A while ago, I purchased another bottle of El Dorado 15-year-old, one of my favorite rums (and one that I need to review properly before finishing this bottle). When I got home, I flipped through the Beachbum’s books to find an appropriate cocktail and came across the Demerara Dry Float. The recipe calls for some passion fruit syrup, so I went out the next day to find some passion fruit juice so I could make a batch of the syrup, something I’ve done in the past with some success. Though I prefer using the Looza juice, I ended up with a 1-liter carton of Ceres Passion Fruit Juice. This is 100% juice, though it contains “apple and/or pear juice” but it was the best I could do on short notice.
I emptied the carton into a medium saucepan and simmered it down to 50% of the original volume, and then added an equal amount of pure cane sugar. When it had cooled down I tasted it, and it tasted decent even though I’ve never had “real” passion fruit syrup. I made myself a Demerara Dry Float, but cut down on the amount of lime as I usually do. It was a decent drink, but not spectacular. The passion fruit flavors just didn’t seem to be right. I tried a few more versions of the same cocktail, trying to get the ratios correct, but none of the variations really pleased me.They were all good, just not great. I did have a nice glow after drinking four DDFs, though.
I did some research online, and went through my cocktail books looking for any hints on making passion fruit syrup. Checking the Beachbum’s Sippin’ Safari, I saw that he recommended either Finest Call puree or Goya frozen passion fruit pulp made into a syrup. He specifically recommends against using Ceres or Looza fruit juices since “they are already cut with sugar, water, and other ingredients that render them unsuitable as a syrup base.”
Well, the Ceres doesn’t have any extra sugar, but the other ingredients – “apple and/or pear juice” – made me want a “real” passion fruit syrup. I decided that I wanted to do a comparison of passion fruit syrups, so I hit the road again looking for Passion Fruit stuff. I found the Finest Call and Monin Passion Fruit syrups (not the good stuff, alas), and grabbed another carton of Ceres just in case. I could not find the Goya frozen pulp, nor the Looza juice. After trips to seven different stores, I finally decided to give up, and ordered two bottles of Aunty Lilikoi’s Passion Fruit Syrup. Shipping was expensive, since it comes from Hawaii, but I’d heard that it was worth it. We’ll see.
Finest Call Passion Fruit Puree – Water, sugar and/or corn sweetener, passion fruit juice and puree from concentrate, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan gum, malic acid, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, FD&C yellow #5, titanium dioxide, and FD&C red #40. (Wow. But it does contain 13% juice.)
Monin Passion Fruit syrup – Pure cane sugar, water, passion fruit flavor, citric acid. (Apparently, this does not contain any natural flavors or passion fruit juice.)
Aunty Lilikoi’s Passion Fruit Syrup – Sugar, water, passion fruit juice, pectin.
Scottes’ 50% – Ceres Passion Fruit Juice (passion fruit juice, apple and/or pear juice) reduced to 50% of original volume and an equal amount, by volume, of organic cane sugar.
Scottes 33% – Ceres Passion Fruit Juice (passion fruit juice, apple and/or pear juice) reduced to 33% of original volume and twice the amount, by volume, of organic cane sugar.
Finest Call Passion Fruit Puree – This is sweet, like candy, with a mild passion fruit flavor. It’s not overly sweet and tastes quite natural, without the artificial flavorings tastes that I expected. It’s quite good, actually.
Monin Passion Fruit syrup – This isn’t as sweet as the Finest Call, and not as candyish. The Monin tastes slightly better than the Finest call – but not but much – though it’s a tiny bit more acidic. Since this costs most than twice the Finest Call ($9 versus $4), I doubt that I would buy it again unless I was in a pinch.
Aunty Lilikoi Passion Fruit Syrup – The passion fruit is quite a bit stronger in this one, and it’s slightly sweeter than the first two. The taste is magnificent, with a stronger and better passion fruit flavor that retains a bit of tartness even though it’s slightly sweeter than the others. The balance of passion fruit and sugar is perfect, and the bit of tartness gives a touch of extra complexity. This is excellent.
Scottes’ 50% – Slightly less sweet than the Aunty Lilikoi, but not by much. The passion fruit taste is not as good as the Aunty Lilikoi, but better than the first two. It has a very slight taste in the background, something that I can’t identify. It may be the “apple and/or grape juice” but could also be the cane sugar. Overall, it is wonderfully smooth and tasty, but it’s not as good as the Aunty Lilikoi.
Scottes’ 33% – This is thick and super-sweet – far sweeter than any of the others. Surprisingly, the passion fruit taste is not as strong, and this is probably due to the abundance of cane sugar. While it’s good, it doesn’t compare to the Aunty Lilikoi or the 50% reduction.
1. Aunty Lilkoi
2. Scottes’ 50%
3. Finest Call
5. Scottes’ 33%
The Aunty Lilkoi Passion Fruit Syrup is easily the best, but also the most expensive by a long shot. At $6 for a 10.5-ounce bottle, plus shipping charges from Hawaii, this is almost three times as expensive as the Monin (which was $9 for a liter). My syrups weren’t terribly expensive – $3.29 for the Ceres juice plus a cup of sugar makes the cost of the 50% syrup about $4 for 20 ounces. The 33% syrup is about $5 for 16 ounces. The Finest Call is easily the bargain of the bunch, at $4 for a liter.
If I made my syrups again, I would make a hybrid – I’d reduce to 33% of the original volume and mix that 1:1 with sugar. It still wouldn’t be as good as the Aunty Lilikoi, but would be worth the cost and work if I couldn’t get the Aunty Lilikoi again.
Well, I didn’t end up doing a cocktail comparison after all. I made a couple Gone The Beachcombers using the Aunty Lilikoi syrup, and a couple Hurricanes (the Grog Log recipe) using my 50% syrup, but I wasn’t too enamored with either. Even though I tried a couple variations of each, I couldn’t succeed in making a great cocktail, so I decided to forgo the cocktail comparison for another day. Sorry, but I just didn’t think it would be fair to use any recipe that I didn’t love. Another day.