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!
A lot of people have asked me how I got into the whole, as some might put it, “tiki thing”. Well, like anything good, it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge. Having damned good friends in the interest certainly got me started, but the properly made Fogcutter and Mai Tai one dark and enchanted eve at Trader Vic’s Emeryville really pushed it over the edge. Now, I could’ve gone to the trouble of getting a job behind the stick at Trader Vic’s, or tried to find some old time bartenders from Don the Beachcomber’s, but that damned well sounds like a lot of work. Though I won’t go so far as to accuse the man who cleared this path of working harder than he had to, I’d like to thank Jeff “Beachbum” Berry for laying the historic groundwork so the rest of us can make posts on the internet and sound like we know a damned thing or two.
If you haven’t picked up a tome from this silver-tongued devil of the south pacific, well, you’re just not getting the full picture of the tiki drink phenomenon. Jeff’s books have sent many a mad mixologist through the pantheon of exotic cocktails, with few turning back.
Jeff’s first book, Grog Log, was released in 1998. It contains over 80 tropical drink recipes, and includes many well loved classics, such as the Mai Tai, Navy Grog, Fog Cutter, and Missionary’s Downfall. This book really focused on unlocking the more well known of the Vic and Don cocktails, including a very interesting take on the Zombie.
Intoxica!, the next tiki tome, came out in 2002, and also features just over 80 exotic libations, including the unearthed 1950 “Spievak” Zombie. This book brings in more classics, but also includes quite a few original drinks, often the bum’s interpretations of recipes that were still under lock and key.
After nearly 7 years of mixing and making these classic drinks, Tiki Drink enthusiasts were full of knowledge, and rum, but needed a little something more… solid. So, taking a look at some dusty old books of Trader Vic’s, and researching “authentic” Polynesian cuisine, Jeff brought out his Taboo Table, featuring Tiki Cuisine from Polynesian Restaurants of Yore. Some of the more famed recipes being the Luau Spare Ribs, and Trader Vic’s Bongo Bongo Soup (no baby food spinach included). Of course, there are a few whistle wetters in here as well, including quite a few punches… to help with digestion, of course.
All of the above are now modern day classics, researching down a rich vein of recent history that had faded to its last glimmer. The recipes are there, a lot of lovely illustrations, and even sources and a paragraph or two of the history of the drinks, but what about the restaurants and mixologists behind them? What was it really like “back in the day”, when people were looking forward to the next Martin Denny album, or making reservations at Don the Beachcomber’s. Jeff’s 2007 book Sippin’ Safari finally got Jeff deep into the text. Sippin’ Safari holds within its cover many interviews with Donn Beach’s former bartenders, and other historic figures who may never have graced the headlines, but sure gave the customers a thing or two to talk about.
The Bum’s next book, Beach Bum Berry Remixed, will feature a revisit of recipes from the Grog Log and Intoxica, new photography, modern exotic cocktails, and we’re sure a few other surprises. There’s no set publishing date just yet, but “before the end of the year” is all we’ve gotten so far. What can you expect from a Bum? Well, a lot of good reading and drinking material, that’s for sure. Pre-order Beach Bum Berry Remixed from Amazon.com.
Welcome to the first part on a series of Easy Tiki Drinks.
Tiki Mixology has gotten a bad rap over the years. The complexity of the concoctions and obscurity of ingredients have deemed Tiki drinks a no-go for home mixologists and bartenders alike. That most damned ingredient, effort, can be a bitch to wrangle. As you know, I make my own ingredients, and have searched far and wide for exotic liqueurs and rums. I recently received a bottle of a discontinued liqueur that I’ve been waiting to obtain for about 8 years. Such is the life of the obsessive.
But for those who aren’t willing to go the extra mile to drink like Donn or Vic, I thought I’d put together a few of my favorite super simple Tiki Drinks. No more than 4 ingredients, nothing more exotic than a trip to the grocery store, and as little homemade as possible. I might make a tinge of difference on a recipe here or there, eliminating garnish or so, just to show you that behind all the ice cones and feathered lime shells, the base of the drink is something pure and spectacular.
This drink below, the Derby Daiquiri, is the spawn of Mariano Licudine, one of the mixologists at Florida’s famed Mai Kai. You could say for certain that this is one of the drinks that put the Mai Kai on the map as a prominent purveyor of polypop potables. Mariano had been a bartender at Don the Beachcomber’s in Hollywood and Chicago, and for more than a decade worked his way up the chain until he was their #2 mixologist. He was then headhunted by the Bob and Jack Thornton, who were in the process of putting together the Mai Kai. There he took on the #1 slot, and made the Mai Kai’s menu, bar, and bartending program his own.
Mariano developed this drinkin 1959 for a Rums of Puerto Rico cocktail competition. It soon made its way to Esquire and other magazines, even being named the signature drink of the Gulfstream Racetrack’s Florida Derby. There’s plenty more information on Mariano and the Mai Kai in Jeff Berry’s Sippin’ Safari .
Originally served with crushed ice and in an ice shell, this drink stands up just fine without those geegaws and doodads. It even had its own distinct but now all-but-extinct specialty cocktail glass, which can be found on the Beachbum’s Grog Blog. Nifty, but also unnecessary.
- 1 oz Orange Juice
- ½ oz Lime
- ½ oz Simple Syrup
- 1½ oz Light Puerto Rican Rum
Shake with Ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Sweet and sultry simplicity. It’s essentially a Daiquiri, but with the sweet richness of orange juice added for a faux-tropical kick. I think over the next few posts, you’ll see just what an influence the Daiquiri had in the development of Tiki Mixology. Hell, as I like to wax poetic about, the potent combo of Rum and Lime is what America craved after all those trips to Cuba during the “noble experiment”.
If you have trouble with this one… well, hope you enjoy hi-balls! You lazy bums…
I’ve got a few more easy ones for you that I’ll be posting all this week. See you in the funny pages.
For my own, and to be made very brief, foray into this Hulabalooza we call Mixology Monday, the subject is Rum, and is being hosted here at Tradertiki.com! I have decided to descend down the dark path of some pitch black and fiery rums, and their cocktail interpretations as developed by Don the Beachcomber. Each drink features only the one rum, and not the usual blended variety of rums Don was known for, but the man could take one note and make a symphony (and a few bucks as well).
The first rum up is the ever-increasingly hard to find Aged Martinique. In this instance, I am using St. James Extra old, one of my favorite mixing rums, known for its smoky, spicy and wooden notes. I am, alas, an ounce or so away from another empty bottle. This is my sacrifice to you, Don the Beachcomber’s Donga Punch (Sippin’ Safari, page 35). Taking notes from the spiciness of the dram, Don added a mellowed and sweet spice with his Don’s Mix, a blend of Grapefruit and Cinnamon. Unfortunately, it was never written down exactly what grapefruit was used, but I feel that Melogold tends to work wonders in all things tiki. There is the aftertaste of bitter, but none of the harshness that can come with the red of its kind. When you’re working with this much lime, one souring ingredient can be quite enough. Of course, lime makes its way into the drink, giving the palate a refreshing breeze to open it up to feel the notes of the rum. This is a beautiful drink, and a strong example of Don’s mastery of mixing with Rum.
Next on the list to try, the Ron Pompero Aniversario, making its way to take place of Infierno, a long defunct 20 years aged Rum of Cuban Origin. This is a very dark and sweet aged rum, a product of Venezuela. It has plenty of the dark smoke and wood tones, as well as an almost tangy maple. The Aniversario pairs very well with a nice cigar, Partagas Black if you’ve got ‘em. Don took this Rum, well, the Infierno, and matched it with two of its best friends, Gomme and Lime, in a drink, very aptly titled Rum, Gomme, and Lime (Sippin’ Safari, page 40). Put in white or gold rum, you have a nice Daiquiri. Match the Gomme and Lime with a well-aged dark rum, and you’ve got a testament to the very foundations of Tiki culture, the modern cocktail, and Liquor et al. Yes, that’s plenty of ice filling that cup… the rum can take it, and still smile all the way down your throat.
Finally, in the cavalcade of Rums and Libations is that great old bugger that adds depth and kick to just about anything, Lemon Hart 151, from Lemon Hart. This well-utilized Demerara Rum tends to make its way across the Tiki drink spectrum, mixed in everything from its own 151 Swizzle, to Don’s infamous Zombie. By itself, this stuff is one helluva kick, smooth up front with plenty of burn in the back. The flavor, well, to be honest is about as smokey as an overused ashtray. Once put into a glass with a few ingredients, however, this spirit opens up like nothing else, adding depth and warmth and a true spirit of the islands to all it touches. The drink I’m putting this sucker in tonight is, for the third time on this site, the 151 Swizzle (Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log, page 45), consistently my last drink of the night whenever I visit Forbidden Island. Spice, syrup, lime, Herbsaint, and plenty of ice round out the spirit, giving it more sweetness, longevity, and enhancing the natural flavors. It calms the 151 down, and brings it right back up into full flavor. It’s a fantastic drink I highly recommend.
Well, that does it for this MxMo Rum! entry. I hope you enjoy the wrap up to be posted tomorrow. As of this time, there are 27 entries, and still a few heavy hitters that haven’t pitched in. I can stay up as late as you can fellas, I’ve got plenty of bottles of 151 left.
Originally known as the Pupule (Hawaiian for crazy), the Nui Nui was one of Don the Beachcomber’s original creations in his 1930s bar in Hollywood, and seems to have been fairly exclusive to the Don the Beachcomber restaurants and other of his haunts and creations. There don’t seem to be any copies of this on the non-Don tiki bar menus I’ve seen. Perhaps it’s because of the secrecy of the ingredients, or perhaps the name didn’t catch on.
You’d be lucky to find another like this classic on the menu at most tiki bars these days, but it holds a special place at Forbidden Island, and will be available on the special menu during Tiki Third Tuesday at Teardrop!
It’s a true call to tropical islands, with some cinnamon, dark rum, and a mixture known only as Don’s Spices #2.
Nui Nui in Hawaiian means very very, or very large. I think you’ll like this one very, very much. Be sure to be at Teardrop Lounge on Feb 19th and have one!