We’re going to mix up the Coco de Agua today because September 2 is World Coconut Day. It’s the day to celebrate a round, hairy fruit with a hard shell. After all, coconuts themselves are a tropical adventure, a symbol of relaxed times on a beach. They’re celebrated as a culinary ingredient and the subject of legend via death by coconut. Coconuts even work as the vessel carrying a strong drink.
World Coconut Day emerged in 2009 through an initiative by the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community (APCC) whose members account for more than 90% of worldwide production. Seems like a good idea for such a multitasking fruit.
A coconut celebratory drink is clearly in order and the Coco de Agua cocktail fits the bill. Easy to mix, it joins the roster of tall, refreshing drinks well suited to those summer evenings.
The coconut tree, of course, is a member of the palm tree family. The name actually comes from the old Portuguese word coco, meaning “head” or “skull.” Coconuts were first cultivated in the southern part of India and in island Southeast Asia. But they didn’t stay long as various groups carried them as canoe plants to islands they settled. Soon enough they spread around the equatorial regions of the world as seagoing nations brought them to colonies.
No surprise. After all, they taste good, travel well and are unique among fruits by containing a large amount of clear liquid, i.e. coconut water or juice. Whether for food, fuel, cosmetics, folk medicine or building materials, every part of the tree is usable.
The coconut has cultural and religious significance in certain societies, particularly the Austronesian groups of the Western Pacific. It’s featured in rituals, mythologies, songs and traditions. Outside that traditional recognition, of course, is the legend of death by coconut.
Death by coconut emerged when Dr. Peater Barss published “Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts” in a medical journal. He was based in Papua New Guinea and reported that 2.5% of trauma admissions were for falling coconut injuries. None recorded were fatal, but he did mention a couple of anecdotal reports. That figure of two got misquoted as 150 worldwide based on the daring assumption that other places would have similar rates. Death by coconut was cited as being more likely than being bitten by a shark.
Death by coconut claims became so widespread that syndicated columnist Cecil Adams felt compelled to speak up for the coconuts. In his column and website, The Straight Dope, he basically explained it as an urban legend. So while it’s really just a legend it does add a certain badass reputation to the tree.
Coco de Agua
The Coco de Agua fits the bill as a World Coconut Day drink since it utilizes coconut water, the light fluid inside an immature coconut, as a key ingredient. It’s a tall, refreshing drink, first published in Charles H. Baker’s 19851 work The South American Gentleman’s Companion. We first cited his earlier work when we mixed up the Horse Collar cocktail. The Coco de Agua gained more recent publicity under Sam Ross, who published it in his Bartender’s Choice phone app. Mr. Ross, of course, is the developer of the ever-popular Paper Plane and Penicillin cocktails.
Baker wasn’t the only one to recognize the usability of coconut water in fine drinks. One of our favorite protagonists, Ernest Hemingway, like it in the Green Isaac Special. Not to mention Squidward Q. Tentacles in SpongeBob Squarepants, who enjoyed it in the Tiki Time cocktail.
Coco de Agua
- Add rum, lime juice, simple syrup and coconut water to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into ice-filled Collins glass.
- Top with soda water.
- Garnish with mint sprig.