The Cobra's Fang Cocktail is one of the dozens of drinks Donn Beach invented after opening his legendary bar in California, Don the Beachcomber. It is strong yet fruity and quite easy to drink.
Quick Facts Cobra's Fang Cocktail
- Method: shaken
- Flavor profile: boozy, sweet & fruity
- How to serve it: over ice
- Best glassware: highball glass
- Alcohol content: ~ 25%, 30 grams of alcohol per serving
Giving his drinks exotic names was one of Donn's trademarks. Apart from the Cobra's Fang, there's the Shark's Tooth, the famous Zombie Cocktail, and many more.
- 1 Cocktail Shaker
- 1 Jigger
- 1 Hawthorne Strainer
- 1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
- 1 oz 151 Demerara Rum
- 0.5 oz Velvet falernum
- 0.5 oz Fassionola - homemade
- 0.5 oz Lime juice - freshly squeezed
- 0.5 oz Orange juice - freshly squeezed
- 1 dash Absinthe
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Put all the ingredients and plenty of ice into your cocktail shaker1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum, 1 oz 151 Demerara Rum, 0.5 oz Velvet falernum, 0.5 oz Fassionola, 0.5 oz Lime juice, 0.5 oz Orange juice, 1 dash Absinthe, 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Shake until the shaker feels well-chilled and strain over ice into your cocktail glass.
- You can garnish your Cobra's Fang with a mint sprig and lime wheel.
Ingredients of the Cobra's Fang
The Cobra's Fang is a brilliant example of Donn Beach's general approach to mixing cocktails and his Tiki Business. It has a flamboyant name, colorful looks, and a large number of -in parts- unusual ingredients.
The original recipe got lost, as Donn casually described it as a mix of rum, falernum, and tropical fruit juices. But he refined this formula over time, and a syrup known as fassionola has become crucial for the drink.
So, to make a Cobra's Fang, you need
- Jamaican Rum & Demerara Overproof Rum: read more about rum in the Cobra's Fang recipe below - including our recommendations.
- Falernum: this ingredient can be either a liqueur or a syrup and we opt for the alcoholic version in our recipe. Since that is a little more complex, we give some details below.
- Fassionola: another of the rare and more complicated tiki ingredients of the 20th century, we explain in more detail in a second.
- Orange juice: ideally, you squeeze some fresh oranges. Yet, bottled 100% natural, unsweetened orange juice works too, should you not have the time.
- Lime juice: The Cobra's Fang calls for orange and for lime juice. Especially with the lime juice, it's vital to squeeze it freshly. With all those syrups in the drink, you need that fresh, zesty natural citrus flavor.
- Absinthe: A dash of the green, anise-flavored spirit is all it takes to counterbalance all the sweet components. In the original recipe, Donn also seems to have asked for six drops - despite the ban on absinthe at the time.
- Bitters: Classic Angostura Bitters are the best choice for the Cobra's Fang. They add even more flavor to this fruity flavor bomb and bring extra complexity.
Rum for the Cobra's Fang - Recommendation & Information
If you look for recommendations: you cannot go wrong with Appleton Estate for the Jamaican part and Lemon Hart for the Demerara Overproof. Both are good quality, easy to get, and affordable.
Jamaica was one of the first countries to produce rum, and it's known to have been the place that refined the spirit and made it actually enjoyable. Rum from the laid-back Caribbean Island is made from sugarcane molasses and is usually full-bodied, aromatic, and slightly fruity. The distinct taste of Jamaican Rum is also called funk or hogo.
151 Demerara Rum refers to rum from Guyana and has nothing to do with the namesake sugar, as one might think. It got its name from the Demerara River that runs through Guyana's capital Georgetown. The 151 in the name indicated the alcohol content: it's overproof rum with an alcohol content of 75.5% vol - or 151 proof.
More About Falernum
Falernum is a beloved Tiki cocktail ingredient. It is a syrup or liqueur flavored with different fruits and spices.
Usually, it contains citrus fruit like grapefruit and lime, berries, almonds, and ginger. But it doesn't have to stop there. Some also add other sweet or spicy ingredients like cloves and vanilla.
To make the Cobra's Fang, you can use both, the liqueur and the non-alcoholic version. Yet, in our recipe, we use the liqueur, also known as Velvet Falernum. John D. Taylor's Velvet Falernum is a fantastic choice, or make it at home with our Falernum recipe.
More About Fassionola
Now, this is where things get tricky. Fassionola is another fruity syrup. It used to be a staple in Tiki bars but is now a rare and uncommon ingredient. Some say it's the "lost ingredient" of vintage Tiki cocktails.
In its original version, Fassionola is red or orange-colored and flavored with tropical fruits like maracuja. It appears in many of Donn Beach's recipes. -There are claims that the syrup was his invention, which no one could prove so far, though.
The Jonathan English Company from San Diego used to produce Fassionola red. However, the company, and the product, vanished into thin air.
BG Reynolds and Cocktail & Sons also sell their version of Red Fassionola, but they seem almost equally hard to get, and I don't know about the taste of these products. To keep things authentic, you can make Fassionola at home instead.
Substitutes Fassionola in the Cobra's Fang
A short word on the common alternatives to Fassionola: grenadine and/or passion fruit syrup:
Grenadine, the bright red syrup made from pomegranate, doesn't enjoy the best reputation. It is often overly sweet and has an artificial taste. You don't need much of it for the Cobra's Fang. Yet still, if you go with this substitute, make it a quality one, or better, make it homemade grenadine.
For the passion fruit syrup, quality brands like Monin are your best option. Ideally, you mix both syrups for a more complex flavor, closer to the original idea of Fassionola.
History of the Cobra's Fang Cocktail
As mentioned already, the Cobra's Fang Cocktail is one of the many tropical creations from Donn Beach.
Donn Beach was the founding father of modern Tiki drinks culture. He opened his first bar in 1933 when prohibition ended. By the time he had to go to war in 1942, he had invented dozens of cocktail recipes that fit the tropical theme of his bar. Among them was the Cobra's Fang.
In the mid-1950s, it sold at his new Don the Beachcomber in Hawaii for as little as $1.10.
The move from California to Hawaii was necessary due to a lost lawsuit with his former wife, Sunny. You can read the whole story in our article about modern Tiki culture.
Other Must-Try Tiki Cocktails
If you want to try other famous tropical cocktails, here are three of our favorites:
- The Mai Tai: One of the first and most influential Tiki drinks you make with rum, orgeat, curaçao, and lime juice.
- The Painkiller Cocktail: This is a tropical, fruity twist on the Piña Colada with rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cream of coconut.
- The Hurricane: a blend of three different rums, lime, orange, pineapple, passion fruit juice, simple syrup, and grenadine.