Sparkling Cocktails with Passion

29th January 2018

Sparkling Cocktails with Passion

Anyone interested in the history of cocktails should give some thought to the cautionary tale of the passiflora edulis, whose fruit we Anglo Saxons call ‘passion fruit’ because the historically correct Portuguese name frightens us:  ‘maracuja’. As borrowed from the locals in Brazil, circa 1600, when the Ports were the first Europeans to come across it.

Health-wise the fruit is full of good things and is now grown commercially anywhere that’s warm and wet. There are said to be 500 varieties: smaller and larger, greenish-yellow, brownish-purple, more disease resistant or distinctly vulnerable, self-pollinating or not. The flesh may be green or pink, though compared with the seeds – 250 per fruit – there isn’t much of it. The juice is pink or apricot colour, cloudy, and a pain to extract. Hence except in places like Brazil, it has always been used mainly in the form of commercially extracted syrups or mixes thereof. It makes marvellous ice cream. And great cocktails…

The taste’s the thing. Modestly acidic and aromatic but with the damper peddle firmly depressed: a benign influence not a takeover bid. No hint of kerosene either, unlike most tropical fruits. As you might expect, passion fruit juice or syrup works especially well with Rum of all kinds and Tequila, but also with Gin and Calvados – which you might not. It adds indefinable complexity to fruit liqueurs and is a wow with Advocaat.

And it works brilliantly with all bubbly, but especially those incorporating Chardonnay: giving a twist to the bouquet and a well-mannered fruity edge to the palate. 

Pause and Restart

With all this going for it, you might expect the passion fruit to feature prominently in classic cocktails. As much as limes anyway. And the fact is, circa 1930 it did enjoy a brief heyday as a fashionable ingredient. To be exact, a fashionable British cocktail ingredient.

At the time we had a shaky economy and a malnourished population. No change there then, but we also ruled half the world.  So, when the coalition government of the day decided to sponsor an Eat More Fruit campaign, it inevitably looked to the products of the British Empire to supply us with vitamins at all seasons. Not that cocktails were perceived as health drinks, but they hooked onto the bandwagon anyway. Passion fruit was an exotic new taste that the Americans had never done. Unlike then-trendy grapefruit, of which the US had a virtual monopoly.

Alas, that was as good as it got for passion fruit in cocktails. Increasing austerity brought the end of government fruit advertising.  Disease swept our plantations. WW2 demanded sterner use of shipping resources. The passionate new taste rapidly became a forgotten taste. Only now is it being generally rediscovered.  In deserts, breakfast smoothies – and cocktails, which passion fruit takes into wholly new and seductive territory.

Passion fruit syrup is widely available.  To make the recipes here I used the excellent Tresseire brand, which is apricot colour, so for a pink drink you may need a dash of grenadine.


10 ml Golden Rum
20 ml Advocaat
10 ml Passion fruit syrup
60 ml Bubbly (to fill)
Garnish: red flower on rim

Shake non-sparkling ingredients hard with ice, strain into flute glass, add bubbly, stir


90 ml Cava or Prosecco
10 ml Gin
10 ml Passion fruit syrup
½ Teaspoon Angostura
½ Teaspoon Grenadine
Garnish: thick orange wheel stuck with three cloves

Make as above.


30 ml Passion fruit syrup
12 ml Calvados
¼ Teaspoon orange bitters
½ Teaspoon grenadine (opt’l)
1 Dash Angostura
60 ml Bubbly (to fill)
Garnish: mint sprig

Make as above.

Bernard Barbuk

Bernard Barbuk

After a career as a business journalist, he wrote on drinks subjects for almost every extant drinks publication. He now divides his time between refining his database of 2,000-plus classic recipes & finishing a book on ‘the 18 Families of the classic cocktail’.