Words by Jane Ryan
Bananas, like most things, go in and out of fashion in the drinks world. As the vital ingredient for so many disco and tiki-style cocktails, they largely disappeared from menus when everything became short, sharp and stirred.
But bananas are having a resurgence, and the once sneered upon fruit is once again finding its well-deserved place in the cocktail world. After all who doesn't love a Banana Daiquiri?
Technically speaking, bananas are berries and they are the fruit of large flowering herbaceous plants in the genus Musa which is native to South East Asia. Wild bananas have hard seeds and little edible flesh.
This phenomenal fruit has a multitude of benefits. From combating depression, to curing hangovers and the itch of a mosquito bite, bananas work hard for their place in the fruit bowl.
Almost all of the bananas we eat today come from two wild species, thought to have originated in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Nowadays we grow them in over 100 countries.
Thanks to their high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin (a.k.a the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter) they help to perk us up and even combat depression. High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognised by the American health department (FDA) as being able to lower blood pressure and protect against heart attack and stroke. They also aid digestion and gently chelate toxins and heavy metals from the body due to their richness in pectin.
Variations on the well-known yellow banana include the Pink Banana (Musa velutina) which produces a pink fruit of about 10cm. It has soft, sweet flesh that can be eaten but the seeds are hard enough to chip a tooth. Fe'i bananas (also spelt Fehi or Fei) are found mainly in the islands of the Pacific and have brilliant orange to red skin with yellow or orange flesh inside which is usually eaten cooked.
Bananas are almost impossible to juice and make for a baby food-like texture when muddled which means blending the fruit into drinks gives the best results.
One of the most popular bar calls for this style is the humble Banana Daiquiri. A victim of 1980s disco drinks culture, this classic blended cocktail has become known for being overly sweet. However, it doesn't have to be. This twist on the classic Daiquiri proves blended drinks can be as balanced and elegant as their stirred or shaken counterparts.