Blue Hawaii may be one of Elvis Presley’s most iconic movies. In the 1961 musical, Presley plays a young man, newly released from the Army, who is enjoying Hawaii with his surfboard, beach buddies, and girlfriend. It could be argued that this film set the tone for Presley’s film career: gorgeous women, pretty scenery, dull plots, and plenty of upbeat tunes. The soundtrack for this movie became Presley’s most successful chart album.
The cocktail that shares its name follows the same basic formula. The Blue Hawaii is a visually stunning drink due to its radiant, deep blue hue. Often enjoyed by vacationers in an idyllic beach setting, it is composed of unremarkable ingredients, and when served at a tourist spot, it usually contains plenty of alcohol to keep the good times rolling. It’s one of the most requested libations in its native state.
According to Jeff Berry, author of “Sippin’ Safari”, a bartender named Harry Yee invented the “Blue Hawaii” in 1957, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort & Spa in Waikiki. Yee was asked by a representative of Bols to create a drink using the company’s new Blue Curacao liqueur. After a little experimentation, the Tiki classic was born. Berry also credits Yee with being the first to use paper umbrellas and orchids as garnishes.
If you follow this timeline, the drink predates the movie by four years. It is believed that Yee named the cocktail after the film’s title song, a piece first composed for the 1937 Bing Crosby film Waikiki Wedding.
Few cocktails are as recognizable by their color. The brilliant sea tone comes from Blue Curacao. According to the Bols website, Curacao is a sweet liqueur distilled from a blend of herbs, sweet red oranges, bitter Curacao oranges, and Kinnow oranges. However, its distinctive tint is artificial. Curacao is also available in orange, green, and clear varieties.
If you wish to try the sweet and frosty drink in context, take a trip to Honolulu where every watering hole near Waikiki serves cocktails in ornamental glasses garnished with umbrellas and tropical fruit.
Visitors may sample the Blue Hawaii at its birthplace at the beachfront Hilton Hawaiian Village. The resort, which boasts multiple bars, is enjoying a recent renaissance, with scenes from the new television series Hawaii Five-O being shot on the hotel’s property.
Wherever you choose to enjoy your Blue Hawaii, pick a spot with an ocean view, where you can sip your cocktail and compare its color to the vivid cerulean-colored Pacific. As you gaze at the romantic Polynesian scene of Waikiki, you’ll suddenly realize you’re a long way from Rehoboth. Normally, I don’t care much for sugary cocktails, but when caught up in the moment, this drink fits perfectly into the dreamy Hawaii experience.
One word of caution, when consumed in quantity the Blue Hawaii will leave you with a temporary souvenir, much like the white mustache celebrated by milk advertisements. If your lips turn purple, don’t worry about your health. Wipe your lips with a napkin and keep drinking. Aloha!
The Blue Hawaii
3/4 oz Light Rum
3/4 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
3 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Sweet & Sour Mix
Combine ingredients and mix well. If using ice, mix in a blender. Serve in a tall glass. Garnish with a pineapple slice. (Recipe from Hilton Top Chef)
Ingredients to make the Blue Hawaii may be purchased at Dixie Liquor at 3429 M Street in Georgetown.