Home' Bars and Clubs : BAC Jul-Aug 2017 Contents T
iki has been on the comeback for many years now. Its
revival has excited many bartenders keen to throw off the
suspenders and flat caps in favour of colourful Hawaiian
shirts. Guests too are excited by the Tiki movement; bored by
classic cocktails they seek a more exciting and stimulating
environment provided by the modern Tiki bar.
To be successful, the modern Tiki bar must capture the true
essence of what the godfathers of Tiki set out to create, like Don
the Beachcomber and Trader Vic who created true paradises in
areas that needed them.
TIKI HISTORY: A CRASH COURSE
Tiki started with Don the Beachcomber. In the mid-1930s, Earnest
Raymond Beaumont-Gantt was building himself a reputation
tending bar and creating amazing rum based cocktails. These ‘Rum
Rhapsodies’ gained him fame and he used that fame to launch his
own Polynesian themed restaurant.
Don had hit upon a winning idea: giving people an escape, and
a place to go and forget about the real world for a while. This is
the true magic of Tiki. Not only was his idea great, but teamed
up with his expertise with rum cocktails and his flair for exciting
and intriguing names (like the Missionary’s Downfall) he gave the
people what they needed, a tropical themed escape where they
could hide from the doldrums of the Great Depression.
While Don may be the father of Tiki, Victor Bergeron, who went
by Trader Vic, took it to the next level. Vic was a born showman
who took his sense of theatre and really applied it to the Tiki model
that Don had created. He began to create Tiki myths and legends
(starting with himself, of course) like the character of Trader Vic,
telling his customers tall tales about losing his leg to a shark and
inviting guests to stab his wooden leg for a laugh. In reality he had
lost his leg to tuberculosis as a child.
The Trader set out to provide his guests with unending
entertainment and excitement, not only with his drinks but also in
the way he interacted with them.
RUM AND TIKI’S RELATIONSHIP OF CONVENIENCE
When asked about Tiki culture today, most people’s first
association would be rum – but Tiki is far more than just rum. In
fact, rum’s association with Tiki began out of necessity, the spirit
being cheap and plentiful just as Tiki was beginning to find its feet.
It was far cheaper for a bar owner to purchase quality rum
than a whisky or other spirit of similar quality, so Tiki bartenders
became rum experts and learnt to layer flavours to create stunning
and complex drinks.
True tiki bartenders are experts at layering flavours within
drinks, and their drinks are balanced masterpieces that showcase
the sum of the ingredients used. This began to change in the 1970s
as consumer habits changed and cheaper, mass-produced, low-
quality ingredients like sour mix were flooding the market, with
bars starting to serve overly sweet and fruity drinks and trying to
pass them off as Tiki.
TIKI IN 2017
In the modern day there has been a return to quality Tiki
ingredients. Traditional syrups like Falernum, a traditional
Barbadian lime, ginger and clove syrup; Orgeat, a French almond
syrup with added rose or orange blossom, and true Grenadine – not
the brightly coloured, but lacking in flavour red-coloured syrup –
have all been making comebacks and are now readily available to
1. MAI TAI: Perhaps no other drink has been more
widely debated than the Mai Tai. Both of the Tiki
greats, Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic, lay
claim to this heavenly Tiki classic, an alluring mix of
dark rum, Orange Curaçao, Orgeat, sugar and lime.
Originally cited as using a Wray and Nephew 17yo
rum, which Trader Vic ‘recreated’ with a combination
of Jamaican, West Indian and Martinique rums.
2. SCORPION BOWL: Taking from the tradition of
sharing Kava bowls found throughout the Pacific, the
Scorpion packs a sting to share between friends.
Puerto Rican rum, brandy, orange and lemon
juices all sweetened with the quintessentially Tiki
3. FOG CUTTER: A Tiki classic that shows the depth
of its creator’s talent. Not just a one-trick pony, this
potent potion layers both gin and brandy in with a
lighter style rum and a sweet sherry float – proving
that not all Tiki drinks are just about rum.
4. DON’S ZOMBIE: There are many legends
surrounding Don’s Zombie. Said to raise you from the
dead but not quite to life, Don called his Zombie “a
mender of broken dreams”. For years the Zombie’s
secret was kept and many tried to recreate this
heady blend of rums, grenadine, Pernod and the
infamous Don’s Mix. It wasn’t until Jeff “Beachbum”
Berry finally unlocked the secret recipe that we now
all know: Don’s Mix was a grapefruit and cinnamon
syrup. And remember: there’s always a two
5. SUFFERING BASTARD: Proving that not all Tiki
classics are about heavily fruity combinations, the
Suffering Bastard is definitely a lighter drink: gin
and brandy shaken with Rose’s Lime Cordial and
Angostura Bitters then topped with ginger beer.
Refreshing and light for when you’ve had enough fruit
juice for one night.
6. PAINKILLER: Created in 1971 at the Soggy
Dollar Bar and trademarked in 1990 by Pusser’s
Rum Company, the Painkiller is often at odds with
bartenders who don’t agree with trademarking drinks.
No matter your opinion the Painkiller is still tasty.
Similar to a Piña Colada but with an aged rum to add
some extra depth, and orange juice to add a little
lightness and complexity. The traditional nutmeg
garnish highlights the spice in the aged rum perfectly.
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