Banana ketchup originated in the Philippines during World War II, when tomatoes were scarce and resourceful locals used bananas instead, dyeing the concoction red so it would resemble tomato-based ketchup. If that sounds blasphemous, consider the fact that ketchup was not originally made with tomatoes; the name comes from a Chinese word for pickled fish brine or fish sauce. Over the last 500 years or so, while ketchup made its way to southeast Asia, England, and America, traditional ingredients have included anchovies, mushrooms, oysters, walnuts, and elderberries, but tomatoes have only been used since the early 19th century.
In the Philippines, banana ketchup has remained popular, and it's widely available at Asian markets in this country. When Jason Balutan of Haywood Tavern challenged Andy Rivera, a bartender at the Publican, to create a cocktail with banana ketchup, Rivera located it immediately at Joong Boo Market. He describes it as similar to regular ketchup, but sweeter and chunkier. There's no discernible banana flavor; it's covered up by the spices, sugar, and vinegar. "It's actually pretty good," he says. "I bought some for my house, because I ran out of ketchup at home."
Inspired by "the crossed paths between Hispanics and Filipinos, and shared last names," Rivera created a cocktail he named Mi Primo Filipino with tequila and mezcal. After combining the banana ketchup with lemon and lime juice, olive brine, celery bitters, and Hellfire habanero bitters, he muddled the mixture with cilantro and cucumber, added the liquor, and shook the cocktail with ice before straining it into a glass rimmed with salt and Espelette pepper.
Rivera has challenged Rachel Rodeghiero of Trenchermen to create a cocktail with pork stock.
Mi Primo Filipino
.75 oz banana ketchup
.75 oz olive brine
.25 oz lemon
.25 oz lime
Dash of house-made celery bitters
Three drops Hellfire habanero bitters
Three wedges fresh cucumber
5 cilantro leaves
1 oz Cabeza tequila
1 oz Vida mezcal
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
Combine first six ingredients and stir to combine. Add cucumber and cilantro, muddle together. Add tequila, mezcal, salt, and shake with ice. Double strain into a ice-filled glass rimmed with salt and Espelette pepper. Garnish with cilantro.