Skull Island: Call me mold-fashioned

With the proper skull set, you can do most anything.

My brother Michael, for all of his unreadable stoicism, has a knack for giving Christmas gifts with staying power. So when he gave me a set of skull-shaped ice molds this last holiday season, I was pretty sure they’d be conscripted into duty eventually. 

Not that I really needed ice molds – as a longtime cocktail enthusiast, my freezer is well stocked with cube molds large and small, including a set of Buffalo Trace-branded ones with protruding buffalo images on one side. But ice in the actual shape of skulls – that was a fresh addition to the collection. And since I had also given Michael a skull-shaped shot glass at the same Christmas exchange, it turned out to be a heady coincidence. I let them the ice molds sit until the right idea took hold.

I’m nine years older than Michael, who we called changuito – Spanish for “little monkey” – when he was little for his boundless, off-the-wall energy, cheery smile and his love for Curious George, the famous cartoon monkey. (No doubt he would be mortified to know I was sharing this fact.)  He and I were also both into monster movies and science fiction, and I remember taking him to see Star Wars for the first time when it was re-released for the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back. That was on my mind when I recently realized that I had never actually gotten around to seeing Kong: Skull Island, the lauded 2017 semi-reboot of the classic giant gorilla franchise.

Inspired, I searched for it in my Netflix and Amazon Primate – I mean, Prime – libraries, but the cheapskate in me was put off by the rental price when there were so many free movies awaiting in my watch queue. I picked one of those for the time being, but still let the inspiration ride: If I couldn’t actually watch Skull Island, I figured, I would come up with a drink using one of those skull ice cubes instead.

My Skull Island cocktail is basically a tropical Old Fashioned, packed with nods to the whole Kong vibe – gorillas, jungles, exotic islands. Naturally, I built it on Monkey Shoulder blended malt Scotch – not just for its fruity, buttery notes but its malt brawn, which would go toe-to-toe with the tropical sweetness that would come: First, a roar of banana liqueur, then a dash of tiki bitters. And finally, I poured the whole mixture over that toothsome skull ice cube… which offered one last creepy grin before tilting wayward in the Scotchy surf.

Skulls are spineless and cannot stay upright in liquid. Otherwise, the Skull Island is not monkeying around.

While I haven’t yet gotten around to seeing that movie, here’s a drink in the meantime that, while deliciously tropical sweet, will still put hair on your chest.


  • 2¼ oz Monkey Shoulder blended malt Scotch
  • ¾ oz Giffard’s Banane du Bresil
  • 1 generous dash Bitterman’s Elemakule tiki bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and stir. Pour into an Old Fashioned or short rocks glass over one large ice cube, ideally one shaped like a skull. Sip and periodically pound chest.