Words by Simon Difford
Bananas neatly unzip to reveal a healthy tasty snack, especially when overripe and for cocktail use, save your bananas until their skins have brown spots and ideally are turning black. Even the flavour of overripe bananas is enhanced by a splash of banana liqueur. Indeed, some banana liqueurs are so good that you don't need the banana at all in your cocktails.
Back in the early 1990s, on a holiday in the Canary Islands, I discovered a plethora of bright yellow banana-flavoured liqueurs packed in bottles shaped like a bunch of bananas. I believe the original is Cobana and this liqueur's flavour resembles more confected sugar-rich banana chews than fresh banana, but among the bars of Gran Canaria it was used to good effect in a San Francisco cocktail, also sweet and lurid in appearance. That kinda sums up banana liqueurs in the 1980s-90s.
However, in recent years producers such as Giffard, who make Banane du Brésil, have released more premium banana liqueurs that frankly taste a lot more like fresh overripe bananas. These are made by infusion and distillation of both the flesh and importantly the skin of varieties of banana specially selected for their flavour. Bartenders have been quick to embrace such crème de bananes, evident in these cocktails.
With: Cognac, crème de banane liqueur and single cream.
We say: Brandy laced creamy banana. What's not to like?
With: Cognac, crème de banane liqueur, oloroso sherry and Abbott's bitters.
We say:Banana liqueur and brandy go shockingly well together, toned with sherry and bitters.
With: Bourbon, sweet vermouth, Italian red bitter liqueur and crème de banane liqueur.
We say: Some things are just so wrong that they're not only right, but deliciously so. This riff on a classic Boulevardier is such a cocktail.
With: Fresh lime, caster sugar, fresh banana, crème de banane liqueur and cachaça.
We say: With an overripe banana, this drink is delicious, thick and creamy... a meal in itself.
With: Gin, crème de banane liqueur, fino, lemon juice, and sugar syrup.
We say: Best described as a Banana and Fino Sherry Gin sour – delicious.
With: White rum, crème de banane liqueur, lime juice and banana.
We say: A tangy banana cocktail that's not overly sweet and is more sophisticated than the uninitiated may expect.
Banana Daiquiri Shaken
With: Aged rum, crème de banane liqueur, lime juice, and Daiquiri bitters.
We say: Perhaps better named a Sour Banoffee Daiquiri- what's not to like?
Banana Havana Highball
With: Gold rum, crème de banane liqueur, banana tea soda.
We say: Simple and just as the name suggests, a banana-flavoured rum highball
Banana Old Fashioned
With: Bourbon, crème de banane liqueur, Abbott's bitters.
We say: Banana notes often found in whisky enhanced with a generous splash of banana liqueur. Don't expect a sweetie, despite the liqueur, this remains a dry spirituous old fashioned.
With: Cognac, crème de banane liqueur, vanilla bitters, chocolate bitters, banana tea and cream.
We say: A banana-flavoured after-dinner sipper of cocktail with coconut water subtly flavouring and smoothing cognac.
With: Speyside single malt whisky, lemon juice, crème de banane liqueur, Islay single malt peated scotch whisky, Yellow Chartreuse liqueur, cinnamon syrup and pimento dram liqueur.
We say: Smoky whisky-laced, rich, delicately herbal banana. Not as challenging as this drink sounds and considerably tastier.
With: Banana, cachaça, gold rum, crème de banane liqueur, corn liqueur, fino sherry, lime juice, and saline solution.
We say: Funky cachaça with rum and corn liqueur with the all-important banana flavours contributed by fresh overripe banana and banana liqueur.
Black Magic No.2
With: Amaro, Islay single malt Scotch whisky, crème de banane liqueur and saline solution.
We say: Two parts amaro to 1 part Islay single malt is a boundary pushing recipe but with a splash of banana liqueur, the resulting cocktail is balanced and tasty.
With: Gold rum, coffee liqueur, crème de banane liqueur, cream and banana.
We say: Long, creamy and filling banana cocktail with 'dirty' flavour and colour courtesy of coffee liqueur. The riper the banana the better in this cocktail.
With: Cachaça, crème de banane liqueur, sauvignon blanc wine and overproof white rum.
We say: Cachaça and overproof rum provide the headline funk to this banana-flavoured spirituous tipple.
With: Vodka, liquore strega, crème de banane liqueur and orange juice.
We say: This vodka-laced cocktail is indeed tangy and golden (well light orange) with a pleasing banana chew flavour.
With: Jamaican aged blended rum, gold rum, crème de banane liqueur, crème de mûre liqueur, pineapple juice, lime juice, and grenadine syrup.
We say: Fruity and rounded with a touch of rum funk, rich banana and blackberry.
Sid and Nancy
With: Tsipouro, pineapple juice, lime juice, crème de banane liqueur, and crème de cacao.
We say: Fruity, sweet 'n' sour. A bite-sized tropical-style Greek-laced cocktail for a touch of island escapism in a glass.
With: Gold rum, crème de banane liqueur, oloroso sherry, falernum, white crème de cacao, orang bitters, cardamom bitters, and chocolate bitters.
We say: Not the simple sweetie the name might suggest. Made with rum, banana, spice and all things nice.
With: Gold rum, light white rum, crème de banane liqueur, Galliano liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice and lime juice.
We say: With its sunny colour and tropical fruity flavour and rum base, the Yellow Bird certainly evokes the Caribbean. Two rums and three fruit juices, but it is the ripe banana and peppermint freshness of the two liqueurs that most influence this tropical cocktail.
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