Category: Dr. Bamboo
Tiki Mood
Tiki Month 2010

The Board of Tiki Idols Speak: “Get Down!” says Dr. Bamboo

tiki dance of desire Big Al Art caricatures Dr. Bamboo was the first Tiki Idol to speak, doing so at the start of Tiki Month 2009. Since then, I have added another question for the Board, "what is the most important non-liquid element of Tiki." Well, the drums have rolled and the mountain grumbles. Dr. Bamboo has spoken once again!
I'd have to say music. Aloha shirts, some form of fire, and a totally thatched-out tiki bar are all wonderful to have, but I think appropriate music ratchets up the tiki experience more than anything else. Good genre tunes (particularly the "Exotica" category) really bring the mood home. A good selection of artists like Martin Denny, Les Baxter, Arthur Lyman, Esquivel, Robert Drasnin, and Yma Sumac (just to name a few) will provide the perfect aural backdrop for your tiki shenanigans.
The good Doctor is (of course) correct that music possesses powerful mood-altering magic. Like the Hawaiian shirt, some good Tiki music is a swift and simple way to "flip the Tiki switch" and enhance your Tiki drinking experience. Find your favorite Tiki music CD... better, burn a disc of your favorite songs from various artists... best of all, just set up a playlist on your iPod (or lesser mp3 player if that's how you roll, Visigoth). Lower the lights, rock some tunes, don the shirt, and off you go! A fascinating example of the power of Tiki music is a tale that Bill Newton of told me when I interviewed him about Aloha shirts.
I'm actually Caucasian, but I was born in Hawaii. My father always wanted to move here since he was a kid. He heard this one song over and over on the radio, Keep Your Eyes on the Hands. It called to him and he could never get it out of his head. That slack key guitar wouldn't let him go.
There are a ton of versions of that song. Here's my favorite, from Kohala:
Keep Your Eyes on the Hands Kohala - Island Treasures - Keep Your Eyes On the Hands
But what the heck is Tiki music, really? Dr. B's suggestions generally fall into the category of Exotica, which is a style of tropical/Polynesian music that arose (like the Aloha shirt) about the same time as Tiki. Most Exotica has a wonderful flavor for getting your Tiki on, with its dark, mystical vibe, the hand-beaten drums, and lots of Hawaiian slack key guitar. It has the added bonus of being, like Tiki, gloriously inauthentic. The two greatest figures in Exotica, Martin Denny and Les Baxter are lily-white guys from the United States mainland. (The Trader and the Beachcomber come to mind in a similar vein.) It is a music crafted to appeal to a vibe and an image of a place that didn't and doesn't really exist, yet making it exist in the mind. Exotica sounds more like island music to the foreign ear than authentic island music does. This was especially true in the early days of Tiki, when Hawaii and the South Pacific were unimaginably far away and mysterious. Exotica pairs perfectly with Tiki in that both aim to create virtually the same place. I've got a tons of Exotica links below, but if you want just one Exotica/Tiki collection, try Mondo Exotica from UltraLounge, the cocktailian-essential series of albums. Throughout this post, I'll list songs or albums with a link to Amazon where I can find one, and below that a button that will send you straight to iTunes (or a web page for the music if you don't have iTunes installed) where you can hear a clip or two. My personal favorites on Mondo Exotica are Swamp Fire, Caravan, and Voodoo Dreams. Exotica is a huge genre, so I'll just add a few links to get you started with the real masters of the genre. But is Exotica the only appropriate Tiki music? I don't think so. The lovely Humuhumu wrote a good post a few years ago about Tiki bar music, in which she argues that Exotica was probably not always played in Tiki Bars, in fact it might not have been the most common music at all, even in the heyday of both genres. As I've said before. "authenticity" is is hardly a prerequisite for Tiki, in some ways it is a contradiction in terms. What matters is that the music you play should get you in the Tiki mood. There are lots of other genres from which some songs could happily live on your Tiki playlist. I'd suggest you narrow your search for tunes that fit the right time period and are either instrumental of can otherwise feel good in a background role. When setting a mood, it is more powerful to do your work in the background than explicitly. As when spinning a good yarn, show, don't tell. For instance, a great song called Let's Talk Dirty In Hawaiian (lyrics to be found at Dungeon- and Tiki-Master Tikitender's blog) is a cool song, but hardly a Tiki mood setter. Crank it up later in the evening if you have a crowd that needs focusing. Leopard bikini tiki dancer Mambo is to me a great adjunct Tiki genre. The drums fit well, and the beat, while more Latin than "primal", is still focused on the loins. One of Dr. B's suggested artists, Yma Sumac has an album, Mambo! that I think works well for Tiki. Five Bottles Mambo is particularly cool. Interestingly, I like her mambo better for Tiki vibing than her Exotica. Operatic Incan power vocals don't really float my flaming outrigger.
Mambo! Yma Sumac - Mambo! operatic Incan power vocals Yma Sumac - The Ultimate Yma Sumac Collection - Kuyaway - Inca Love Song
Surf music hails from the right period, and has an appropriate beat. Some works, most doesn't. You'd similarly thank that Jimmy Buffet ought to be perfect (Tropical themes, drinking songs), but he also doesn't quite fit the ambiance. That said, if you like him, stick a parrot on your Tiki bar and go with it. His song Tiki Bar is Open is a pretty good place to start.
Tiki Bar is Open Jimmy Buffett - Live In Hawaii - Tiki Bar Is Open
And by no means is all the good Tiki music a creation of the original Tiki era. The Swing resurgence of the '90s brought out some great new Tiki talents that are worth listening to. The Tikiyaki Orchestra is wonderful. Their album Stereoexotique is full of winners. You should especially listen to Sneaky Tiki, Koko Sufu, and my favorite, Mai Tais On the Moon. For a more up-tempo modern Tiki band, try Los Twang! Marvels' Jungle of Twang. Kaha Huna is a good song, but their real winner is their take on the classic Balihai. There is a ton of good Tiki music out there, and it is worth a bit of time to search out what works for you, because it will save a ton of effort later when you want to get your Tiki on. I'll leave you with a last, full-fun, half-serious suggestion, Walt Disney's immortal tribute to Tiki, the theme of the Enchanted Tiki Room:

If you want a clean sound copy of the song, here's the best one I've been able to find:
Thurl Ravenscroft, The Mellomen, Fulton Burley & Wally Boag - The Sherman Brothers Songbook - The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room

International Talk Like a Pirate Day Supplies—Updated

Just a reminder, International Drink Like a Pirate Day is this Saturday, September 19th. Be ready. And by being ready, I mean: Ensure you have lots of different rums on hand, since what is pirate drinkin', wenchin', and talkin' without plenty of the old rumbullion, rumbustion, rhum, or even ron, as the pirates' chief prey would have it? But what kind of rum? As of this writing, I intend to do three pirate drinks on International (Drink) Like a Pirate Day, with distinctly different characters. First off, we'll need basic mixing rums, one light, one dark, and one nicely aged. Any good Basement Bar owner should really have these supplies in stock full time, not just on September 19th. My favorite day-to-day rum maker is Mount Gay. At only a buck or two more than the bat beverage, it offers, at least to me, a noticeable improvement. (Liquor Fairy disclaimer on Mount Gay, FWIW) For those scurvy dogs, the British Navy, and their fancy dan ways, lay in a bottle of good navy rum like Pusser's. But the main focus for this post is the brand which should just own International Talk Like a Pirate Day. If any brand, in any industry, should be talked of in the same breath with any silly internet-meme high holy day, it's this one. Captain-Morgan That's right, Captain Morgan should be all over ITLaPD like Mad Morty Rackham on a tavern wench after six months at sea. The fact that a Google search indicates that they are not so inclined will entirely fail to dissuade me from talking about them anyway. Now The Captain doesn't get a lot of respect from hoity-toity rum-o-philes, and that's pretty reasonable. Captain Morgan's is a mass-market product that offers little in the way of complexity or depth. But even said hoity-toity rum-o-philes admit that they once upon a time drank a lot of it, and enjoyed themselves along the way. I'd bet the good ship Buccaneer's Strumpet that any genuine pirate, modern or of yore, would vastly prefer the sweet and gently spicy taste o' the Cap'n to most premium rums today. Fact is, Captain Morgan's is designed for the mass-market, to provide some tasty, bawdy fun, and little else. All of which makes it perfect for ITLaPD. Sure, the success of the brand is certainly due as much to marketing as it is to product....
As much? Try almost entirely!
I thought you'd see I was talking about you. Still, the product has been plenty successful, even spawning such Talk Like a Pirate Day essentials as this:
I encourage you to pick up one of these for the First Mate right now.
Wait. Better up your life insurance first....
While the historical Captain Morgan was pretty cool on his own, his modern incarnation is practically the Mickey Mouse of hooch. A few months ago, I saw a dude in complete, letter-perfect Captain Morgan get-up wandering the aisles of a local liquor store. I don't know why, since whatever he was after, he wasn't buying rum! And yes, just like Coca-Cola, much of Captain Morgan's success over even similar brands can be laid to marketing. They push their brand at parties and sponsored events constantly. And they do this all over the United States, not just in New York and Los Angeles. Studies Sales have shown that consumers respond to marketing efforts like hot chicks (almost) wearing brand-labeled clothing while serving said brand in brand-labeled plastic cups. As Mad Morty Rackham would put it, Avast! A fine flagon of the ol' Cap'n tastes even finer if'n it be served up by a fine, proud beauty with a well-fashioned bowsprit. Arrrrrr! Drunk-DialingThe Captain Morgan folks also have a very cute little gimmick on their website right now, called Calling All Captains. While I (and I suppose Captain Morgan for that matter) encourage you to exercise restraint and wisdom when drinking, especially when drinking outside the home, the facts remain that occasionally drinkers find on the Morning After that they have misplaced several hours from the Night Before. The saintly friend who stayed sober and drove everyone home will fill in those hours for the hapless amnesiac. That's if your friend is saintly. Pirates don't have saintly friends. Pirates have friends who go to Calling All Captains. Since you are not a saintly friend either, go check it out. Fill in a short form about your friend's adventure the night before, including such info as your name, his name, the kind of place you were drinking the night before, etc. Then choose whether you want your inebriate friend to receive a voice mail on his cell from the bartender who is a trifle miffed about getting stiffed on the tab, or from some random chick who thinks he's single and wants to hook up, or even from the very large sounding boyfriend of the chick who supposedly did hook up with your buddy! This may not be the best pirate prank ever, but it does have the virtue of leaving fewer actual bruises than a good keel hauling. Now get out there and practice your vocabulary for this Saturday! UPDATE: Dr-Bamboo-Pirate-RumMy good friend and fellow cocktail blogger, Dr. Bamboo, the World's Foremost Cocktail Illustrator™ (creator of the Liquor Fairy) put up a post on spiced rums at the same time as this post originally ran. Aside from the totally awesome illustration shown at right (go to Doc's post to see it full sized), he develops a wonderful method of evaluating spiced rums that includes the following data points:
  • Pirate stuff on the label?
  • Overall packaging coolness.
  • (This is the coup de grace)Flamboyant Badass Quotient — Is the product something that can be envisioned being drunk by a Flamboyant Badass (i.e. a pirate)
In fact, the only two items I can find wrong with this post are that it does not mention International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and that it avoids actually reviewing Captain Morgan itself, or its two closest knockoffs, Admiral Nelson's and Sailor Jerry. Consider this rebuke fair warning, Doc! You still have two days until ITLaPD to do part two!abc
Tiki Month 2009

Tiki Drink: Jet Pilot

If it wasn't Tiki Month round these parts, I would not have made this cocktail... ever. Just take a single look at the Jet Pilot's recipe and the Tiki-ness will practically poke your eyes out. It's got wads of liquors in it, multiple juices, and stuff that I either don't like (Pernod), or don't know what the hell it is (Falernum). Oh, and it's a blender drink. I do not do blender drinks. Well, Doug the Pegu Blogger doesn't do blender drinks. For Tiki month, my trusty but dusty blender is getting twenty-eight days of continuous counter time. So, why is this rather baroque drink my first deployment of said blender? Well, I've read about it several times in the past from BOTI members Dr. Bamboo and Kaiser Penguin, as well as one of my very favorite bloggers, Robert Heugel, who I'm glad to see back blogging a bit more. He writes great stuff, but apparently he has some side project that has been pushing aside important stuff like blogging....jet pilot The Kaiser seemed to like the Jet Pilot so much that he forgot to go ape-sh*t with the garnish, so it has to be good. Finally, Dr. Bamboo really caught my eye with this illustration: bambooillo23
Ah ha! So you just made this drink in order to rip off more of Doc's awesome pictures, didn't you?
I resent that. It's not true, and besides, it's on the Internet so it's free, right? Actually, I did have the Jet Pilot on my list, but I only remembered to try it after thinking about a certain very level-headed jet pilot who has been in the news lately. (The following tape may or may not be completely accurate....) I sailed down to the Pegu Tiki Lounge with the recipe clutched in my hot little hand and immediately realized that I was going to have to exercise some calm improvisation myself if I wanted to drink this right away. I had not made up any cinnamon syrup yet, and I was missing, well, all three rums in this concoction. Here's my recipe, along with what it supposedly should have in parenthesis. jet pilot
  • 1 oz. Appleton VX (dark jamaican)
  • .75 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver (gold puerto rican)
  • .75 oz Bacardi 151 (151-proof Lemon Hart Demerera)
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • .5 oz. fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
  • .5 oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 hearty pinch powdered cinnamon (.5 oz.Cinnamon-infused sugar syrup for these two)
  • .5 oz. Fee Brothers Falernum (Homemade Falernum is so on the list)
  • 1 dash Angostura Bitters
  • 1/8 teaspoon LaFée Absinthe (Pernod. I actually had Pernod, but I like mixing with Absinthe better. It makes me feel... dangerous.)
  • 4 ounces crushed ice
Combine in the blender and let her rip for about five seconds. Serve up in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a tiny model of a USAir jetliner. (Recipe was originally from Beachbum Berry's Sippin' Safari)
There is a lot to talk about with this drink.
  1. It is really delicious.
  2. It is a prime example of Tiki-ness in that it shows how amazingly well some very different flavors will blend together. The result is a drink where all sorts of flavors seem to actually line up in orderly fashion for a chance to entertain you. Each sip goes through about three or four distinct taste profiles, and they are all in harmony.
  3. The Jet Pilot was Robert's MxMo: Limit One entry; if you plan on mixing two, alert the authorities.
  4. If you don't have the cinnamon syrup already made, and divert to the powdered cinnamon, you have to drink this fairly quickly, or the cinnamon will precipitate out.
  5. There is not enough ice, and you don't blend it long enough, to get what I expected in a blender drink. Instead you get a frothy, slushy layer on top that you sip the cocktail through. From pictures and descriptions, I think this is what I will get with a lot of classic Tiki presentations. Whether you like this or not is a matter of taste. I found it very pleasant, the PeguWife was less enchanted. This summer, I think I'll try upping the ice content considerably and go for the Fat Tuesdays plastic cup filled from a slurpee machine texture. If you hear about a case of spontaneous human combustion and odd, carved wooden idols seen fleeing the scene, you'll know what happened.
Tiki Month is a lot of fun, folks. Stick with me. And join me in lifting a Jet Pilot up to Cap'n
Tiki Month 2009
Board of Tiki Idols

The Board of Tiki Idols Speak: What is Tiki, Dr. Bamboo?

Now, here's why I have resisted delving into the world of Tiki until now: Among the impressions I get of doing the Tiki thing is that it is a lot of work. And as a certain semi-famous cocktail blogger will tell you, I'm all about shortcuts and stuff. So, I am cramming my Tiki exploration into one month, making for efficiencies in the process. And since I am always into making less work for myself, I'm trying to hoodwink and bamboozle others into doing said work for me, which brings me to the: Pegu Blog Board of Tiki Idols These good folks are among my favorite Tiki Bloggers, either for their knowledge, their style, or both. You'll see that they all have their own place of honor this month above the regular blogroll on the left. The first of them that I will introduce is Dr. Bamboo, the cocktailosphere's greatest living illustrator. I put two questions to my Board of Idols, and the good Doc was first to respond with some very slapdash cogent thoughts. Whenever I read his name, I always twist things around to hear Endora call out, Calling Dr. Bamboo! Calling Dr. Bamboo! [Bamf!] Dr. Bamboo, what is Tiki?
To me, what epitomizes tiki (and is possibly my favorite aspect of it) is that it is unrepentantly fake. Sure, there are fundamental elements of authenticity that it draws on, but at it's core, it's a big, glorious casserole of tropical fantasy. Back in the 30's a New Orleans hustler throws together random bits of memorablilia (both physical and conceptual) from his warm-climate travels simply to give his bar an edge in a competitive market...and he ends up starting a cultural movement. What's not to love? That is American-style bootstrap ingenuity and chicanery at it's finest, in my opinion.
I think that this is very on point. Some of our greatest cultural institutions have the same appeal and are similarly made up from whole cloth. Someone has an idea, and it just so good, that people replace reality with it in their hearts. The whole idea of such cultural icons of Scotland as the clan tartans, and the kilts made from them, are the Tiki drinks of British fashion. They were invented in Victorian England by a pair of flim-flam artists. These guys came up with something insanely fun, and convinced an entire culture to believe in an alternate reality about themselves. Today, most people, even many Scots, have no idea that sporrans, and kilts, and so on are largely the creation of the English. (Source: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader) In another fifty years, the world may genuinely believe that Depression-Era bars in Tahiti really looked and served drinks like a Trader Vic's.
A second aspect for me would be the spirit of fun. A tiki bar is no place to for crying in your beer. You not only must dress the part and place yourself in the proper surroundings, but you must also have the correct frame of mind. Tiki is not dour, serious stuff. It's a celebration, and good-natured escapism is the goal. Plus, all that pagan imagery has a whiff of the blasphemous that is plenty hard to resist for most upstanding, clean-cut types.
This is why I so wanted to try this out for a month. I am sure I will drive the PeguWife nuts shortly by suddenly changing into a Hawaiian shirt every day at five o'clock. But come on, how can you not have fun with this? I'll show how this concept is proven outside the world of Tiki drinks with this quote from Larry Dierker, back when he was broadcasting for the Houston Astros during a particularly bad stretch of boring, awful baseball:
You know what's wrong with this team? Not enough Hawaiian shirts. They're not having fun right now, and how can you not have fun when you're wearing a Hawaiian shirt?
Alright then, Dr. B., second question: What makes a drink qualify as a Tiki Drink?
I think this is much harder to say. For me, it's more about flavors, preparation, and presentation than specific ingredients. Tiki drinks have a depth, richness and complexity that sets them apart from other tropical-style drinks. For example, the Daiquiri, Mojito and Caipirinha are all tropical drinks made with rum (or something similar), fruit juice and some form of sweetener. Most tiki drinks have this as their nucleus too, but they have far, far more dimension. Also, tiki drinks evoke something exotic, and are just as much about what's going on in your imagination as on your tongue.
I'll be watching this as I try out the cocktails I intend to make this month. Hopefully there will be some good arguments over whether some of what I try even are Tiki drinks.
I also think that the labor-intensive preparation is key. Maybe it's the whole anticipation thing...tracking down oddball ingredients, squeezing fresh juices, making syrups, etc. And then assembling it all in a stylish vessel and garnishing the hell out of it. You're not going to find a 9-foot tall stone idol with flaming eyes on every corner, and you're not gonna get a Zombie at your corner bar either. Each of those things is special, and requires genuine effort to find.
OK, so we are back to all the work I've got to do. Great. That's why I'm doing my internship over a single, concentrated month. I just don't see myself whipping up Falernum year-round. And where the hell am I going to find a 9-foot tall stone idol with flaming eyes? Is that even up to Code? abc
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