A Pair of Pandan Cocktails


Call me old-fashioned (or a drunk), but I’m usually a “beers during the week, cocktails on the weekend” kind of guy. But with all the doom and gloom being reported in the news lately (e.g. economic recession, food shortages AND escalating beer prices) I’ve taken to the hard stuff on a more regular basis to help me cope (and to help stretch out my own personal beer supply).

I do realize that spending more money on liquor does absolutely nothing in terms of battling the world’s enviro-socio-economic-oh-oh-oh ills. But I take solace in the fact that while I don’t have all the answers, I can at least forget some of the problems via a cocktail or two. At least that’s what I tell the wife after she gives me the stink-eye for bringing home a bottle of Rye Whiskey instead of paper towels, eggs, and milk. Groceries, shmoceries I say!

Anyhoo, while I mostly tinker with old-timey classic cocktails like the Old-Fashioned, the Sazerac, or the Martini, I do enjoy incorporating Asian ingredients into my tipple from time to time. You do remember my Kalamansi Infused Vodka experiment don’t you?

And since I’ve been throwing somewhat of a Pandan Party with my last couple posts (here and here), I figured it was as good a time as any to further experiment with some libations. After all, it ain’t a party without a couple of cocktails, right?

Before I get to my alcoholic concoctions, let me say a few words about sugar and cocktails. A variety of cocktails are made with a bit of sugar that is usually muddled (gently mashed) with a splash of water and perhaps some herbs or fruit at the bottom of the glass–think Mint Julep or Mojito, for instance.


However, sugar doesn’t
readily dissolve into alcohol–which may ultimately result in a gritty drink. To avoid grittiness, pro bartenders use simple syrup (2 parts sugar that
is boiled in 1 part water) as a shortcut. Although I do enjoy muddling
a sugar cube in my cocktail glass from time to time, I actually always
have a squirt bottle full of simple syrup in my fridge for when I’m
pressed for time.

And because I’ve messed around with flavored simple syrups before (like the ginger syrup I made here), I was keen on the fact that these syrups can bring additional flavors to a drink–additional flavors like those imparted from Pandan.


For those of you just tuning in, the fragrant emerald leaf of Pandan is used as an aromatic in a variety SE Asian dishes. I got the idea for a Pandan simple syrup from Pat of The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. Pat uses Pandan simple syrup to flavor her spicy ginger tea, and I figured the syrup would play well in a cocktail.

True, it probably is fairly easy to infuse vodka with Pandan leaf, but I wanted to create a drink in which I could actually taste the base spirit. If you think about it, most vodka cocktails are one-note drinks because of vodka’s inherent odorlessness and tastelessness (I’m not sure if those are actual words, but you get my meaning, no?). Cosmos taste like cranberry juice. Screwdrivers taste like orange juice. Greyhounds taste like grapefruit juice. You see a pattern there folks? Booooorrrriinng! (I’m being very general here to make a point. If any vodka enthusiasts happen to stumble upon this post, just curse me under your alky breath and we’ll call it even.)

At least the Kalamansi cocktail I created previously had hints of lime and ginger rather than just one flavor. So instead of using vodka this time around, I created a couple of drinks using whiskey and rum–two very complex and flavorful spirits that I thought would pair well with Pandan.

The first cocktail I made is perfect after a long day of muttering things under your breath and doing everything you can to not punch your boss in the face. It is based off of one of my favorite cocktails: The Old-Fashioned. The Old-Fashioned cocktail is named as such because dudes in top hats and waxed mustaches used to drink it long ago–it’s very refined and debonair ahoy hoy! Although I’ve recently come to enjoy Rye Whiskey in these drinks, I found that Bourbon Whiskey works better with the Pandan syrup (generally speaking, Rye tends to be spicy and Bourbon tends to be sweet). Also, this particular cocktail calls for bitters–a vital ingredient in many cocktails. For the cocktail neophytes out there (not that I’m an expert), think of bitters in a cocktail like you would salt in a soup or patis in Sinigang: bitters are a seasoning for cocktails and balance other flavors out.

The next cocktail I made is for when the weather is hot and sticky and the only energy you want to expend is lifting a big frosty glass to your beak. I initially intended this drink to be a sort of Pandan Mojito. But I found that even a single mint leaf overpowered the delicate flavors of Pandan. So I ended up removing the mint altogether. Then, because Pandan is so often paired with coconut in Filipino cuisine, I decided to use Coconut flavored rum as the base spirit in this drink. I finally added a splash of pineapple juice to provide a bit of tang that I thought was needed in the drink.

Lastly, both of the Pandan cocktails that I made are garnished with a piece of shredded Pandan leaf on top so that the drinker gets a good whiff of Pandan as the drink is sipped. Enjoy.

Pandan Simple Syrup
Adapted from this recipe at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 pandan leaves, each shredded with fork and tied into knots

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Lower heat and allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let syrup come to room temperature, then remove and discard pandan leaves. Place syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Pandan Old-Fashioned Cocktail
Makes one cocktail

1 Tablespoon Pandan simple syrup (recipe above)
2 two-inch pieces of pandan leaf
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 Kalamansi lime, halved and seeded
2 ounces Bourbon Whiskey

In a small rocks glass, combine the syrup, one of the Pandan leaves, and the bitters and gently muddle together. Squeeze and drop the Kalamansi halves into the glass. Fill the glass with cubed ice, and then add the whiskey. Stir until the ingredients are well combined and the glass becomes frosty. Garnish with the last piece of Pandan leaf.


Pandan Pineapple Coconut Spritzer
Makes one cocktail

1 Tablespoon Pandan simple syrup (recipe above)
2 two-inch pieces of pandan leaf
1.5 ounces coconut rum
1.5 ounces white rum
1 ounce pineapple juice
3 ounces sparkling mineral water

In a large mixing glass or tumbler, combine the syrup and one Pandan leaf and gently muddle. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Top the drink off with crushed ice and stir until glass is frosty. Garnish with last piece of Pandan leaf.


  • oggi May 8, 2008, 6:30 pm

    I like that you are making good use of pandan and I love the pandan pineapple coconut spritzer, sounds so refreshing.

  • Manggy May 9, 2008, 1:19 am

    My alcohol-ignorance is showing! I have no idea what Angostura bitters are! At first I thought the title was a play on “pear”, hee hee :)
    These look very refreshing, Marvin– I’ll take the one with kalamansi and without the coconut rum, haha!

  • Mila May 9, 2008, 3:29 am

    The last photo looked like the glass of buko pandan juice I had a few days ago, sans the green pandan leaf floating in and on top of it. That could be deadly if you think you’re just getting some regular buko pandan juice and end up passed out on the floor heehee

  • veron May 9, 2008, 5:51 am

    I would love to try this. I so enjoy the flavor of pandan.

  • TeddyKim May 9, 2008, 6:35 am

    Wow, the Sazerac. That is old school! You have any preferences for Rye?

  • Marianne/ anthropologist May 9, 2008, 7:50 am

    Hi, I really like your blog!
    Do you have an L.A. restaurant? Or, anyway, a restaurant in southern CA? I have many friends and relatives there, and my son is in San Luis Obispo . . .

  • raissa May 9, 2008, 11:42 am

    Oh my! Thanks for these recipes. My cousins and I are stocking up for our “drink till we pass out” party at one cousin’s house. hahaha We all agree that 1AM last call at bars is lame hahaha We can add these two to our list. I especially love the Pandan Pineapple Coconut Spritzer. Wonder how it will be shaken. I like Malibu Rum and we have drank a lot with that as base. Not much of a Whiskey drinker unless its Whiskey 7. =)

  • diva@theSugarBar May 9, 2008, 12:38 pm

    i’m there with you when in comes to spending money on alcohol. sometimes a drink is the best thing in the world. i’ve never seen a drink with pandan in it, this is a first! and it looks gorgeous. i can imagine the flavours would be pretty amazing and sweet.
    thumbs up.x

  • dhanggit May 10, 2008, 12:16 pm

    wow!!! you got my 100% pogi points for originality with these recipes!! pandan cocktail is so exotique!! i love the sound of it!! i dont normally drink but this one i admit im dying to taste :-)

  • G_mirage May 12, 2008, 4:28 am

    Yum! If i know where I can buy pandan here, I’ll make of all this! especially now, summer!
    Btw, your photo of the big tinidor and kutsara reminds me so much of home!!!
    Join, Food for Which My City/Town is known for.

  • Cynthia May 12, 2008, 5:33 am

    I can’t wait to travel and try pandan.

  • Babette May 12, 2008, 3:53 pm

    Hey Marv, you should invite us over for some Pandan cocktails. :)
    Pandan Pinaeapple Coconut Spritzer sounds good to me!

  • Krizia Sapida May 12, 2008, 8:35 pm

    Mmmm wouldn’t the coconut spritzer be so yum w/ little pieces of coconut floating around like in those canned buko juices? Marv, I’m moving to New York in a week :( sadness…would you do me a tribute for being an avid fan of your blog by posting about Filipino spaghetti one day? You know…with the sugar and slices of red hot dogs? 😀 I don’t know the history of it, and it would be cool to learn. You’ll probably put some cool twist to it…like adding SPAM or something haha.

  • Deborah Dowd May 13, 2008, 4:05 am

    I have never had anything with pandan, but I think global warming and economic recession is a good reason to try your concoctions! Probably your bottle of rye is cheaper than the bag of groceries!

  • elmomonster May 13, 2008, 9:50 am

    Your creativity knows no bounds! This was a great read! And educamashional too!
    Though you really need to anoint your drinks with a catchier name, like “Sex on The Beach”, and the like.

  • White On Rice Couple May 14, 2008, 1:01 am

    Another great pandan concoction! But it’s the inebriating kind, the one we really love!
    We used to be the weekender cocktail kinda people too, but with all the crap that we put up with at work, weeknight cocktails is the best cure for work related stress!
    Also, having a couple of cocktails during video editing makes for some crazy content too!

  • Burnt Lumpia May 14, 2008, 8:54 am

    Hi oggi! Yes, the spritzer is very refreshing.
    There are actually quite a few brands of bitters out on the market, Manggy, each one having a different effect on cocktails. I personally have 3 different kinds.
    Hello Mila. I was actually afraid that I was desensitizing myself to pandan’s smell with all my experimenting. So maybe the pandan leaf garnish is a bit overkill, but I couldn’t tell by the end of it;)
    These cocktails are definitely chock-full of pandan flavor, veron.
    Hi TK. I actually like Sazerac Rye. “Sazerac” is the name of a cocktail, and it also happens to be the name of a rye brand.
    Hello Marianne/anthropologist. I do not have an L.A. restaurant myself, but I’m flattered you would think that I might! Thanks for stopping by my blog.
    Hi raissa! A “drink till you pass out” party sounds hardcore. And yes, you could probably shake the Pandan Pineapple Coconut spritzer, I just prefer stirred drinks to keep things clear rather than cloudy. And besides, there are already bubbles in the drink from the sparkling water;)
    Hello diva. Thanks for visiting! And yes, nothing takes the edge off a long day like a good drink.
    Thanks for the pogi points, dhanggit!
    Thanks G_mirage. I’m glad you like the fork and spoon!
    There’s no pandan in the Carribean, Cynthia? You’re missing out!
    You’re welcome over anytime, Babette!;)
    New York, Krizia? That fancy Cal education of yours is big time! I don’t usually take requests, but I’ll try and think of a twist for “spaghetto” for you;)
    Hi Deborah! I tried the “Rye is cheaper” reasoning with my wife, she wouldn’t listen though;)
    Hey elmo. I actually tried to think of catchy names, but nothing made sense to me.
    Ahh, cocktails during video editing! That’s not a bad idea WORC! ;P

  • momoi January 15, 2009, 8:05 am

    HI All,
    i would like to know where do you buy angostura bitter in manila? im finding it hard to buy any bitters.
    angostura, peychaud’s would be great. Can you tell me where to buy this ingredrients im creating a mini bar at home and i need this to complete it.

  • Lori October 21, 2009, 10:11 am

    I made my own bitters using this recipe:
    I substituted kalamansi peels for the orange peels! Yummy.

  • Christian Anderson October 30, 2017, 10:25 am

    Can one use dried pandan leaves for the simple syrup?


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