Waikiki. “But that’s part of the fun. People are blown away to get cocktails that are classic in nature, but suited to the climate.” We’ll admit: we were among the skeptics. Last December took us to Hawaii, where we got a thorough schooling not only in the mixological prowess of our 50th state, but also in the category-bending possibilities of Newman’s cocktail creations.
“A very large percentage of the drinks I create are spur of the moment inspirations,” Newman says, cocktails that both cater to and correct the knee-jerk tropical cravings of the tourist palate. “Everyone is trying to fully immerse themselves in their vacations. Die hard Scotch drinkers back home are sipping Mai Tai’s, Mojitos, and an occasional Tropical Itch [here].” Fortunately for them—and us—Newman knows how to balance the stereotypes of tropical boozing with the Hawaiian climate and the classic cocktail structure.Case in point: The Pinnacle, a cocktail that’s manly (boozy), wintry (complex), and still Hawaii-friendly. Created on Nobu’s “Industry Night” for fellow Aloha State mixologist and whiskey-lover David Power, The Pinnacle was Newman’s attempt to create “a gin cocktail that shared some of the same whisky characteristics that Power loves.” A fan of “perfect” drinks, Newman combined Beefeater Gin with equal parts Dolin Dry and Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouths. He originally reached for a bottle of Fernet to stand in for whisky’s woody depth but ultimately swapped in Ramazzatti amaro and a quarter ounce of St. Germain “to balance out the bite on the back end.” An atomized spritz of Grand Marnier Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire—an affordable way to add what Newman calls “that orange-Cognac goodness”—finished off the drink. Power finished off the drink, as well, though not before telling Newman it was “one of the best drinks you have ever made me.” Power also threatened, “If you do not write down the recipe or remember it, I will kill you.’” Fortunately for Newman—and us—he did.