Home' Bars and Clubs : BAC Spt-Oct 2017 Contents inspiration
WHERE DID YOUR OBSESSION WITH TIKI START?
When I was six years old. I was taken to one of these
places in the 1960s when I was child and it was just
completely immersive. They had an indoor waterfall,
even the carpet had a Polynesian print on it and there
was a little dawn to dusk diorama of an island scene
behind the bar. When I was old enough to drink I went to
a few of those places and the drinks were as good as they
looked. This was in the 1980s -- the dark age of cocktails,
when everything devolved and became prepackaged
mixes -- and you couldn't get a good cocktail to save your
life. But Tiki places were still doing what they'd always
done with fresh ingredients and really teasing, elusive
flavours that I could not pass.
WAS THE SECRECY AROUND TIKI DRINKS ALLURING
Yeah, it was detective story. And this was just my hobby
back then, I didn't want to be Trader Vic, I wanted to be
Stanley Kubrick. I was in the movie business. But I liked
going to tiki bars, I like drinking the drinks and I like
learning how to make them. I very quickly realised in
looking for the recipes -- I was a journalist as well -- going
to the library and looking up things on a microfilm, and
no internet of course, and going to used book stores and
swap meets and yard sales and trying to find old bar
guides, there was almost nothing.
Then I started to meet some of the old timers or
their sons, daughters, grandkids and they would tell me
these were very valuable trade secrets: you did not give
these recipes out. Don the Beachcomber was famously
secretive. He put his recipes in code. So if there was
a new hire he didn't know he could trust, the recipes
would have quarter ounce number four, quarter ounce
number 2, dash number eight. Half an ounce 'munrelaf'
and that's what the bartender would read and that's
what the labels on the back bar would have on them.
THE BARTENDING COMMUNITY IS A LOT MORE OPEN
NOW -- HOW DO YOU THINK THAT COMPARES TO THE
SECRECY OF THE GOLDEN AGE?
The ethos now just seems to be completely open-
sourced. Now, that's not always the smartest thing to
be. I've had my recipes put on other bar menus without
Tiki legend Jeff 'Beachbum' Berry recently visited Australia for
the frst time to co-host De Kuyper The Works for 2017. Madeline
Woolway sat down with the Beachbum in Sydney to pick his brain
on all things Tiki – and capture some of the master’s wisdom.
credit. And if they do credit you, then they get it wrong
and you don't look good. So, now that I've crossed-over
from being a drinks writer to being a saloon-keeper I'm
not completely convinced open-source is the right way
to go -- it can hurt your business. But, it can also help
build your reputation and more often than not people
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE'S BEEN A RESURGENCE IN
TIKI IN RECENT YEARS?
Historically, if I may give you a long answer to a short
question, the worse things get in the world the better it
is for Tiki. Tiki has always thrived when things are at the
crappiest. It started during the depression and it had a
real shot in the arm during World War II. It was the worst
conflagration in human history and people were freaked
out and they needed an escape. They needed two hours
in an immersive environment that made them forget
about all that stuff. That carried all the way through the
1950s -- the age of nuclear paranoia.
Then you look at today and look what we've got:
you've got climate change happening at a rate that
means our children might not be on a planet they
can survive on, and certain governments aren't doing
anything about it. Then there's perpetual war and the
constant threat of terrorism. And then in the United
States you have the rise of fascism again and that's
horrible for the American people, but it's great for tiki.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION PEOPLE HAVE
ABOUT TIKI DRINKS?
They are never sweet -- if they're done right. This is the
biggest misconception people have if they've never been
to a proper Tiki bar. We get people coming into Latitude
29 saying they don't like sweet drinks and we say, in
the politest possible way, we don't serve sweet drinks.
We serve balanced drinks. The sour element is just as
important as the sweet element. Also, the whole idea
they came from the South Pacific is complete nonsense.
It's a really weird faux-Polynesian thing, it was developed
in mid-century America as a pop-culture phenomenon.
The term my friend Sven Christensen, who was the first
to chronicle the phenomenon, has termed it Polynesian
pop, which I think sums it up pretty nicely.
Links Archive BAC Jul-Aug 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page