Another legacy of my niece K’s recent visit from New Zealand was the bottle of Ti-Toki liqueur she brought me.
Ti-Toki was invented by a New Zealand winemaker in the mid 1970s and is only available in that country. It’s made from indigenous flora including kawakawa, manuka leaves and oils from the ti-toki tree berry.
I confess that my interest was more for the collectible ceramic bottle, shaped like a Maori tekoteko, than the contents. It was designed by Maori carver Hemara Hemara and originally produced by Crown Lynn potteries [see Ev’s comment below for a correction]. The older ones (in brown or mottled blue-green glazes) are fairly rare and sought by collectors.
The eyes are made fom paua shell (a species of abalone).
The company changed hands and today the bottles are made in limited numbers by a small ceramics studio near Auckland. You can also get Ti-toki in plain glass bottles – much cheaper, but not as much fun.
I invited Brandomoai, one of my tiki mug collector pals over for a tasting. First we tried it straight up.
The sniff test. The overwhelming scent is of vanilla.
Sipping. The viscosity is of a light syrup, similar to Frangelico. Initially the taste is sweet and mild. Then the alcohol (37%) and botanicals kick in: notes of pepper, citrus, eucalyptus (manuca, according to my niece). Very complex, strong and interesting.
Then we tried in a recipe suggested on the gift box:
Ti-toki Liqueur & Gingerbeer
1 part Ti-toki Liqueur
3 parts Gingerbeer
Serve with crushed ice, finely chopped mint and sliced lemon
I muddled the mint mojito-style instead of chopping it and used an organic ginger ale that has more bite than regular ginger ale but isn’t as aggressively spicy as Jamaican-style ginger beer. Diluting the Ti-toki really smoothed out its harsher edges. A lovely cocktail.
I look forward to tying it in other cocktails as well as just sipping it plain. Now I need my niece to visit more often so I can have a steady supply.
Posted by Jean Poutine