Once upon a time, a long time ago, there was an age of drinking called the Tiki Era. It was a perfect storm of circumstances and personalities that illustrates my contention that drinking defines and is defined by all peoples in general and America in particular. Tiki arose from the fact that The Noble Experiment and the Second World War had left a nation where rum was one of the few spirits available in quantity and quality at a reasonable price. The exposure of millions of American men to the South Pacific environment made fertile ground for Tiki’s faux Polynesian vibe. The agricultural revolution in California, Hawaii and elsewhere were changing and expanding the fruits and juices available. Labor was cheap and government regulation was light. And a man named Don and another named Vic, friends and bitter competitors, formed the tenets of Tiki and drove it to dizzying heights of creativity in a manner not unlike another rivalry in another industry between guys named Steve and Bill.
The first embers of Tiki flared in the 1930s, and it erupted like a volcano in the late 1940s. It spread across the US, establishing with its faux pagan shenanigans that America was not quite the stultifying land in those days that it seemed. Then, after but a decade to two, the torch guttered and began to go out.
The slow, ignominious death of the Tiki Era was due to the slow passing of the factors I noted above, and other reasons. But what is important is that as the original temples of Tiki slipped into the night, the knowledge that built them disappeared even faster. As the Millennium approached, a general rediscovery of the well-made cocktail led to a nascent revival of interest in the early, glorious Tiki drinks. But there was no knowledge to feed this hunger. There were never any good books of recipes and knowledge produced in the days of Tiki’s greatness. The Tiki gods were jealous of their secrets, it was part of the charm.
Bartenders and home mixers had no easy way to copy the glorious old drinks. Some might have had fragments of knowledge, a recipe or two. Others had only the debased versions from the end of the era to emulate, such as frozen Daiquiris, syrupy Pina Coladas, and Mai Tais made with grenadine or Hawaiian Punch. Most attempts to emulate the glory days were either stillborn for lack of knowledge, or discarded in disgust.
Enter a beach bum.
Jeff Berry is a bartender. Beyond that, I know nothing of his background. I could ask him, but it’s more fun not to know. He might have three advanced degrees for all I know. But I doubt it. And it wouldn’t be half as much fun if he did, because Jeff Berry is one of the more successful and accomplished legit cultural anthropologists working in America today.
Did someone say, “nutritional anthropologist”?
Yes, but I didn’t mean you, Deb. Go bother Alton.
Beachbum Berry set out in the 1990’s to find, preserve, publish, and popularize the Lost Knowledge of the Tiki Gods™. He has dug and scrounged through trash heaps, attics, and defunct watering holes. He has interviewed and cajoled. He uncovered secrets and decoded archives. In short, he has conducted a more than decade long investigation and preservation of lost knowledge. And he has popularized his research with several books on Tiki drinks, food and history. Jeff thinks he’s a bartender. Too bad, because I think he is more of a social scientist than most who actually try to lay claim to the title.
Last Tiki Month, I reviewed his early work, Beachbum Berry’s Grog Log. Recently, I was sent an autographed copy of his latest, Beach Bum Berry Remixed for review. The cover letter suggested that after I read it, I might offer it as a contest prize…
Like I’m going to give away a signed copy of this book.
Remixed is a compilation of Grog Log, and another of the Bum’s works, Intoxica! (Now likely out of print forever) Remixed combines and re-organizes all the recipes from the other two books, adds a ton of new, tasty pours to explore, and garnishes with lots of short, enjoyable excursions into the history and minutiae of the Tiki Era. It is lavishly illustrated with color photographs and graphics from Tiki bars and restaurants of that time. It also has three distinct and useful indexes, as well as a detailed glossary.
Of particular note is the section listing and describing the sea of different rum types. If you are into cocktails with rum at all, buy the book just for this section. It is indispensable for any and all, unless you have a certain bearded hipster lying around your living room.
Remixed is that rare find among cocktail books: a definitive resource that is also a good read. Pick up a copy. At its current price on Amazon (and Prime eligible!), it’s a steal.
The following product, Beachbum berry Remixed, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
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