The Saturn is a classic tiki cocktail that’s light, fruity, and simple to make. It’s notable in the tiki genre for its use of gin instead of rum.
With a mix of lemon, passion fruit, almond, and spices, the Saturn’s layered flavors and refreshing citrus make it a great summer drink.
History of the Saturn cocktail and Popo Galsini
The Saturn was invented by a bartender named J. “Popo” Galsini in 1967. He created the drink for the annual California Bartender’s Guild competition and it won first place.
Popo then took the drink to the ‘67 IBA World Bartending Championships where it unfortunately didn’t win first place, but it did help the Americans win the team event.
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Popo was born José Galsim in the Philippines around 1900. He travelled to the US in 1928 and by 1941 he was working at the Tropics, a tiki bar in LA.
By the end of that decade, he’d somehow acquired the nickname Popo and had become a well-known and sought after bartender in Southern California.
In 1966, Popo was working at the Kona Kai when he invented the X-15, a mix of gin, lemon, passion fruit, falernum and orgeat. He named his drink after a cool space plane created by the company North American Aviation.
In early 1967, the Apollo 1 disaster claimed three lives and a North American Aviation design flaw was determined to be the cause. Popo changed the name of his cocktail to the Saturn, which was the name of a booster rocket used in Apollo missions.
The Saturn has become one of the best gin-based cocktails to emerge from the tiki bar heyday. Like many tiki recipes, it was nearly lost to history. Fortunately for us, Jeff “Beachbum” Berry revived the Saturn for a new generation of tropical cocktail lovers to enjoy.
The Saturn isn’t a complicated drink, but it does require two items that the average person might not have in their pantry: falernum and orgeat.
Falernum is a spiced liqueur or syrup originally from Barbados. The most common brand is John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum.
This low-abv liqueur is inexpensive and easy to find in liquor stores. It adds flavors of lime, ginger, and almond to tropical drinks.
Orgeat is an almond syrup made with a small amount of orange flower water or rosewater, giving it a slightly floral flavor. You can make your own or buy a quality brand such as Liber & Co Orgeat.
Falernum and orgeat are both used extensively in classic tiki cocktails, so investing in them will allow you to make a whole world of new drinks!
Another less common ingredient is passion fruit syrup. This is very easy to make by combining equal parts passion fruit purée (available frozen at Whole Foods) with simple syrup. Liber & Co also makes a great passion fruit syrup that I always keep on hand.
Here’s everything you need to make the Saturn:
- Fresh lemon juice
- Passion fruit syrup
How to make it
The Saturn is frequently served as a frozen blended drink, but it is also common to see it “flash blended” or shaken and served over crushed or pebble ice.
What’s flash blending?
“Flash blending” refers to the use of an old fashioned style stand-up drink mixer. Many tiki cocktails are at their best if quickly blended (3-5 seconds) with one of these mixers and then dumped into a tiki mug.
The stand up drink mixer (imagine what ice cream shops use to make milkshakes) provides just the right amount of aeration, froth, and dilution, without blending the ice smooth.
If you have one of these mixers, it’s the preferred method for the Saturn. If not, you can use a regular blender for a frozen cocktail, or shake and dump the contents into a glass, then top with plenty of crushed ice.
The Saturn has its very own unique garnish, resembling the planet Saturn and its characteristic rings.
There are a few ways to make this, but I like to cut a lemon wheel, peel away the flesh, and use the circular peel as my ring. I use a cocktail pick to skewer the lemon ring with a Luxardo maraschino cherry in the center.
You can also simply peel a long piece of lemon (or lime) peel and wrap it around the cherry, then skewer in place with a cocktail pick.
You might also enjoy these other tiki cocktails:
The Saturn – Gin Tiki Cocktail
- 1 ¼ oz gin
- ½ oz lemon juice
- ½ oz passion fruit syrup
- ¼ oz falernum
- ¼ oz orgeat
- Combine all ingredients with 3/4 cup crushed ice in a blender.
- Blend on high until smooth. Pour into a glass or tiki mug and garnish with a cocktail cherry and lemon peel.