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What a fabulous surprise I encountered last Sunday—Drink has re-started Tiki Sundays! I had been in a bad-ish mood before arriving, but the sight of the bartenders in tropical shirts and wrist bands changed everything. The beauty of Tiki is that it has the power to wash away all your cares. I mean, how can you stay grumpy when your drink is served in a glass that looks like a tropical island deity, and if you’re lucky, you have one of those cute little paper umbrellas (seriously, I love those things!). It is escapism. It is a bit silly. It borders on tacky, but it’s cool because of its tackiness. Oh, and the drinks are absolutely DELICIOUS!
Tiki drinks are generally characterized by a combination of rum (often a mixture of various types), citrus and unique flavors that comes from some special syrup or flavoring. That makes these cocktails sound simple but that’s not exactly the truth. They are often quite complex, often with 6+ ingredients. And they are deceivingly potent– the juices and syrups can mask the strong booziness that lurks within that mint garnished glass. And the novelty factor plays into the whole thing. These drinks are about taste and presentation. One of the drinks I had on Sunday was Joe Staropoli’s Jamaican Bobsled is a great example of this. The drink features two rums, dark cacao, all-spice dram, ginger syrup and tiki bitters. I loved that this cocktail was amazingly spicy—that wonderful spice from the ginger and all-spice that lingers on your tongue. That’s the taste. Now take a look at the presentation.
Tiki bars emerged in the 1930s and 1940s as upscale nightspots. In the early 1930s, Ernest Gantt, aka Donn Beach, opened Don’s Beachcomber Cafe– a tropically decorated place that served rum drinks and “Polynesian” food. A few years later, the restaurant changed its name to the now famous, Don the Beachcomber. Competition arose as Victor Bergeron followed in Donn’s footsteps by opening Trader Vic’s in Oakland. These were the hotspots where celebrities like Bing Crosby, Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes went to see, be seen and enjoy a delicious cocktail like a Zombie or a Mai-tai (by the way, both Donn and Vic claim the creation of the Mai-tai).
I am so happy that Drink continues the tradition of these cocktail pioneers and serves up awesome drinks the likes of which are best enjoyed with a group of friends in the presence of a small figure made from two coconuts who happens to be wearing a grass skirt.
Stayed tuned for more from Tiki Sundays. Cheers!