The Royal Hawaiian cocktail is a delicious summer sipper full of exotic pineapple flavour with undertones of marzipan. Also known as the Princess Kaiulani cocktail, this gin and orgeat based drink partners well with a little maraschino liqueur to lift the flavour profile further.
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I’ve been playing around with a few classic gin cocktails this year with the aim of putting my own twist to them. I recently gave the Royal Hawaiian cocktail some attention.
The classic cocktail is full of lively pineapple flavour, cut through by fresh lemon and hints of sweet marzipan. It’s undoubtedly less dry than my usual cocktail style, but this drink is seriously delicious.
Including a little cherry liqueur in this mix lifts the flavour profile yet further, adding whispers of Cherry Bakewell to proceedings.
Overall the sweet and tangy elements of this cocktail pair well with the gin to create a well balanced libation that is great for sipping, particularly on a hot day.
Origin of the Classic Version
The Royal Hawaiian cocktail started life under a different name in the opulent Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the island of Hawaii.
Initially known as the Princess Kaiulani cocktail, it was renamed as the Royal Hawaiian before becoming the resort’s signature drink around 1950.
And just who was Princess Kaiulani? Born in 1875, Victoria Ka’iulani, was Crown Princess and heir to the throne of Hawaii. After the royal family was overthrown in 1893, she put up a valiant, yet unsuccessful fight to preserve the Hawaiian monarchy. She died young, at the age of just 23.
Knowing this, it seems rather a shame that the Princess Kaiulani cocktail was stripped of its historical name. It’s still a remarkable drink though.
The classic version of this cocktail contains 4 ingredients:
- pineapple juice
- orgeat syrup
- lemon juice
Orgeat is a sweet syrup flavoured with almonds and rose water. Imagine liquid marzipan and you’re on the right track.
Orgeat adds a sweet and somewhat exotic element to this libation. But the addition of lemon juice is vital in order to cut through the sweetness of the syrup and the pineapple juice.
In my less classical version, I’ve reduced the orgeat and lemon juice slightly to make way for a hint of maraschino cherry liqueur. The overall drink is really quite refreshing, with mildly sweet and mellow undertones and a captivating flavour profile.
How to Make a Princess Kaiulani Cocktail
Making both the classic and my cherry twist on this drink is very straightforward.
Simply put all liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes, secure the lid and shake hard for 30 seconds. Strain into a suitable glass, garnish and serve.
I like serving the classic Royal Hawaiian cocktail in a Nick and Nora style glass, but as you can see from the images, a coupe glass is equally good. Go with glassware that suits your mood.
Can I make this drink in Advance?
Though there is very little in the way of preparation for this drink, it is possible to pre-mix the ingredients ready for shaking with the ice later on.
It is best to shake with ice right before serving though, to ensure the drink is served gorgeously ice-cold.
Tip: shake no more than 2 servings in a full-sized cocktail shaker to ensure drinks are sufficiently diluted and chilled by the ice.
What can I garnish this drink with?
There are several ways to garnish this cocktail. For sheer ease and speed, just a maraschino cherry on a cocktail pick will suffice.
A chunk of fresh pineapple and a few leaves are welcome additions too.
But if you really want to up your garnish game, try making your own pineapple flowers by oven drying some fresh pineapple. Though it is mainly a hands-off task, drying the pineapple does take several hours, so plan ahead.
I don’t have Orgeat, can I use sugar cane syrup instead?
In all honesty, the almond flavour from the orgeat syrup is a major player in this cocktail. That gentle nutty flavour lifts the base ingredients up, shakes them around and delivers a striking flavour.
Technically you can substitute sugar cane syrup for the orgeat, but you might just be better off waiting to make the Royal Hawaiian cocktail until you have all of the ingredients.
More Cocktails with Tropical Flavours:
Alternatively, take a look at my collection of other tropical cocktails:
- Pineapple & passionfruit gin & tonic
- The blushing Cuban passionfruit & raspberry cocktail
- Fiery mango punch
- Chilli infused vodka, pineapple & peach cocktail/
Royal Hawaiian Cocktail (aka Princess Kaiulani cocktail)
The Classic Royal Hawaiian
- 45 ml Gin 1 1/2 fl oz
- 15 ml Orgeat syrup 1/2 fl oz
- 30 ml Pineapple juice 1 fl oz
- 15 ml Lemon juice 1/2 fl oz
The Royal Hawaiian with Maraschino
- 45 ml Gin 1 1/2 fl oz
- 10 ml Maraschino liqueur 2 tsp
- 10 ml Orgeat syrup 2 tsp
- 20 ml Pineapple juice 4 tsp
- 10 ml Lemon juice 2 tsp
Garnishes – any of the following
- Oven-dried pineapple flowers
- Fresh pineapple
- Pineapple leaves
- Maraschino cherries
For Either cocktail
- Half fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes
- Pour in the alcohol, pineapple juice, lemon juice and orgeat syrup
- Secure the shaker lid and shake hard for 30 seconds until the drink feels well chilled
- Strain into a serving glass and decorate with garnishes of choice
- Serve immediately