I thought it would be interesting to put up a list of what I view as the single best value out there in each of the six great cocktail spirit categories. To be clear, these are hardly the best exemplars of Whiskey (North American), Rum, Gin, Brandy, Tequila, and Vodka, nor are they the cheapest. Far from it in both instances. These hit the sweet spot where the price and quality curves intersect. Prices, of course, will vary wherever you are, and in what mood the bottlers, distributors, and Chet behind the counter are in... These bottles also are Swiss Army Knife products, in that they aren't just good, they work well pretty much across the spectrum of drinks you might make with each. There might be a better gin, price to quality, if you only make Dry Martinis with it, but that gin might not be so great a value in an Alexander or a Pegu. So let's begin.
The Lazy Bear is a six year old original by Jacob Grier, the only Barista/Street Magician/Blogger/Bartender/Think Tank Fellow either you or I know. He created this drink, not as a Tiki drink, but as an accompaniment for taco truck food at a wedding reception. (San Francisco, right?) I took a look at it for Tiki Month this year due to a tip from DJ Hawaiian Shirt, who blogged about it three years ago and firmly declared it a Tiki drink. Frankly, I had my doubts about this categorization when I looked at the recipe. Rye is really not a traditional Tiki ingredient, after all. But DJ is right. The Lazy Bear is quite spiritous for a Tiki Drink, but the vibe is there, especially with the tiny change The Shirt makes to Jacob's original recipe. To make sure it works as part of a Tiki presentation, you do need to amp the garnish, but the flavors are there, and pair very will with lots of traditional Tiki food flavors.
LAZY BEARIt really is quite good. It also can be presented as a non-Tiki drink just as easily, which is nice. It also is a great way to get someone to try rye if they have been shy of that before. All in all, another great example of modern Tiki invention.abc
- 3/4 oz. dark Jamaican rum, e.g. Smith & Cross
- 3/4 oz. American rye whiskey
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz. honey syrup
- 3 dashes "Spiced Bitters"*
I have actually blogged the Nui Nui before, back in 2011. A Don the Beachcomber invention from the 30's, it is an excellent cocktail that I had lost track of. I won't forget it again, as for someone who is just getting interested in old-school Tiki recipes, it is an absolute winner. I went back to it in the wake of my last post about flash blending, cracked ice, etc. Interestingly, I'm blogging the Nui Nui because it actually undermines the point I was making in the prior post!
NUI NUIThe actual instructions for the Nui Nui are the Beachcomber's favorite "flash blend for five seconds." If you do this, especially with cracked ice, the drink gets too diluted, to my taste at least. The Nui Nui is both delicious and fraught with issues, and over dilution makes those issues worse. The flavor profile of the Nui Nui is absolutely stereotypical of the core drink style of 30s and 40s Tiki. It is a delicious juice bomb with undefinable flavors. It is well-balanced and not overly strong in flavor or booze content, and that is why it is so vulnerable to over-dilution, which turns those strengths into a weakness. The second issue is that it needs not just one, but two specialty syrups, which places this drink squarely in the wheelhouse of special occasion or hardcore Tiki-phile use. For a new Tiki drinker, it is a great introduction to the core "Tiki Vibe" of what I associate with the classic catalog. Once you have tried a score or so of Don's other recipes, and a score of Trader Vic's, and some others, the Nui Nui seems a bit like eating an ice cream custard base. Sure, it's delicious, but where is the point of the exercise? I'm tempted to make a huge batch of Nui Nui, minus ice and call it Doug's Mix No. 1. I'll try adding one or two other ingredients to three ounces of mix and see if I get a good new cocktail each time. I'm betting I will. In the mean time, if you haven't given the Nui Nui a try, and the ingredients are to hand, give it a try. Just don't over-dilute.abc
- 2 oz. gold rum
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 1/2 oz. orange juice
- 1/4 oz. cinnamon syrup
- 1/4 oz. Don's Spices No. 2*
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 4 oz. ice
[caption id="attachment_10952" align="aligncenter" width="550"] Lost Lake's "GFY" Their presentation is considerably more elaborate than mine....[/caption] In Chicago, there is a bar. Well, there are lots of bars in Chicago. In Chicago, there is a Tiki bar. Actually, there are multiple great Tiki bars. In Chicago there is a Paul McGee-created Tiki... (Multiple recursions edited for brevity) Lost Lake is the latest Chicago Bar project from Paul McGee, the Meryl Streep of Chicago bartenders. It is the home of some kick-ass Tiki decor, a ludicrous rum selection, and a menu full of modern original Tiki drinks. One of McGee's latest is the GFY. Now, GFY is an interesting name... On Lost Lake's Facebook page, they intimate that it stands for "Good-For-You". That's all well and good, but I have my doubts. I don't see anything particularly healthy about it. Indeed given the alcohol content, I'd come close to giving it a 3 out of 3 daggers (†††) on my personal Tiki Lethality scale. Perhaps there is some other phrase GFY could stand for...?
LOST LAKE'S GFYCalvados is, of course, pretty unusual as the lead spirit in Tiki drinks. This again illustrates how the 21st Century Tiki Renaissance is enriching the Canon with new notes and chords that add variety to the same old beautiful songs. The GFY is not-quite identifiably fruity, deceptively spiritous, and possesses that unctuously heavy feel in each sip. Each of these are hallmarks of a classic Tiki drink. I haven't actually had a GFY at Lost Lake, or any other drink there for that matter, because I haven't been to Chicago, for business or pleasure, in years. I'd really like to, so I will make an offer to anyone reading this. I will give the first person or business in Chicago to book a Killing Time murder mystery event (yes, my "day job" is just a fun as my booze-writing sideline.) a four hundred dollar discount off the event fee. If interested, please give me a call. abc
- 1 oz. Calvados
- 3/4 oz. overproof white rum
- 1/2 oz. Swedish Punsch
- 1/2 oz. Dry Curaçao
- 3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
- 3/4 oz. passion fruit syrup
- 1/2 oz. fresh pineapple juice
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