Category: tiki
Ice, Rule 2, Tiki Month 2016

Ice, Ice, Baby!

[caption id="attachment_10925" align="aligncenter" width="550"]That hair looks almost like a fez from this angle... That hair looks almost like a fez from this angle...[/caption] To do Tiki right, there has to be a conversation about ice. Relax. I'm not suggesting that you are going to have to throw on a white lab coat and go all di-hydrogen monoxide thermal engineer like you are Camper English or anything. Nor do you need to establish an elaborate ice program with custom chunks from Manchester, either. But ice is a bigger issue with Tiki drinks than with most others, and for reasons that are not always the obvious. Humuhumu wrote an excellent piece last November that I've kept in my browser since, in anticipation of this post during Tiki Month. Entitled An Easy Fix for Your Tiki Drinks: Tweaking Your Shake, it has some cool Tiki history and an excellent primer on what the word "blend" actually means in most historic Tiki recipes. It's all a good read, so make sure you follow the link. The part I want to focus on is that in order to produce the desired effect of a Tiki recipe that says "flash blend for about five seconds", the bar tool you need is not a blender of any kind at all. The bar tool that you need... is ice. The majority of the work done on a drink is not by the shaker itself, nor the person agitating it. The changes to the ingredients come from the ice trapped in the shaker with the liquids. Ice is perhaps the most universal element of any bar, professional or amateur. It is, of course, a refrigerant. But it is also an ingredient. And it can be a garnish. Most people comprehend these three elements of ice's usage, if only subconsciously. It is also good to keep in mind that sometimes these effects of ice on a drink can be a little counter-intuitive. The fourth element of what ice does to a drink is mechanical action, and it is this effect that is generally more important in Tiki drinks than in any other cocktail genre. While being shaken, ice does two things. It shatters itself, and it aerates the liquid. The more you agitate it, the more it does these. And both have similar effects on the texture and flavor of the drink. A slurry of tiny ice shards lightens a drink, and a lot of tiny bubbles does the same, in flavor and in texture. That lightness is important to most Tiki drinks. Next time you make one, have a good full sip before you introduce any ice. The flavors may be great, but the texture will be nearly undrinkable. [caption id="attachment_10970" align="aligncenter" width="550"]The results of a really good shake. The results of a really good shake.[/caption] A Tiki shake is not a regular shake. It is longer. The ingredients will often not mix as readily as more common bar ingredients, will be able to retain a lot more air that usual, and will benefit from that air. When mixing a SideCar or a Daiquiri, I usually shake just until the tin starts to bite my hand from the chill. At that point, 90% of the chilling possible from your ice has taken place. But in a Tiki shake, you keep going and endure the pain. You need those shards and that air, and it is a case of the longer and harder it is, the better the results.
That's what she...
Shut. Up. Of course, if you use a blender of some kind, be it stick or carafe, you can get even more agitation in much less time. If you have the means and can take the noise, that's great. But be careful about the recipe's instructions! There are two traditional modes of employing a blender in Tiki drinks, the flash blend and blending smooth. Don't mix them up, because a recipe balanced for one will almost never taste good if you do the other. Blending smooth, as with a drink like the Missionary's Downfall, can really only happen in a blender. You want a final texture like an Icee, with uniform tiny ice particles distributed evenly throughout the liquid. A smooth blend introduces a ton of dilution, a ton of air, and makes for an extremely cold drink. And the drinks that employ a smooth blend need all that. Don't bother with these drinks unless you have a blender, or a lot of time and booze to pour out while you rejigger the ratios. Drinks like the Jet Pilot call for that magical "flash blend for five seconds". The result here is a frothy slurry, rather than a smooth drink. And you don't need a blender to achieve it at all. As long as you use cracked ice (more surface area, more edges makes for more slivers/dilution), you can achieve in a thirty-plus second vigorous shake what you did in five seconds in the blender. In a professional Tiki bar, the electric blender means realistically fast service and fewer repetitive-motion injuries to your staff. At home, it is a lot of noise and a lot of extra clean up. As you gain experience making Tiki drinks, it is worth it to put a little thought into what workflow you want to employ. But the most important thing is to know what your resulting texture should be, so you can employ whatever method to get you there.abc
Basement Bar, Tiki Month 2016

Tikifying Your Basement Bar

[caption id="attachment_10963" align="aligncenter" width="550"]This "table topper" might be a little over the top.... This "table topper" might be a little over the top....[/caption] Every year, Tiki Month becomes a little more of a MeatSpace thing for me. If you look back, the number of posts each February has fallen off a bit each successive year. While I truly believe that I'll reverse that trend this year, my focus on sharing my Tiki learning and experiments face to face with my local friends in and out of the cocktail world continues to grow. It is definitely proof that I'm getting the hang of this. I really think I've perfected my process for "skinning" my basement bar as a Tiki den, by now. Most of the time, my basement bar is a sleek, modern, black and silver joint that could not look less Tiki if it tried. The first iteration of the Tiki look was essentially "Polynesia by Party City". Everything was plastic and bought either at party stores or from Amazon. Still, it was cool, and looked better than it had any right to. I'll get to why in a bit. Basement-Decor-1 Here's what the process looked like. Once I had the vibe, I set out, over the next few years, to replace all the plastic with natural materials, and to flesh out the rest of the space. I replaced the grass skirting and plastic leis with bamboo matting, and the screen-printed vinyl sheeting with real bamboo veneer. A portion of the process now looks like this. It also, despite being a million times better looking, is twice as fast to put up and take down. Once the bar itself had enough natural materials to make things seem homey, I dressed up the other focal areas of the basement. I created a jungle in one corner that is otherwise useless and gets some natural light during the day. Home Depot and Lowes usually have an excellent selection of indoor tropical plants at this time of year. A big problem was the focal couch, with it's metropolitan skyline. It is really not very Tiki. Merto cityscape skyscraper silhouette wall And my earlier attempts to dress it up were... lacking. The solution was Mt Pegu Pegu, which you see atop this post. Here it is in action. Looks cool, right? Now at last, we get to the secret sauce of Tiki decor: Lighting. Here is what that volcano looks like with regular lights on. Rule One of lighting your Tiki bar is this: No White Light Anywhere. You can accomplish this two ways: cheaply or expensively. I do it with a little of each. I turn off the halogen bulb fixtures, or dim them to almost nothing. I replace the can light floods with cheap colored floods is a combination of red, blue and green. For extra atmosphere, I splurge on several Phillips Hue lights. Two are inside the Volcano, and two more pair are located strategically around the room. Hue bulbs are expensive, but very cool devices. You can control them individually over your home's wireless network with a variety of apps on phones or computers. Various apps let you control for time, ambient noise, or with music that is playing through the same phone. After an egregiously long search, I use an app called Scintillator. It allows you to run multiple different programs for your bulbs at once, and has a number of very Tiki-appropriate presets. I have a red-orange rolling glow for the volcano interior, a red-purple sunset for overhead, and a green-umber slow pulsing show over the jungle area. The bulbs are expensive, I want to iterate, but the ever-changing lights has a sense of magic and a little bot of outdoors to the environment. Lighting does so many wonderful things. Darkness makes for a pre-civilized feel. You can use what lights you do employ to accent what you want to feature. And you can use the darkness to hide whatever you can't or can't afford to make thoroughly Tiki. With the right lighting, Polynesia by Party City even looks great.abc
Applejack/Apple Brandy, Other Liqueurs, Rum, Tiki Month 2016

Modern Tiki Drink: Lost Lake’s GFY

[caption id="attachment_10952" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Lost Lake's presentation is considerably more elaborate then mine.... 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 GFY
  • 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
Combine with one cup crushed ice and flash blend for five seconds. Pour into a Tiki vessel to suit your mood, and garnish to suit.
Calvados 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. Lost Lake abc
Lime Juice, Rule 2, Syrups, tiki, Tiki Month 2016, Whiskey

Modern Tiki Drink: Permanent Holiday

As I said in my Opening Post for Tiki Month, I want to focus to a large extent this year on the new creations that illustrate the strength of the current Tiki revival. The first drink I want to examine this month also illustrates how modern Tiki is expanding upon the previous array of commonly used ingredients to find new ways to create the feelings that somehow define Tiki. [caption id="attachment_10891" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Permanent Holiday Permanent Holiday, by Trey Jenkins via The Hardest Working Blogger in the Cocktailosphere[/caption] Here's the recipe. You'll see that it follows the Tiki formula of a bunch of different boozes, some citrus, and some syrup that defines the overwhelming majority of Tiki drinks. But the alcohols are all out of whack to the traditional eye.
PERMANENT HOLIDAY
  • 1 part bourbon
  • 1 part Averna
  • 1/2 part Licor 43
  • 1 part (pink) grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 part fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 part passion fruit syrup (Homemade or BG Reynolds')
Shake with ice until well chilled, then strain over crushed ice in a Tiki vessel. I used an orange peel wrapped around a spent tattooed lime husk. Depending on who's drinking it, a sprig or even a bunch of fresh mint would not go amiss.
I was seriously curious how this collection of ingredients was going to come out feeling Tiki. When you think upon the genre, bourbon (though a certain prominent exception applies), Italian amaro, and a Spanish liqueur that did not reach American shores until well past Tiki's formative years are not the ingredients that leap to mind. But it works. First of all, it is a good drink. It tastes good. It is interesting. It has a whole lot going on. Secondly, it has that exotic, somewhat undefined flavor profile that triggers all sorts of different flavor impressions in different people which I associate strongly with the best Tiki drinks. This is just the sort of new creation that will help keep Tiki in the craft's consciousness. Drinks like this one expand the "artist's" palette and creative options, while at the same time expands the Tiki market to that guy thinks Tiki drinks sound great, but "who really only drink (Spirit X which isn't rum)".abc
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