Rarely would a bartender think to combine Campari, a bitter Italian aperitif, with pineapple juice. More unusual still is the generous pour of Cruzan Black Strap rum that forms the backbone of the Jungle Bird, a cocktail on the menu at Charleston’s Gin Joint.
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1978, the Jungle Bird was a peculiar drink even before New York City bartender Giuseppe Gonzalez substituted Black Strap for the more run-of-the-mill dark rums found in its earliest iterations. Thick, black, rich as molasses, Black Strap is closer in character to the rough spirits of the colonial era than to modern-day standards like Captain Morgan or Bacardi. In its inky depth, it tames the pineapple and citrus in the Jungle Bird as handily as coffee does milk and sugar.
Gonzalez’s take on the cocktail spread to a handful of bars in New York City and caught the attention of Gin Joint owner Joe Raya, who brought the recipe south. As for the taste, if you start your day with a tall glass of grapefruit juice, you’ll love it. If you prefer a sweeter drink, try a simple blend of 1 part Black Strap, ½ part pineapple juice, and a squeeze of lime instead.