Take a Bibulous Vacation, Umbrella Optional.
In the early – or any — history of Tiki culture, there are two central names – Donn (aka Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt) and Vic (aka Victor Bergeron). If the former hadn’t opened Don the Beachcomber and the latter hadn’t launched Trader Vic’s, the world never would have discovered the escapist wonder of the potent tropical cocktail with a paper umbrella in it. Thanks to the meticulous research of folks like Jeff “Beach Bum” Berry and a slew of enthusiastic bartenders, Tiki culture is here to stay, even in the thick of winter.
The allure of the Tiki drink is rather obvious – fresh fruit juices combined with rum (usually) and served in whimsical glassware, which could be anything from a hollowed out pineapple to a skull to a mo’ai collins-style glass. What’s not to love? As Tanzy bartender Adam Seger observes, “Tiki culture is all about escapism. There is no better time of the year for Tiki than winter to indulge you in a retreat until summertime.
The Mai Tai, the Zombie, and the Planter’s Punch are all traditional Tiki drinks. But, while general appreciation of these concoctions goes without saying, the actual definition of what makes a Tiki drink is up for debate. “Tropical” doesn’t necessarily mean “Tiki.” In general, they tend to be strong – Donn Beach used to restrict his customer to two Zombies a person because they were so potent. They include fruit juices, often multiple ones, and frequently some sort of spice or spice mix. (It took Jeff Berry more than ten years of searching to uncover the secret recipe for “Don’s Mix.”)
In this day and age, when classic cocktails are being deconstructed faster than the films of John Hughes, you are likely to find variations on a theme that could set even the most creative bartender’s mind spinning. No longer are these modern iterations confined to rum. In the thick of winter, mix masters turn to other dark spirits like Cognac or Bourbon, as well as additional sweeteners like peach liqueur and bittering agents like amaro. In other cases, they are riffing on the old school versions to produce modern originals.
Why winter? According to Mixologist Adam Seger of Tanzy in Los Angeles, “Tiki culture is all about escapism. There is no better time of the year for tiki than winter to indulge you in a retreat until summertime.” Not only is Tiki particularly welcome in the colder, sometimes bleaker months, but also surprisingly logical. Beverage Director Dan Sabo, whose Kentucky Mai Tai is a fixture on the Ace Hotel’s rooftop bar menu, notes, “Though the normal association for Tiki is summer and tropical, the flavors of Tiki cocktails are very in tune with the winter season. All spice, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves… island spices are very akin to our concept of cold weather food and drink.”
With these musings in mind, why not shake up something Tiki today? Donn and Vic would be proud.
Tale of Two Raymonds
Courtesy of Jesus Gomez, 1886 Bar at the Raymond, Pasadena, CA
Of the drink, Gomez says, “The Tale of Two Raymonds is the perfect winter Tiki cocktail because it showcases many of our fresh or house-made ingredients that we offer year round, while still providing the warm nuances around the 4 spirit blend that can warm up any person.”
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
- 1/2 oz. Lime Juice
- 1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 1 oz. Grenadine
- 1 oz. Licor 43
- 3/4 oz. 5yr Rum
- 3/4 oz. Cognac
- 1/2 oz. Agricole Rum
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Hart 151 Rum
- Fresh Mint Sprig (for garnish)
- Pineapple Slice (brûléed, for garnish)
Preparation: Whip, dump, and swizzle all ingredients over crushed ice. Garnish with fresh mint & brûléed piece of pineapple.
Tiki God Cocktail “Float”
Courtesy of The Parlour at the Pavilion
The folks at the Parlour wanted to “offer guests a little reminder during winter that no matter how cold it may be outside, summer is just around the corner… Our cocktail floats are the perfect dessert option for people who want something a little lighter at the end of dinner or are craving something sweet along with their nightcap. Most meals we eat in the winter are heavy and rich. Since most of the cocktail floats are fruit based, with a lot of nice, bright acid notes, they work well in balancing out heavy winter meals.”
- 1 1/2 oz. Cola
- 1 oz. Malibu Rum
- Coconut Sorbet
- “Exotic” Sorbet (such as pineapple, mango, or other tropical fruit)
- Banana Chips (for topping)
- Candied Pineapple (for topping)
- Whipped Cream (for topping)
Preparation: Scoop sorbets in a bowl. Top with cola and rum. Sprinkle with banana chips, candied pineapple, and whipped cream.
Kentucky Mai Tai
Courtesy of Daniel Sabo, Ace Hotel
Sabo describes his drink thus: “With the Kentucky Mai Tai, the mix of the all spice of the Angostura, the bitterness of the Cynar, and the earthiness of the mezcal create a ‘cold-weather cocktail’ base, which is then brightened by pineapple, peach and bourbon to lend the feeling of Tiki escapism. The result is a very winter-oriented Tiki cocktail.”
- 1 oz. Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon
- 1 oz. Nuestra Soledad Mezcal Espadin Joven
- 1/2 oz. Combier Peche de Vigne
- 1/2 oz. Cynar
- 1/2 oz. Lemon
- 1/2 oz. Giffard Orgeat
- 1/2 oz. Pineapple Juice
- 6 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- Mint Sprig (for garnish)
- Cherry (for garnish)
- Pineapple Chunk (for garnish)
Preparation: Add all ingredients to a mixing tin (except bitters), add ice, cap and shake. Strain into a rocks glass half filled with crushed ice. Add more crushed ice until glass is full. Float Angostura bitters on top, then build a final mound of crushed ice on top. Place a mint sprig just off center of the ice mound, then place a cherry and a pineapple chunk on a spear directly on top. Add a straw and serve.
Courtesy of Adam Seger, CCP, Mixologist,Tanzy, Los Angeles
Adam Seger explains, “We start with sweet, young, Thai coconuts from Melissa’s World Variety Produce. Melissa’s works directly with growers in Thailand to pick their coconuts at the peak of coconut water nutrition and refreshment. We then scrape out the tender coconut meat and puree it with fresh pineapple and a touch of organic agave nectar to make the freshest piña colada humanly possible. We then add a California touch with crushed Pistachios for an added decadent texture.”
Makes 3 Pints, Serves 6
- Grilled Pineapple-Infused Rum (see below)
- Whole Pineapple
- Two Sweet, Young Thai Coconuts
- Agave Syrup (to taste)
- 1/4 cup Roasted, Unsalted California Pistachios
Preparation: Peel and core a golden pineapple (it should smell sweet and the leaves should come easily out of the top). Cut the pineapples in 3/4” thick planks. Grill with no oil on each side until browned and caramelized. Let cool and cut into chunks. Remove water and meat from two sweet, young, Thai coconuts. Of the total volume or coconut meat and water, add the same volume of equal parts grilled pineapple and pineapple juice. Add pistachios. Puree just until pistachios are small enough to easily drink. Add Grilled Pineapple infused rum and serve.
Grilled Pineapple-Infused Rum
- 750 ml Dark Rum
- 1 1/2 Cups Grilled Pineapple, cut into chunks
Preparation: Infuse for 72 hours, strain and re-bottle.