Tiki Drink: The Best Year


Let’s look at a Tiki drink from the twilight of the Tiki Era, 1975. Rome may not have been sacked yet, but you could smell Alaric and the Visigoths in the neighborhood. This drink, called The Best Year, won the United States Bartending Guild’s National Championship for its creator, Bobby Batugo. Thus, this drink was pretty much state of the art, not just for Tiki, but for bartending in the US in general in 1975…. I think the name is somewhat ironic.

Here’s the recipe:

THE BEST YEAR

  • 3 oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 3/4 oz. Licor 43
  • 3/4 oz. blue curacao
  • 3/4 oz. Rose’s lime cordial
  • 2 1/4 oz. vodka
  • 8 oz crushed ice

Combine in a blender and blend at high speed until smooth. Pour into a tulip glass, adding crushed ice to fill. Garnish with a paper umbrella and other mass-produced Tiki garnishes.

To be precise, Batugo specifies a pineapple spear toothpicked to a cherry and a sprig of mint.

Ok, vodka? In a Tiki drink? Great Tiki drinks have complex, subtle flavors. Vodka is primarily an accelerant, that is best used to give simple flavors an alcoholic punch.

And Blue Curacao? This is nothing but its manufacturer’s plain curacao or triplesec, with blue food coloring added. Blue Curacao is used in drinks to make them blue, period. A bartender could make a better tasting drink with Cointreau and blue food coloring, but it would affect the Tiki-illusion, I guess.

And Rose’s? Is this a Gimlet? I thought not. And if it ain’t a Gimlet, Rose’s doesn’t mean quality.

Aaaand a blender. Blenders are awesome for Tiki drinks, but it wasn’t until the end times that we ran those suckers for 30 seconds and left the drink with the consistency and appearance of a Blue Raspberry Icee.

Without tasting this, when I looked at it, I could tell it was bland, sweet, blue, mushy, unchallenging, blue, kitschy, and above all, blue. Just the thing for coked-up, underfed celebrities wanting to look fabulous at Studio 54.


If this was in color, you could see the blue on their lips….

So why’d I make it? Well, because it’s blue. And I’m a sucker for blue drinks. Have been ever since I was 12 and had a blue kiddie cocktail at some place in San Francisco (maybe Trader Vic’s?). Incidentally, they made my kiddie cocktail with actual Blue Curacao… but hey, it was the 70s. I’m just lucky they didn’t rim the glass in a sugar/cocaine mix.

I also wanted to try a late Tiki-era cocktail, most of which I avoid when looking for new trys. This was considered a good one. And you know what?
It’s fine.
Really, it is a pleasant, tasty drink, and just looks fun. To be sure, like Oakland, “there is no there there” (once Trader Vic’s left anyway), but its flavors are pleasant, and it is not too sweet to quench a thirst. If you need a blue drink, you could do worse.

You could also do better. I’ll direct you to a light, funky, and exotic Tiki drink, still blue, but with much more going on, the Bloo Marlin, which I included with my first discussion of Orgeat two years ago.

You can read more about The Best Year in Beachbum Berry Remixed, or in his recipe app, Tiki+.

And hey! This post is part of Tiki Month 2012 here at the Pegu Blog! Be sure to look around for LOTS more Tiki stuff all February!


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  1. Jordan

    11 February

    Yeah, the Marlin is actually a really good drink, especially if you make it with rhum agricole. That really funks things up in a good way.

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  2. Tiare

    12 February

    Hm…i think i`d rather try the Marlin…I`m not exactly superfond of vodka.

    I know..i know..i had two posts in a row about a flavored King Cake vodka – but that was an exception because it´s a Mardi Gras thing…and to my surprise i have never got so many hits and likes ever before on my blog..seems like people rather drink vodka than rum.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Jordan

    12 February

    @Tiare

    Alas…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. mickeymammoth

    8 April

    I just tried this drink tonight, and I really liked it. I’m kind of attracted to the sweet, slushy drinks, so your mileage may vary. I think you could elevate it with real lime juice and simple syrup, and perhaps a light rum? The good thing about the vodka is it lets the Cuarenta y Tres etc. shine. Mine ended up kind of green…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. Doug

    10 April

    mickeymammoth,

    I’m not quite sure why the vodka instead of a white, vodka-y rum like Bacardi, except it was for a contest, and who knows who the sponsor was….

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. Thanks for Bobby Batugo’s recipe. I am trying to find his Blue Lapu Lapu which I used to drink in the 70’s at Tip’s. Do you have that?

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  7. Doug

    11 July

    Steve Kassel, MFT,

    Not a chance, alas. If YOU find it, let me know!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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