Vacation Edition: Michigan Tiki Drinks!
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Every year my lovely friends from Minnesota bring their girls and rent a cottage on Lake Michigan in Holland. They are gracious enough to invite us to stay with them and it's definitely one of my favorite times of year. In honor of my vacation week, as well as the fact that my vacation is in Michigan, I created 5 days of Michigan tiki drinks. You can also follow along on Instagram as I feature one drink a day each day this week (M-F). Each drink is made with Michigan ingredients and named for native locations. I really just look for any excuse to make fun drinks. Disclaimer: I'm not a stickler by any means so adjust whatever to taste in all recipes
#1 Tahquamenon Falls
Even if you haven't been there, we've all seen the photos of the rusty colored waterfalls. The water gets its golden-brown color from tannins from cedar swamps that drain into the river.
photo by Dave Weidner
So here is my take:
This was a fun one. The featured Michigan ingredient in this one is Vernors. You know you're from Michigan if you've ever had Vernors for a tummy ache. Ironically, it's because of that association that I don't care for Vernors. However, add some vodka, lime juice, and a stout reduction and I'm in!
For the stout reduction, I used my local brewery (Salt Springs Brewery, Saline) stout. The stout reduction gave it that deep, rust color as well as a richness of flavor, almost chocolate-y. But I think my favorite part of this one was the garnishes.
Lime zest, catnip, and maple sugar cotton candy. This isn't an overly sweet drink, which is odd for me. But the maple cotton candy adds a burnt taste that really adds an extra layer. Think the burnt sugar on top of a creme brulee. And catnip. Catnip grows like a weed around here and, to me, it's a cross between mint and marijuana. All the flavors and a good punch of green. I do not care for whiskey but I think this drink would be great with whiskey as well, not to mention it's the perfect color. Here's the recipe I used:
#2 Pictured Rocks on the Rocks
Another Michigan icon. Pictured Rocks. Sandstone cliffs, caves and rock formations that are part of a National Lakeshore. The best view is from a kayak in the lake.
I was inspired by the colors and randomness to create this:
I cannot stand Bloody Marys. Childhood incident with tomato soup traumatized me for all things tomato juice. However, I like idea of a savory drink. So instead of tomato, this one is carrot based and it's tasty as f*ck.
It's carrot juice, tarragon infused simple syrup, vodka and apple cider vinegar. It tastes healthy! Again, you can't have a tiki drink without some kind of insanity garnish. This one takes the cake. Rhubarb ribbons, rock candy, tarragon and pickled fiddleheads. If you've never had them, they taste like asparagus so really any pickled vegetable would work. The fiddleheads and tarragon are aesthetically my favorite. They're hanging off the cup like some kind of trail that a washed up sea monster leaves behind.
I'm fussy when it comes to savory drinks and I have to say this one is really good. Here's the recipe:
#3 Up North
We've all been there. Winter, spring, summer or fall, Up North has it all. Barhopping on a snowmobile over frozen lakes, hunting for morel mushrooms, tubing; these are all reasons for going "up north". It's the ubiquitous area pretty much any where north of Grand Rapids. I'm sure there are some intense opinions as to where "up north" is but that's mine and i'm in charge here. My Up North tiki drink is made for a cold times, maybe a campfire, maybe when you come in from a snowmobile ride and smell like exhaust. Whichever.
This drink is dessert in a cup. Vodka, Kahlua, Godiva Dark Chocolate, Amaretto and half and half. As a shot, this probably has nipple or sex somewhere in the name.
It's garnished simply with a big ol' nugget of dark chocolate fudge. Go anywhere up north and try to not find fudge. Oh, I did put some catnip on this one as well.
While not a traditional tiki cup, I love this vintage Hartwick Pines glass. Hartwick Pines is smack dab in the middle of Up North. This glass looks like a snowmobile trail through the woods. Love it! Here's the recipe I used for this one:
#4 Sleeping Bear Dunes
Lake Michigan if by far my favorite of the Great Lakes and it's all because of the sand dunes. It's probably not the first image that comes to mind when you think of a midwestern beach but the best parts of Lake Michigan are white sand like a motherfucker.
photo by National Park Serivce
Thinking about a sleeping bear as it relates to a drink, for whatever reason I thought of absinthe. When you use it sparingly in a cocktail, it takes a second before it wakes up and growls at you. Luckily for me and all other Michiganders, Two James produces an absinthe right here in our home state. Here's what I came up with:
This one is STRONG. The only alcohol is vodka with a dash of absinthe but the proportion to non alcohol is high so heads up. The next morning your straw hat might not be the only thing busted up. So besides the green dragon and vodka, there is grapefruit juice, lime juice and cherry juice. On it's own this one is very sour to me so I loaded mine up with a generous helping of sugar cubes. They melt on the bottom and are kind of like sand if you're into the gritty texture (I am!). If not, give it a good stir and sweeten to taste. I loved garnishing this drink. Pineapple leaves for beach grass, a cherry and sugar cubes walking the plank of an absinthe spoon and of course a rhinestone eyed skull swizzle stick as a warning to the drink's potency.
I'm not a huge fan of the flavor of absinthe on it's own and I'm not Johnny Depp so I rarely use my absinthe spoon. I was tickled pink to put it to use for this drink. Here is the recipe I used for one tiki cup of drink. BEWARE: this is equivalent to 2 martinis.
#5 Big Red Lighthouse
Last but not least- the Big Red Lighthouse. This is where I'll be on vacation so I just had to make a drink in honor of this cute, blocky lighthouse.
This one might even be my favorite drink of the bunch as well. It's basically a Michigan version of fruit punch.
And what gives it it's intense red color? None other than Faygo Red Pop. A Michigan summer staple. This one is sooooo good! Vodka, amaretto (sounds weird but trust me), lime juice and Faygo. Simple, sparkling and delicious.
This would make a great pitcher of drinks for a BBQ, picnic, or poolside. The rainbow fruit garnish gives this fruit punch actual fruit.
I hope these drinks make you thirsty to do something fun, drinks or otherwise. Just for extra fun, here is a "menu" of all the drinks. Cheers!