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Pass the Passoã

by Roberta Roberti
So I'm sitting on a bar stool on Curaçao with my friend, in a place the locals frequent called Ay Caramba! We were winding down from a five-hour cruise around the island with a crusty old sea captain we'd met there two nights before.

Aside from being exhausted, it was also our last night on the island, so we were saddened and quite susceptible to inebriation. The interesting part of the evening became the alcohol that helped us reach intoxication.

Sipping on my rum drink, I was mesmerized by a striking bottle on the back bar. Black with pink palm trees, it stood out among the clear and slightly tinted bottles. I could read the imprint: Passoã. My genius mind figured out that it was probably passion fruit-flavored, but I wanted to know more.

I waited for Lena, the bartender -- one of several young bartenders we'd befriended - to finish serving her other customers. Then I asked her, "What's that stuff there, in the black bottle?"

"Oh, that's Passoã."


"Yes, it's made with passion fruit."

Some self-congratulating passed through my mind for being smart enough to figure that out, but this was a new one for me and I was intrigued. Lena saw the look on my face and stopped halfway in a turn while wiping down the bar. Pulling the bottle from the shelf with one hand, she grabbed two glasses with the other and poured a couple of shots. Red and warm, this liqueur was going to be good. A toast to Curaçao, a curse to the responsibilities that awaited us upon our return home, and down they went.

It was like nothing I'd ever tasted.

It may have been a passion fruit liqueur but I tasted peach nectar with a hint of cognac. I've had fruity cordials before, but they've become so ordinary, being reinvented over and over in different (yet not so different) cocktails. This drink was explosively new.

Made by Rémy Cointreau, Passoã is made with passion fruit juice and citrus. Like other liqueurs, it is sweet and viscous. But where most others start at 45 proof, Passoã is only 40 proof (20% alcohol), so it has no burn, no hint of harshness. Nice and smooth.

Two shots went down like liquid candy.

"Try this one," Lena said, pulling another exotic-looking bottle from the back bar. This one was Kool-Aid green and had a strange name: Pisang Ambon. A Dutch liqueur using a blend of fruits and spices from Indonesia (and also made by Rémy Contreau), it was oddly spicy and banana-y (in fact, pisang means "banana" in Indonesia). I think she was trying to shock our palates.

Pretty soon, Lena had set up a string of drinks for us to taste. Shot after shot, we downed fruity, freaky, sweet, bitter, and all strong spirits. But none were as good.

No, nothing was like the Passoã. The sleek bottle with pink palm trees kept calling me.

Once back in the States, I was determined to stock my bar with this elixir. As the main ingredient in drinks with names like The Passion Drink, Passoã Sweet Dreams, Lady Killer, and Monkey Passion -not to mention Passoã Coladas, Mojitos, Margaritas, and Daiquiris - it was destined, I was convinced, to become the next big thing, a must on any well stocked bar. But liquor store owners all over New York City looked puzzled and simply shook their heads when I asked them if they had it or had even heard of it. On-line U.S. sources didn't have it either. Launched in 1986 and internationally available since 1994, it is evidently unavailable in the U.S. I've tried contacting the distributor of Passoã, Remy Amérique, but they have not returned my calls.

Then I found out that Passoã has other flavors: Spicy Mango, Melón Cactus, and a cocktail mixer called Pre-Mix with Orange. My head almost exploded at the thought that these liqueurs were out there but out of my reach. I went in search of other passion fruit liqueurs.

I don't know what planet I've been on, but I discovered that Alizé has been making passion fruit liquor since 1986. Their Gold Passion (made with passion fruit juice and cognac), Red Passion (with the addition of cranberry and peach), and Wild Passion (with mango and pink grapefruit) are wildly delicious and only 35 proof. Marnier-Lapostolle, makers of Grand Marnier, have the excellent Le Grande Passion, and Ora is acceptable. None, however, have the pure fruit taste of Passoã.

So, until it is available, you can purchase it outside the United States. In the meantime, keep your eyes open - - look for it, ask for it, and if you ever find yourself on Curaçao, park yourself on a barstool in Ay Caramba!, and line them up.

Passoã Recipes

Passoa Sweet Dreams
1 1/2 oz Passoa
1 oz vodka or 151 proof rum
1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
Pineapple juice
Splash Grenadine

Combine first 3 ingredients in a shaker. Fill to top with pineapple juice; add splash of grenadine. Shake well and serve in a tall glass.

Monkey Passion
2 oz. Passoa
1 oz. vodka
2 oz. Cointreau
5 oz. fresh orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Serve in a tumbler.

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