Don's Mix Recipe

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Photograph: Anna Dunn

Why It Works

  • This simple recipe is a backbone for multiple tropical drinks.
  • The syrup is best fresh but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

A simple name for a simple notion. Novelty was the wave Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt rode all the way from the banks of South Pacific to the coast of Southern California. After a stint traveling the seas solo, the Texan settled for Hollywood in 1934 and opened the first tiki bar, Don the Beachcomber.

Tart citrus and warm syrups were perfect covers for the clunky liquor being produced post-Prohibition and as World War II came to a close, servicemen returned with a taste for the extravagant pours of Polynesia. Part theme park, part watering hole, at Beachcomber the decor was quirky, the cocktails cool, and the scene a hangout for Los Angeles' most infamous.

From legally changing his name to Donn Beach to convincing his amorous customers to stay for another by spraying the water hose over the tin roof, Ernest's craft was that of cheap rum, sweet drinks, and art of innocent deception.

Don's Mix, a potion of fresh grapefruit and cinnamon syrup, amounts to a similar sleight of hand. The concoction is a combination of ingredients that could easily have been listed one after the other in a recipe for a Zombie. Fundamental to Donn's Tiki reign was an element of secrecy. With Trader Vic and Sunny Sund, Donn's ex-wife, hot on his trail, Donn was in the business of boozing, bamboozling, and branding and so this mysterious mixture was born.

Don's Mix is the perfect project for the passing of the seasons. The smell of sugar and cinnamon bubbling on the stove will make you feel ready for all things autumnal. Grapefruit, a perfect citrus for summer by the sea, will also remind you that the day will come, mid-December, when, if you are lucky, you'll look down and find a box of seasonal citrus at your door.

I shook my mix with an ounce of Carpano Antica and an ounce of Rittenhouse Rye, strained it over crushed ice, speared it with a mint twig and called it a day. Pair Don's Mix with lime juice, falernum, white, gold, and dark rum, and a little Pernod for the classic Zombie Punch.

Recipe Facts

Active: 10 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 24 servings
Makes: 3 cups

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Ingredients

  • 3 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 cup sugar, preferably unrefined

  • 1 cup water

  • 2 cups fresh juice from 3-4 grapefruits

Directions

  1. Put cinnamon sticks in a zipper-lock bag and bash a few times with a rolling pin. Combine broken cinnamon sticks, sugar, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Strain cinnamon syrup into a mason jar with a mesh strainer. Let cool.

  2. Add grapefruit juice to cinnamon mixture and shake. Mixture can be stored, sealed, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, though it's tastiest when fresh.

Special Equipment

Hand juicer, rolling pin, saucepan, mesh strainer

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
37 Calories
0g Fat
9g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 24
Amount per serving
Calories 37
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 3mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 8mg 39%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 0mg 1%
Potassium 44mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)