• Julia Thiel
  • Pineapple margarita (left) and the Turning Point (right)

Motivated by the fact that I had a pineapple that was about to go bad, I started looking for cocktail recipes using fresh pineapple earlier this week. In the process, I unexpectedly discovered a vodka cocktail that I actually enjoyed. While I don’t like vodka, I don’t really mind it in cocktails since it doesn’t taste like much of anything. By the same token, though, I usually gravitate towards spirits that will add flavor to cocktails instead of just alcohol.

But I had a fair amount of vodka that I wasn’t using for anything else, so when I saw pineapple cocktail recipes involving vodka I decided I might as well give one a try. I was going to make a recipe I found on the blog Big Girls Small Kitchen called Teenage Dream, a reference to the fact that pineapple is known for masking the taste of alcohol. But after I read all the steps—blending, straining, muddling, and assembling—I realized that what might make sense for a batch of six drinks is too much work once you scale down the recipe. Instead I went with a Gourmet recipe that called for throwing all the ingredients in the blender and then pouring the mix over ice.

That recipe was also for six drinks, and it wasn’t until I was combining ingredients for a scaled-down version that I realized how little lime juice and sugar it called for (the recipe app I use, Paprika, will automatically scale recipes up or down for you). It called for a third of a cup of chopped pineapple and two ounces of vodka, but only a third of a tablespoon each of lime juice and sugar. I made the drink according to the recipe—and it was terrible. It tasted like vodka, not like a cocktail. I added the rest of the juice from the lime (about an ounce total) and, since even the tiny amount of sugar I’d added hadn’t completely dissolved, three quarters of an ounce of ginger simple syrup. And I threw in a few mint leaves, inspired by the fact that the Teenage Dream recipe had included mint.

While surfing the internet I’d also found several recipes for pineapple mojitos and margaritas, which makes sense, since according to an article in Imbibe, pineapple has a natural affinity for both rum and tequila. I again went for the easiest one, a blended fresh pineapple margarita from Serious Eats. I was surprised that the recipe called for more orange liqueur than tequila, since I’ve seen all kinds of ratios of ingredients in margaritas, but there’s always been more tequila than orange liqueur—sometimes by a three to one ratio. But at least in this case there were a few positive reviews of the recipe online. I followed it pretty closely except for substituting ginger simple syrup for plain (just because that’s what I happened to have on hand).

Despite my reservations about the high proportion of orange liqueur to other ingredients, the margarita recipe turned out well. The lime, liqueur, and tequila flavors all come through strongly, leaving the pineapple in the background; it’s a nice variation on the classic cocktail but still easily identifiable as a margarita. For highlighting the pineapple, though, the vodka cocktail won out: it was light and slightly sweet, with lots of pineapple flavor and just a hint of mint and ginger. I could hardly taste the alcohol at all—and when the alcohol is vodka, that’s how I prefer it.

Because I modified the original recipe so much—and because the original name was “Pineapple and Lime Cocktails,” which isn’t exactly inspiring—I’ve renamed the recipe I’m including below. The name doesn’t mean that I’m going to become a vodka drinker, but I am planning to make this recipe again.

Turning Point

Makes one cocktail. If you’re using a full-size blender, you may need to scale this up to make three or more cocktails for the mixture to blend properly.

1/3 cup chopped fresh pineapple
1 oz lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup (ginger or plain)
2 oz vodka
3-4 mint leaves, plus sprig to garnish (optional)

Add all ingredients except the mint sprig to a blender and blend until smooth. Fill a rocks glass with ice and pour cocktail in; garnish with mint sprig.

Even after making cocktails with the pineapple, I had a lot left over. So this morning, I threw the rest into a jar with sugar and water to make Ted Haigh’s pineapple syrup. Unlike most syrup recipes, this one doesn’t involve heat: you just let it sit for 24 hours, strain out the pineapple, and add a dash of spirits as a preservative. Last time I made pineapple syrup it didn’t go well; we’ll see how this turns out.

Julia Thiel writes about booze on Thursdays.