If you’re into Tiki Bars or you’re into Rum, chances are you’ve had an unusual twitch of anticipation pointed in the direction of San Francisco for the past few months.
Martin Cate, formerly of Forbidden Island, still a destination spot for Tiki aficionados, has announced the opening of his new Rum Bar, Smuggler’s Cove, in San Francisco this December. I got a chance to attend a sneak preview of Smuggler’s Cove this past week, and oh what tropical delights awaited within.
The spot, at 650 Gough Street, has little to speak of on the outside but a port and starboard light, giving little clue to what lies inside. Once inside, you are hit with a “seen to be believed” amount of nautical and polynesian decor. Smuggler’s Cove has 3 tiers of seating, including two bars and full-wall waterfall, which came with the lease, though modified with a rock facade for the theme. Why this spot was an instant must-have for Martin’s new realm, couldn’t imagine.
The decor and setting, developed by local artist “Notch”, Ignacio Gonzalez, is breathtaking. Like Disneyland for grown ups, it does have a bit of a “Pirates” flair to it, but keeps true to Tiki with decor from Tiki Bars past, and dedications to former Polynesian Paradises of San Francisco. You will find items from the Stockton Islander, Trader Vic’s SF and Chicago, goodies from Oceanic Arts, and even a few new pieces created by Notch, currently creating their own provenance.
To call this a Tiki bar would be fine, sure, but it is even moreso a Rum Bar, with an emphasis on a significantly vast Rum, Rhum and Ron selection, and all mixology elements which follow. Of course, where Rum goes so does Tiki, and there are plenty of tropical delights alongside the classic Daiquiri and Rum Punch. Everyone from the rum newbie who is only familiar with Spiced Rum and Coke, to the Rum Gods who sit on boats in the Caribbean will find something interesting and new here.
The Rum Selection is vast and bounteous, featuring odd bits here and there, as well as many classics rum aficiandos will recognize from their own shelves. From readily found White Puerto Rican Rums to to the all but unavailable last few drops of British Royal Navy Rum, every country and every coastline has some representitive in the lineup, ready to be tasted or mixed. Even Martin has developed house rum, beer, and wine. The Rums include Eurydice, made at nearby St. George Distillery, as well as a “Special Reserve” house Demerara Rum provided by El Dorado.
The bartending team is an allstar cast of local and newly local bartenders from hotspots such as Heaven’s Dog, and L.A.’s Varnish. They’ll be manning the downstairs and ground floor bars, featuring unique equipment that, as one bartender noted, will make it hard to go back to the old three-sink and shake. The drinks available at the preview included one of my favorites, Three Dots and a Dash, which was incredibly delicious, exploding with allspice and strong rum.
Some of the running features of the menu will include punch-card clubs, with a tiered system of rums to sample, and the accolades that follow, such as brass plates behind the bar, and even a tour of a Rum distillery with Martin Cate.
Opening in just a few days, on Dec. 8th, Smuggler’s Cove has a bright, albeit dimly lit future in San Francisco as a real destination for Rum Lovers or newbies, Tikiphiles, and people who just want to have a good time. If you won’t get a chance to be there, I took a bit of a video walkthrough. Enjoy!
During a recent talk here in Portland at the Great American Distiller’s Festival, I shared a few stories and told of the time when Stephen Crane’s Luau coming into town began the “Big Showdown” of the Exotic restaurant chains. Stephen Crane’s Luau had been a big hit in Beverly Hills, and when he joined forces with the Sheraton to help them compete against Hilton and Trader Vic’s Outrigger chain, he found himself opening restaurants in Montreal, Chicago, and here in Portland.
With this chain, known as Kon-Tiki Ports, Stephen brought all his best bartenders and their recipes to help open each location. One of the drinks developed and served at the Luau was their own version of the famed Scorpion Bowl from Trader Vic’s. One of the first known communal tropical drinks, Vic had been slinging this “thing” since at least the early 1940s, having written about it in his Book of Food and Drink. Stephen Crane’s version takes a few liberties, changing Lemon to Lime and omitting one of the ingredients from Vic’s version, an ounce of white wine.
A single-serving Scorpion these days is a bit… okay, a lot like a lightly tamed FogCutter, with a bigger dollop of Orgeat and omitting the Sherry Float. This version from the Luau, circa 1958 is… well, one of the best. It was served at the recent Tiki Night at Teardrop Lounge, and I see little reason not to serve it again at the next one! The Volcano effect wasn’t on the original recipe but… hey, if Stephen Crane can embellish his restaurant with $1,240 door handles, I think I can embellish the drinks with a splash of 151.
- 1oz Lime juice
- 2oz Orange juice
- 2oz Gold Puerto Rican rum
- 2oz Gin
- 1oz Brandy
- 3/4oz Simple syrup
- 1oz Orgeat
- 8oz Crushed ice
Donate everything to a blender. Spin up like the devil for 3 seconds. Pour, unstrained, into a wisely sized bowl. Drink by yourself or with friends.
When one is serving tropical and exotic libations, as one is wont to do, it is best to have a “safe bet” on the menu. For all the Zombies and Jet Pilots we know and love, the idea of a potent blend of rich and funky rums doesn’t always appeal to every customer (just our favorite ones).
I’ve been putting this drink on my Tiki Night menu for the past few years, and it’s always an easy sell. Fruity, elegantly sweet, and a beautiful shade of pink, it’s one of the few drinks I always get asked “What’s that!” that doesn’t come with a backscratcher or in a flaming volcano bowl.
- 3 oz Guava Nectar
- 1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice
- ¾ oz Lime Juice
- ¼ oz Rock Candy Syrup
- 1 ½ oz Coconut Rum
Combine ingredients in mixing tin and shake with 1 cup crushed ice, or use a handy dandy top-down mixer for 3 seconds. Pour into your nearest coconut shell or chimney glass.
As I like to say on the menu, despite being developed at Disney’s Polynesian resort, this ain’t no Mickey Mouse cocktail. For all the fruit juice and flavored rum, that lime cuts through like a knife, adding balance to all the flavors. It’s certainly still on the sweeter side, but will certainly please even the most refined tropical palates.
A lot of drinks come with some form of goofy garnish, whether it be a Menehune in the Menehune juice, or Trader Vic’s Potted Parrot. Garnish can, in some instances, really sell a drink. One is ordered, and patrons ask “What is that!?!”, particularly with something garishly garnished, or even better, set on fire. This next drink was something I only recently tried, but fell entirely in love with due to its combination of wonderful flavor, and unique, overdone garnish. As written in Jeff Beachbum Berry’s Sippin’ Safari, I present to you, from Steven Crane’s Kon-Tiki, the Tropical Itch.
- ½ oz Lime Juice
- ¼ oz Cinnamon Syrup
- 1 ½ oz crushed mango (sub mango puree)
- 1 oz Gin
- 1 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum
- 2 drops almond extract
Blend quickly in a top-down blender for three seconds, serve tall, and garnish with a backscratcher, and kumquat and pineapple slice.
Sadly, Kumquats were a bit out of season while I was serving those, so a cherry did quite nicely. The backscratcher, oh the backscratcher. Give people something fun to play with while drinking, and funny things will happen (and, hopefully, noone’s eye will get poked out). The Mango adds a nice, and frankly, rather rare touch to the drink. Fresh Mango has a nice sweet but mostly tart flavor, and was a joy to use in this drink. If you happen to run out of Almond Extract, a few drops of Orgeat adds a nice touch, without being overpowering.
The Tropical Itch is, however, one of “those” drinks, in the same vein as the Mai Tai and Zombie, invented at one place by some grand mixologist, in this case Harry Yee, and imitated over and over until it became a shadow of its former self. Luckily, Crane’s version is still damned tasty, and just a joy to make, and to drink!
Fabulous prizes at the bottom of the post. First, let’s get to drinking!
So, if you’ve haven’t heard it said around here before, Martin Cate, my ultimate H-bomb when it comes to name dropping, has been known to drop down a damn golden nugget of a drink when he cares to. I’m not saying all that comes from his brain his golden, he just has the wherewithal to really figure out what makes a drink tick, and keeps on trying ’til he gets it right.
The following drink, the 2070, was introduced to me by Paul Clarke through his article in last year’s Sept/Oct. Issue of Imbibe (yes, it took me a year to post on this… I’ve perhaps enjoyed them a few too many times).
- 1 oz Angostura 1919
- 1 oz Lemon Hart 151
- 1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz Rich Simple Syrup
- 1/2 oz Honey Mix
- 1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
- 4 drops Pernod
- 2 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
Build ingredients with Crushed Ice in a Chimney glass. Insert barspoon or lele stick and gently twirl spoon between the palms of your hands until a frost forms on the outside of the glass. Serve with Straw.
Honey Mix is a mix of even parts honey and warm water, stirring until the honey is completely dissolved.
Rich Simple Syrup is a 2:1 Demerara Sugar to Water Simple Syrup.
Says Martin of the origins of the drink,
The recipe was inspired by a regular at FI who always had me make him swizzles. I usually freestyled based on several recipes, and some were better than others. So I wanted to really get down a firm version of what I liked that was true to its Trini roots, but also mindful of the drinks eventual tikification.
I sat down one night at the bar and whipped up every swizzle recipe I could find- three different QPSs [Queen's Park Swizzles], some stuff from Barbados, etc.. I wanted to see what flavors and rum combos I really liked, to sit down and make what would be, for me, the ultimate swizzle. So it’s really just a showcase for some of my favorite flavors.
This is something of a superswizzle- usually they have far fewer ingredients. But you get honey/pernod (more tiki) and Angostura/allspice/nutmeg (more Caribbean) and I like to think they can be friends¦much like the farmer and the cowman.
And its the “2070″ not “20-70″ Swizzle. Or “Twenty Seventy” or “Two Thousand Seventy”, but that doesn’t sound as good.
note: some editing, partially sourced from the Cocktailnerd.com 2070 post.
This is a lovely and flavorful sipper. Definitely heavy on the ingredients for your standard swizzle, but oh the flavor combinations. Have you figured out the origins of the name? Give it a guess. First to comment with the correct origins of the name (that I haven’t drunkenly explained it to already) will be shipped a bottle of Trader Tiki’s Orgeat and Cinnamon Syrup, to make up your own tropical concoctions!