Two words from 6th grade world history will forever be stuck in my head. The first is Carnarvon, which isn’t so much a word as it is a name. Nonetheless it’s both memorable and funny when you pronounce it like a pirate: Carn-AAAR-von. (Go ahead, try it!) And speaking of pirates, the second word, scurvy, is equally fun to say and is carved into my frontal lobe like a buxom wench on a ship’s prow.
Why did these two words stick with me? I don't know, but I’d venture a guess it was because ancient civilizations (Carnarvon and Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb) and the age of European exploration were two of the most vivid, thrilling, imagination-churning epochs of adventure a small town kid could dream about in the 6th grade. (Also, we were allowed to keep liquid cement for arts and crafts that year!)
Seriously, I can’t even look at an orange, lemon, or lime and not think, “Man, I’m sure glad I don’t have scurvy.” Even if I did have scurvy, at least I know that a Mai Tai probably contains enough vitamin C to be used as a curative. Barely enough you say? Well, alright, I’ll have two!
You laugh, but scurvy was a serious killer back when sea voyages took months. It’s estimated that over 2 million sailors died between 1500-1800 due to scurvy, which earned the name “purpura nautica” owing to the purple bruises that sailors would get as the first sign of the disease (Atlas Obscura). Think about that. Two million people died because they lacked about 10mg of vitamin C a day – roughly the same amount that's contained in the juice of half a lime! (Those of you who painstakingly squeeze fresh limes to make cocktails know there’s barely any juice in half a lime.)
It needn’t be limes, lemons, or oranges to keep scurvy at bay though. Barbados (acerola) cherries actually contain the highest concentration of vitamin C of any fruit – approximately 80mg of scurvy-defeating nutrients in every teeny-tiny 5g cherry. So what else will keep your teeth from falling out, your eyes from sinking in, and your face from turning yellow? How about some capsicum fruit like a sweet green pepper? Or a little bit of broccoli? Have you tried a kale smoothie yet? My wife’s spinyoga instructor highly recommends them for juice cleanses. But you didn’t come here to cleanse your colon. You came here to read about scurvy. Wait, no. Cocktails. So let’s get to the good stuff.
This weekend I was rearranging my tiki mug collection (read: procrastinating writing my doctoral dissertation) after picking up some new items at the Hala Kahiki Tiki Bar & Lounge in River Grove, IL. It was Memorial Day and my ku’uipo asks me to make her a tropical drink. Now, I know her favorite is a Painkiller and that would take me all of 3 minutes to make, but I’m feeling adventurous. (And I want to procrastinate a little bit longer.) So I decide to whip up an original drink for her that still has the elements she likes in a Painkiller. My ku’uipo looks at me with a little suspicion but let's me do my thing.
I look at the bounty of fresh limes, lemons, oranges, pineapples and cherries that I bought for the weekend and – bam! – my brain immediately thinks of scurvy. (I told you – it happens every time.) There I am trying to figure what kind of drink to make and my head just repeats, “scurvy, scurvy, scurvy.”
As I said before, my ku’uipo likes Painkillers. And I like keeping my teeth from falling out. So I decide to put an end to this mind scourge once and for all by concocting the Skurvy Skull – a drink that’ll deliver a one-two knockout punch, kicking scurvy’s jaundiced little ass a couple more times while it’s on the ground begging for mercy. I add lemon, lime, Cointreau and Luxardo to my wife’s preferred elements of orange, pineapple, and coconut. Mix with gold Bajan, aged Demerara, and dark Jamaican rums for a refreshingly crisp, citrusy cocktail that retains just a hint of coconut and all the punch of Luxardo’s Marasca cherries.
Okole Maluna and Carpe Drinkem!
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1 oz orange juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz Cointreau liqueur
1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1 oz Mount Gay Eclipse gold rum
1/2 oz El Dorado 5 Year Cask Aged rum
1/2 oz Coruba Dark rum
1/2 oz Coco Reál coconut cream
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Shake or flash blend all ingredients with 1 cup crushed ice. Pour unstrained into chilled Pilsner glass and top with additional crushed ice to fill.
Garnish - pineapple fronds, orange peel and three Luxardo cherries on a skull cocktail spear.