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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

Elusive Dreams

A Hotel Nacional spin-off from Nashville's Patterson House

Elusive Dreams

The Patterson House has been a go-to for great cocktails here in Nashville for some time now. In fact, they have even been offering virtual cocktail classes throughout the pandemic, so yes, they take their cocktails seriously. While they are not a Tiki or tropical themed bar, they do cover many of the tropical drinks that have made in into the canon of classics. One of those classics is the Hotel Nacional Special. The Elusive Dream is Patterson House's riff on this classic drink.

For the uninitiated, the Hotel Nacional was a luxury resort built in Cuba in 1930 at a cost $4 million. This being pre-Castro, it was the place for wealthy US citizens to see and be seen during those dark days of prohibition. One of their specialties was a cocktail called the Hotel Nacional Special. Like most great tropicals, there is some disagreement as to who actually invented the drink. Both the Hotel's manager (Wil P. Taylor) and Eddie Wolke, a bartender at the Casino Nacional (a sister property of the Hotel Nacional) claimed ownership. To make a long story short, Beachbum Berry goes with Wolke's recipe; not because of any historical fact but because it tastes better. As with most things, I agree with the Bum.

Wolke's Hotel Nacional Special is lime juice, pineapple juice, apricot brandy, and Cuban rum. In the Elusive Dreams, Demi Natoli of Patterson House replaces the apricot brandy with banana liqueur and adds about of cinnamon syrup to give the drink a flavor profile that's a bit more complex than the original. Finally, in an act that salutes Don the Beachcomber's greatest contribution to cocktails, the Cuban rum is replaced by a blend of multiple rums. In Easy Tiki, Natoli recommends replacing the 2 ounces of Cuban rum with 1 ounce of Plantation Stiggins' Fancy Pineapple rum and Plantation 3 Star rum which is itself a blend of Jamaican, Barbados, and Trinidadian rums. It makes for a wonderful cocktail that possess depth while leaving a bit of room to play with the sweetness via the banana liqueur.

I love banana anything and as a result have probably spent too much time tasting banana liqueurs but the differnce the "right" one can make in a drink is astounding. Most people think of banana liqueur as 99 Bananas or a basic well stuff like DeKuyper or Hiram Walker. Those tend to be very sweet and the banana taste is more Laffy Taffy than actual banana. They have their uses but if you dig a bit deeper banana liqueurs with greater range exist. Giffard Banane de Brésil has a more delicate flavor where the banana is more on the exhale than the tongue. Tempus Fugit Creme de Banane is more like bananas foster with an overripe and caramelized fruit flavor. Both do well in the Elusive dream (as does a 50/50 blend). Natoli uses the Giffard Banane de Brésil at Patterson House.

Try altering the choice of banana liqueur and using fresh pressed pineapple juice instead of canned and you'll find one recipe that can taste like 3 or 4 different drinks - all of them well worth your time!

Elusive Dreams

Source - Demi Natoli of Patterson House, Nashville (Easy Tiki, Chloe Frechette)

  • 3/4 ounce lime juice

Elusive Dreams

  • 1 ounce pineapple juice

  • 3/4 ounce cinnamon syrup*

  • 1/2 ounce banana liqueur*

  • 1 ounce Stiggins' Fancy Pineapple rum

  • 1 ounce blended unaged rum*

Chill a coupe glass. Build everything in a shaker and shake with a large ice cube for about 30 seconds. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to keep any small pieces of ice out of the glass. Serve in the coupe glass and garnish with a pineapple crescent and edible orchid.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations: I make my own cinnamon syrup and suggest you do the same. Not only is it easy but many commercial cinnamon syrups are too spicy/hot to work well in tropical cocktails. While I play with the banana liqueur on occasion, you can't go wrong with the Patterson House's suggestion of Giffard Banane de Brésil. Same goes for their recommended Plantation 3 Star rum.

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