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.
Giving his drinks exotic or dangerous-sounding names was one of his trademarks. So apart from the Cobra's Fang, there's the Shark's Tooth, the famous Zombie Cocktail, and many more.
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 the flamboyant name, the 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 an ingredient called Fassionola has become crucial for the drink.
So, to make a Cobra's Fang, you need Jamaican Rum, Demarara Overproof Rum, Falernum, Fassionola, orange juice, lime juice, Absinthe, and bitters.
Rum for the Cobra's Fang Cocktail
Rum is the base for all Tiki cocktails, and the Cobra's Fang calls for two different types: dark Jamaican Rum and 151 Demerara Rum.
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.
Demerara Rum refers to Rum from Guyana, not to the 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.
If you look for recommendations: you cannot go wrong with Appleton Estate for the Jamaican part and Lemon Hart for the Demarara Overproof.
Falernum is a distinctive 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.
Now, this is where things get a bit complicated.
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. That is not proven, though.
The Jonathan English Company from San Diego used to produce Fassionola red. However, the company along with their 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.
So, often people resort to replacing Fassionola with grenadine and passion fruit syrup. But to keep things authentic, you can make Fassionola at home instead.
Grenadine and Passion fruit syrup
A short word on the alternatives to Fassionola, especially because grenadine is pretty controversial.
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, Monin is a good option here, too.
Citrus juice in the Cobra's Fang Cocktail
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.
The same goes for the orange juice: ideally, you squeeze some fresh oranges. But pre-bottled 100% natural, unsweetened orange juice works as well.
Absinthe in the Cobra's Fang
A dash of the green-colored, intensely anise-flavored spirit brings in a bit of freshness and herbal notes.
You don't need much Absinthe, just a bit to counterbalance all the sweet components. In the original recipe, Donn also seems to have asked for 6 drops - despite the ban on Absinthe having been in place since 1912.
Classic Angostura Bitters are the best choice for the Cobra's Fang. They add even more flavor to this fruity flavor bomb and bring in some extra complexity.
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 came because of 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 Hurricane: a blend of three different Rums, lime, orange, pineapple, and passion fruit juice, simple syrup, and grenadine.
- 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 shaker
- 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.