Category: Gratuitous shots at Al Gore
Gratuitous shots at Al Gore, Rum, Tiki Month 2012

Why Tiki Month?

I want to start to round up Tiki Month 2012 with an answer to a question I hope many of you have been asking all month, "Why Tiki Month?" Why am I posting as such a furious rate, changing my basic drinking habits, and otherwise driving my dear, suffering wife to distraction with this Polynesian potpourri? The first year I did it was to see what would happen. Many of my most favorite bloggers, Trader Tiki, Tiare, Dr. Bamboo, Colonel Tiki, and Kaiser Penguin were Tiki bloggers of one sort or another. I had tried virtually none of their stuff because I didn't view myself as a Tiki guy, and it all looked so hard. So I wanted an excuse to give a bunch of things a whirl.
Plus, he was looking for a blog stunt as a desperate plea for attention!
It was supposed to be a one-off experiment, just to see what it was all about and as an antidote to a Winter designed to make Al Gore feel (more) embarrassed about his life.... And I had fun. And the next year, as Winter set in once more... I couldn't help myself. Tiki Month 2010 was a bit more organized, both in my bar and here on the blog. I was discovering that getting your Tiki on is an acquired skill, one that gets better with practice. As I realized this, I decided that having some decent Tiki skills beyond just a good Mai Tai is an essential thing for any self-respecting cocktailian. I knew Tiki Month was a Thing then. 2011 was a breeze. I whipped through things, with lots of the basics already covered. I could delve into the auxiliary stuff, the cultural and artistic sides of Tikidom without it overwhelming me. and the drinks got easier. In response to Tiki Month last year, DJ Hawaiian Shirt wrote this insightful critique of Tiki and it's shortcomings:
1) Their construction is labor intensive; most of them require you to freshly squeeze at least one kind of citrus 2) They often require more than one type of rum, and since rum characters vary widely by where they're produced, you need at least a dozen or two varieties in order to capably adhere to recipes; it gets expensive 3) They require specialized equipment if you want to be efficient and/or proper, such as juicers, ice crushers, (real) swizzle sticks, and blenders 4) They often require rare (or even extinct) ingredients, such as orgeat, falernum, passionfruit syrup, cinnamon syrup, allspice dram, Cuban rum, and dark 151-proof demerara rum 5) They're complicated; a five-ingredient tiki drink is considered simple, and they sometimes have over a dozen ingredients 6) Because of all of these above, their construction is time consuming; between juicing the fruit, gathering all the bottles, measuring each ingredient, and then using specialized equipment, plenty of drinks take between 5 and 10 minutes to make, and some of them take even longer 7) Most tiki fans from which you might get help or advice will insist on using only the proper techniques, and that even the obscurest ingredient cannot be substituted
As Tiki Month 2012 kicked off, DJ whined about not having a genuine swizzle stick to make a 151 Swizzle. The smart-ass who's masquerading as "The Tiki Gods" in my comments insisted that he use only a real swizzle.... or a virgin. (The Tiki Gods seem really into virgins) DJ responded by resurrecting the above post. I meant to link it earlier at first, but it got me to thinking, and I left off commenting on it here until it was getting to wrap up time. The answer to DJ's criticisms of Tiki is the answer to why I keep doing Tiki Month. Tiki requires commitment to be any fun for anything other than a meticulously planned special event. It requires commitment to gather the knowledge to make it fun, and the skills to pull it off well. But just doing things for a long time doesn't really make Tiki work either. If you examine most folks who do Tiki well, it's all they do, drinks-wise. At first, I kind of thought this was because they were, well, weird.
Pot. Kettle.
Yeah, exactly. But that is not it. Let's address a few of DJ's complaints above, which I think encapsulate what most classic cocktail types think about Tiki.
  1. Boo Hoo. I juice limes for almost everything. Or I use RealLime after peeking behind the curtain to make sure CocktailNerd won't jump out and start bitching at me again. I ignore this one.
  2. I got 12 types of gin in my bar regularly. It is no skin off my nose to have many bottles of rum, a spirit with far greater variety in style than gin. For most booze nerds, this is also the case. Still nothing blocking Tiki.
  3. Yup. You do need some funky stuff for Tiki that may not be too useful for non-Tiki stuff. But who doesn't need a good blender anyway?
  4. Rare ingredients are again part and parcel of the modern booze nerd's oeuvre. But we are starting to get to the heart of the matter here.
  5. This also is on point. Not only do Tiki drinks have lots of ingredients, but those ingredients are not necessarily the same ones as even a first order cocktailian will have on hand as part of his regular inventory.
  6. Bingo. This is real heart of it all. There is a butt-load of perishable ingredients or preparations to make Tiki drinks—make them well at any rate.
  7. I think this seems like a bigger issue than it is. Tiki guys have all these specialized things on hand, so of course they assume you should use them. Fact is, there are lots of ways to finesse the more esoteric methods or ingredients. If you think that you have to do things the pain in the ass geek on the subject commands you... Have you met the Internet? A week on the web and you should realize that common sense is a needed companion when looking for answers hereabouts.
What all this comes down to is: For Tiki to be fun, it needs to achieve Critical Mass. You need several specialty syrups to execute some of the best drinks, and more to maintain any kind of variety from one round to the next. The produce you use may or may not be more than what you uses in regular drinks mixing, but it will be different produce for your normal needs. Dressing up yourself and your bar, and loading your iPod properly for the Tiki experience takes time and a change in routine. Bringing yourself up to speed for Tiki takes time. Do it only 28 times a year means spooling yourself up 28 times. It's a mess. But do it 28 days in a row, and you spool up once.

Feel the power of Critical Mass!
In late January, I place an order with Okolemaluna for certain syrups I don't want to make myself. I go online and order a few bottles of hooch that I can't get in Ohio, but that I know I will want. I pick up a new shirt or two, and order any other new Tiki elements I want to have show up as the month progresses to enrich the experience. I make a few modifications to my bar's ready rack of equipment, make up the fresh ingredients I need, and keep them in stock. I alter my produce buys. I then alter it further when my daughter discovers the joy of fresh pineapple juice and keeps drinking me dry.... And when it is cocktail time, for the entire month of February, I just toss on my shirt, don my fez, and go downstairs. A new drink, or repeat performer, is now really no more time-consuming than a regular cocktail. All because I have achieved Tiki Critical Mass. It's a bit of work up front, but that pays off all month. And voila, Tiki is easy! And at the end of the month, I box everything up, pour out any leftovers, and go on an Old-Fashioned binge. My guests and I have enjoyed a month of awesomeness and variety, I've learned a lot, and I've made something cool accessible to me.
And he's gotten a whole month's worth of material for his blog stunt that begs for the attention he still desperately craves!
Yeah. That too. If you crave Tiki, but like me do not want to make the metamorphosis into a Tiki Idol, here's the secret: Pick out a couple of weeks in a row, or even a month, and take a vacation to the South Seas. Immerse yourself and your friends. Have a fun time, and one that will be surprisingly easy and convenient. Then put it all away and go back to Sazeracs and Martinis, until the next time the mood calls you. As for when would be a good time to achieve your own Tiki Critical Mass, may I suggest next February?
We'll be here!
Yes, we will.abc
2011 Bar Crawl, Gratuitous shots at Al Gore, reviews

Barcrawl Review: Jack Rose in Washington, DC

Our second stop on our first night of the Great Cross-Country Barcrawl was the new Jack Rose, which is an easy walk south of our prior stop of the evening, Bourbon. It is located in the same Adams Morgan neighborhood in northern Washington, DC that I described before. And Jack Rose has the same owner. As it happens, our visit was during the first week of their soft opening, with only the rooftop bar open. Even with that limited taste of what one will experience in this fully-armed and operational battlestation bar, it was plainly a special place Jack Rose is a two-story operation with a gigantic, high-roofed, main room, boasting a bar that runs the length of the establishment and along the back wall as well. The second floor is mostly open rooftop, which wasn't hideous to be out on after dark, despite the record heat-wave that always attacks Washington whenever Maggi and I come to town. (This effect is similar to the snowstorm which shuts down most speeches Al Gore gives on Global Warming....) There is a cool open pit bar-be-que on the patio, a satellite bar that in most joints would be pretty luxurious in its own right, and a small, air-conditioned room at one end with its own small bar and a fireplace. I assume this is intended for private events and tastings, as well as a refuge for rainy evenings where the main bar is over-crowded. I wanted to include this picture from the construction of Jack Rose to give you an idea of the scale, among other things, of the main floor and its bar. The bar is 54 feet long, with about 30 seats. it is without a doubt the longest bar of any we visited in this trip. More impressively, note the shelving on the wall. Although still some weeks from opening, these shelves were (only partially) stocked when we looked in through the window on our way out. You have not seen such a sea of brown liquor in your life. Jack Rose has a heavy emphasis on scotch, and most every bottle on that wall (and the back, and the opposite wall) is different from the one sitting next to it. I don't understand how they will know where to find anything specific when up and fully running. To be honest, my first thought upon looking inside was that you couldn't possibly pass fire code with that much accelerant being stored in a public space. I noted in my last post that Bourbon's whiskey selection was slightly over the top. I shudder to think how crazy Jack Rose's spirit list will be, but it will number comfortably into four figures. The food at Jack Rose looks to be a pretty wide selection, with the aforementioned wood-fired BBQ, some of the tavern food selections found at Bourbon, and other, more eclectic offerings. We didn't eat anything here ourselves, and I'm not sure the whole menu was available the night we were there anyway. I concentrated on cocktails at Jack Rose, in no small part because I couldn't reasonably handle any more straight brown liquor and still pay attention. The Mint Julep I had was quite good (almost as delicious as are my own), with perfect crushed ice that I can't duplicate and served in a real metal cup. (Metal cups for juleps and mules are making a little comeback of late. We'll see how long this trend lasts before d-bags steal enough of them to stamp it back out.) The other cocktails were similarly well made and well presented. Drinking at Jack Rose does have the feel of a high-end craft bar, as opposed to Bourbon, which almost down-plays the experience. The upstairs and down will have different drink menus (at least), with the patio concentrating on more summery or even Tiki-inspired drinks, and most of that marvelous whisk(e)y inventory only on sale on the main floor. The ingredients and presentation are top-notch. Now, given the sheer, mind-boggling array of raw spirits choices to sift through at Jack Rose, the cocktails will still pale a little in comparison. That is no reflection on the apparent skill on offer, in both classic and modern concoctions. It's just a simple artifact of the size of that elephant in the room. When we arrived, I had the chance to say hello briefly to owner Bill Thomas, who looked happy but harried about how things were going at his three day old bar, which I took as a good sign for both him and his customers. We also manged to get a table in the air-conditioned room I mentioned, where we were joined by the inimitable Harvey Fry. Harvey is part of the team who helped create Jack Rose, though he isn't on the payroll. I'd call him a sort of Uber-Customer, who has worked very hard with Bill to ensure that the place is a mind-blowing experience for newbies and the most avid of whiskey connoisseurs alike. And Harvey is well-qualified to judge how well they have succeeded. Much of the inventory here comes from his private stash. Frankly, I wish I'd been a bit more sober when we met. The amount of knowledge to be had from this (calculatedly) disreputable-looking Santa Claus was practically infinite. The fact that each point he made about whisky was illustrated with the production of a new pharmacy cough medicine bottle filled with the appropriate scotch from his voluminous suspendered trousers left me bemused and, eventually, hammered. For a much more detailed examination of the phenomenon that is Harvey Fry, and a photograph in which he looks positively dapper compared to the evening we met, check out this article in Washingtonian Magazine. I don't care who you are, there is much for you to learn about whisk(e)y at Jack Rose. The brain trust is incredible, and the inventory beyond most folks lifetime and means to completely explore. The cocktails are delicious, and if not so all-encompassing, still every bit the entertaining education a good craft bar should be. I can't personally vouch for the food, but from what I've seen, it looks to be similarly high-end. It is almost too much of a palace for a pop-in dinner, but I'd say it is both a wonderful asset for local diners and drinkers, and will be an essential stop for cocktailians and liquorati who are visiting DC. (For another review of Jack Rose, written by Matt Hamlin, who visited with us, check out this post. From the date, it's based on the same visit, and the one he'd made the day before.) This review is part of my larger Great Cross-Country Bar Crawl series. Here is the main post for our Washington stop, with links to all reviews for DC.abc
Funny, Gratuitous shots at Al Gore, Whisky

Booze News You (Sadly Can’t) Use

Whisky on (Antarctic) ice Via Mætenloch, comes this fascinating tidbit of a news story from GlobalPost: Two cases of whisky that were part of the supplies of the great antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, have been discovered in the crawlspace beneath one of his summer cottages, located in Cape Royds, Antarctica. Strong drink was (and probably is) an important part of surviving a Summer in Antarctica. With mind-numbing wind and snow, unrelenting darkness, and giant, flesh-eating penguins lurking outside your shelter, you need booze just to get some sleep. (I may have made up that last threat.) What surprises me about this find is that there were two cases still left over! Shackleton, incidentally, seems to have been a fairly rational dude, a trait for which polar explorers were not generally known. On the expedition which ended up leaving all this booze behind, he turned back about 100 miles from the pole, telling his wife, I thought you’d rather have a live donkey than a dead lion. The article is a good read, so click the link above and enjoy. I'll just poach two more items. First, the last line of the piece, a quote from Richard Paterson, of Whyte & Mackay, which owns the brand of the whisky Shackleton left behind, will tell you absolutely everything you need to know about the makers of all Scotch Whisky:
"It's been laying there lonely and neglected," he said. "Can it not come back to Scotland where it was born?"
Second, as I write this, there are four comments on the story, which encapsulate virtually all that is silly about Internet comments. The first contains speculation that reveals that "david wayne osedach" clearly didn't read the article. The second is from NorthernExposure, who clearly is massively more sensible than any of the experts on the scene. Chazmotic posts the third, sarcastic reply, wherein he belittles the second in multiple ways. And finally RonnieB turns the discussion pointlessly to politics, although I will grant that he manages to be mildly funny in so doing. UPDATE: A team from New Zealand has announced an expedition this year to rescue a few bottles of the whisky, making this the world's most expensive, long-distance booze run. Further Update: The team has successfully extracted five cases of liquor from the ice. They believe that there are some bottles still intact, as they can hear it sloshing around inside. In a fun development, they have discovered that two of the crates are brandy, not whisky.abc
Gratuitous shots at Al Gore, Recipes, Tequila, Tiki Month 2009

Tiki Drink: Pinky Gonzales

pinky-gonzales-real Let's try another recipe from Trader Vic's Tiki Party, shall we? Here we go:
PINKY GONZALES
  • 2 oz. Inocente tequila
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice, save the lime half.
  • .5 oz. Cointreau
  • .25 oz. simple syrup
  • .25 oz. orgeat
  • 2 cups crushed ice
Shake all thoroughly together and pour without straining in to a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with the spent lime half, and whatever else looks good from the produce department.
This is a decent little low-ball cocktail. Given all the Mai Tai mania that has gripped the cocktailosphere lately, it should be apparent to many of you that this is essentially the Trader's take on a Mai Tai with tequila. The Pinky Gonzales is certainly sweet, but it's not sticky or cloying. There are a lot of flavors here and they open up in your mouth as you sip, with that tequila bite showing up on the back end. It is very clean on the mouth afterwards, which is an odd feature of a lot of tequila drinks. Tequila has that funk that announces itself in no uncertain terms, but that funk also seems to clear the decks behind it. Of course, tequila will clear the decks cognitively too, if you let it. inocenteI'll throw in a word or two here about the tequila I used, Inocente. This triple-distilled white tequila is one of the gentlest tequila's I've ever encountered. If you like the funky background in Margaritas, but stay away from other tequila cocktails because of the severely in your face character of the spirit, Inocente is a damn good tequila to broaden your horizons with. If you intend to do some shots, and want to make sure your crowd will go for a second round, Inocente is a very smooth choice that should scare off the minimum number of drinkers. If the softness of the liquor is not sufficient incentive, you can tell them that the company claims that the triple distillation process reduces the hangover-inducing contaminants. If you are a serious connoisseur of tequila, you may find Inocente a bit bland, or over-processed. That's OK, no liquor should be all things to all people, or we'd have no need for all this wonderful variety we have. As a final note, the bottle they use is gorgeous, and deserves a spot on your display shelf. When I finish this bottle, I'll be reusing it in-house, either on the bar for infusions, or in the bath for homemade bath unguents. Reduce—Reuse—Recyle! So how does the Pinky Gonzales compare to its progenitor? Is it better than a classic Mai Tai? Hush your mouth! It lacks the melded depth of the Mai Tai, probably because tequila lacks the depth of old or mixed rums. I considered that this might be put down to the Inocente's purity, but I imagine that if you used a more full-flavored (more impurity-laden?) tequila, you would get less meld more than more depth. Overall, the drink is still a nice little diversion. I'll probably make it again for myself at some point, and I'll certainly keep its recipe on hand in the event a guest wants something with tequila and it's a Tiki night. And there are some other more general things to discuss about Tiki that the Pinky Gonzales illustrates. I had never thought of the spent lime halves I produce so many of these days (shut up, Gabe!) as having any use beyond clogging the disposal. Yet, this was only the first of many drinks I've run across which employs the lime shell as a proposed garnish. It works surprisingly well. A lot of Tiki garnishes seem a bit of a waste of good ingredients, but this one is essentially free. Reduce—Reuse—Recycle! See? Wouldn't Al Gore be proud? I'll bet that Pinky Gonzaleses are all they serve at his house.... Finally, I gotta talk about the name: Pinky Gonzales. It's... well, it's a bit stupid really. And I'm sure it's politically incorrect. (Maybe the staff doesn't serve these at Chez Gore.) BOTI member Dr. Bamboo examined the whiff of blasphemous that appealed to stuffed-shirt WASPs of the old days. Perhaps the tinge of politically incorrect that pervades most of Tiki (not just the Pinky Gonzales) is part of the resurgent appeal of Tiki today. Political religions aside, the name is silly. And lots of Tiki Drinks have silly names, e.g. Doctor Funk of Tahiti, The Colonel's Big Opu, and The Zombie. Before the month is out, I'm going to come up with one decent Tiki drink of my own and give it a completely ridiculous name....abc
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