Chinola Passion Fruit Liqueur Review

It’s safe to say that I love passion fruit, and a capital “L” on love wouldn’t be out of place in any way. It is truly the king of tropical fruits, still underestimated by the US market thanks to its odd appearance, but fresh passion fruit is an absolutely spellbinding flavor to virtually anyone who tries it. Pungent, tangy and sweetly crisp at the same time, fresh passion fruit has a similar flavor to stone fruit combined with bright citrus – it tastes more like the best apricot you’ve ever had, except with the assertiveness up to 11.

That’s how I fell in love with passion fruit, in fact – often misidentifying it during blind beer tastings, until I realized how delicious it was. . The love story took another step as I developed an interest and then an obsession with making tiki cocktails at home, in a genre where passion fruit is often a very complementary flavor. Nor is it necessary to have fresh or commercially packaged passion fruit juice on hand at all times, not when there are absolutely delicious syrups that make the process so much easier.

So it’s no surprise that I’m jumping at the chance to sample a new passion fruit-specific liqueur, in the form of the Dominican Republic liqueur. Chinola. Now sold in the United States, Chinola is a rum-based liqueur that uses the widest variety of yellow-green-skinned passion fruit to create a liqueur primarily focused on acidity rather than overt sweetness. It’s designed as a versatile mixer and cocktail ingredient, and the company claims it’s “stable without the use of additives or preservatives,” which is a nice feature. Each bottle would contain the juice of approximately 12 to 18 passion fruits.

So, with that said, let’s taste this first and then discuss its place in the mysteries of the cocktail.

On the nose, there’s no denying how immediately seductive it smells. It displays intense aromas of pure passion fruit juice, very assertive and tinged with citrus reminiscent of orange and a touch of vanilla cream. On the palate, the Chinola displays solid acidity and moderate residual sweetness, with a fairly syrupy texture. It has a bit of sweetness – it’s not some sort of dry liquor – but that’s not enough to make it difficult to enjoy neat, not that I imagine many consumers would drink chinola that way. Instead, they would probably use it to add brightness and acidity to various mixed drinks and cocktails, and Chinola provides just that. It’s absolutely delicious, even if giving it a numerical rating seems almost pointless – suffice it to say that Chinola delivers exactly what one would want it to deliver.

That said, the question I have is in what scenarios would I want to use Chinola, as opposed to the reliable passion fruit syrup which is already sitting in my fridge. Obviously, syrup is more suitable for mocktails and low-alcohol drinks, while liqueur might give an ABV boost to simple mixers and spritzes. In contrast, when it comes to more traditional, higher ABV cocktails where you may want to add a passion fruit flavor (such as a daiquiri or mai tai), you have to consider whether the alcohol extra of the Chinola is a feature or a hindrance, or if you want the alcohol content of the drink to come more from the rum or the liquor. It ultimately comes down to a matter of taste, but syrups may offer a bit more versatility.

That said, the contents of this bottle are still delicious, and I think bartenders in particular will love it. If you love passion fruit like me, this is a must try.

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident alcohol enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.