Category: trader vic
Rule 4
Tiki Month 2018

Tiki Drink: London Sour

The London Sour and I were born in the same year. What year? Never you mind, buster. Suffice it to say that it was a tumultuous year, where American military aggression stained our souls and the rest of the world was damned ungrateful for what we did for them, civil rights were torn by controversy over whose inalienable rights were more inalienable, there were violent clashes in the streets between groups of citizens who for the most part didn't know what the hell the other (or indeed, their own) side was talking about, and the Russians were making trouble.
So, you were born in 2016?
1965. Jerk. Anyway, the London Sour is a Trader Vic original, which you can find in Beachbum Berry's Intoxica. I want to blog about it for two reasons. One, it is a Tiki drink that uses scotch as the base spirit. Scotch! And two, it is instructive about the progression of Tiki historically. Please note that neither of those reasons is that the London Sour is good. Because, spoiler alert, it isn't terribly. It is quite drinkable, of course. Vic didn't make crappy drinks. But by 1965, he seems to have clearly been coming to the end of his powers. The Tiki drink oeuvre was similarly reaching its senescent phase as well. The dark, exotic, unctuous... unfamiliar profile of the early work was sliding into a more modern, lighter flavor palate.
  • 2 1/2 oz orange juice
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz orgeat
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz blended scotch
Shake well with small ice, and pour unstrained into a lowball glass. Garnish with leftover citrus.
This is a pleasant, utterly unchallenging drink. The scotch comes through, sure, but manages to be blandly unremarkable, despite being scotch in a Tiki drink. There is far more orange juice than should be present in any drink beyond a screwdriver, which the London Sour tastes mostly like. What is missing in this drink is the flavor alchemy that I so love in early Tiki drinks. You can pick out every ingredient in this drink from the sip. That's not a bad thing in many cocktails, but I think an important part of a Tiki drink is the creation of new, unidentified flavors. abc
Tiki Month 2018

About the Much Maligned Paper Cocktail Umbrella

We need to talk about paper umbrellas. Few items say more about Tiki than paper umbrellas. They are cute, funny, kinda stupid, a little bit dangerous, wildly inauthentic, and more fun for most of us than we will admit—just like Tiki in general. Trader Vic's son says his dad stole the idea from Don the Beachcomber, who had in turn stolen it from food garnishes in L.A. Chinese restaurants. (Note to the uninitiated in this period of history: Everything Don did that was worthwhile, Vic stole. Everything Vic did with it that was worthwhile, Don stole right back.) In general, Don stole his drinks culture from the Caribbean and his food from China. Here he stole his drink paraphernalia from China. Of course, Vic's grandson says Trader Vic's has never served umbrella in their drinks. And Beachbum Berry, the Indiana Jones of the Tiki world and general spoil-sport, claims the umbrella was first employed twenty years later by some bartender in Hawaii with a clear genius for marketing. We may never know the truth about their origins, but I feel confident in declaring that rumors that paper cocktail umbrellas were first employed to keep the sun from melting your ice are #FakeNews. I grew up in the tropical sun. It. Would. Not. Work. One theory about cocktail umbrellas that seems awfully sound is that they grew in popularity because chicks dig them. Think I'm being sexist? Ask anyone who has ever served drinks to a group of people, professionally or in the comfort of their own home. Give one person a umbrella in their drink and almost every woman in eyesight will be jealous and demand an umbrella in their next round, even if their next round is a Dry Martini.
Just stick it in the olive, please!
Don't give in to this pressure to put umbrellas in cocktail glasses, please. The things will put an eye out. Always serve umbrella drinks with a straw. But here's the problem with these glorious, kitschy little drink ornaments... They are kinda... um... boring. Yeah. Let's be honest. They take no skill or flair to employ, and they are literally a couple of dimes a dozen to buy. When serving a large group of people, you are getting crushed, and you are low on fancy garnish, breaking out the paper umbrellas is a quick, crowd-pleasing cheat. They will get you off the hook, but these days, they won't impress any one. Unless you up your game. Here's a simple way to make your umbrella-fu stand out in the jaded minds of your guests: When serving up Dark n' Stormys, Hurricanes, or other Jim Cantori-themed cocktails, pop the umbrella inside out like a rookie weather man's. It's a simple trick, but adds some whimsey. At the other end of the ease of execution spectrum, make your cocktail umbrella from scratch. Here's one way to go about it that I tried out for a 151 Swizzle back in the day. Take a spent lime half, flip it inside out and use a toothpick to secure it to a cinnamon stick. I know I came up with this on my own, and I've never seen it in a picture older than this one. Does anyone know of someone who had done this trick before New Year's 2012? I'd love to call First, but I'm not that good. You can also make the umbrella a supporting player. Often times, you spend a good amount of time crafting some glorious, edible garnish, and it just needs a little something, be it size or whimsey. Jam a cocktail parasol in the at just the right angle and voila! Tiki Tree Viper Cocktail from Rated-R Cocktails I'll wind up with a slightly more extensive mod than the Hurricane Hack. Take a pair of scissors or, better yet, pinking shears to the paper. Cutting or tearing the tissue paper allows you to more artfully distress the umbrella. It also allows you to essentially sculpt your umbrella into a more ornate, interesting shape. More importantly, you make a basic umbrella look unlike something your guest has seem a million times. This last picture is of my rendition of a drink with a name too awesome not to share: The Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, which can be found on page 144 of Martin Cate's Tiki masterwork Smuggler's Cove. I'd post the recipe here, but I'd feel bad about giving a Tiki drink as interesting and non-standard as this one short shrift at the end of a long piece. It'll get its own on the next
Mixology Monday
Tiki Month 2012

Mixology Monday “Trader Vic’s Navy Grog

Greetings everyone from Orlando, a land that peddles itself to have pretty much everything. Which I thought would lend itself well in discussion with my uncle Doug Winship on all forms of tiki drinks. After being humbled at the hands of the master, I had to rethink my standing in life. So I come to you as a Grasshopper, a student on the TAO, to share what the way as taught me so far.
So my first lesson was in mixology, is a recipe from one the grandmasters. Trader Vic's Navy Grog!!! First lets run down what is in this Recipe.

1 part fresh lemon juice (Great Citrus is easy to get in Florida)
1 part unsweetened pineapple juice (Unsweetened is important)
1 part Passion Fruit Syrup (I will describe this maneuver in more detail in a sec)
2 parts dark Jamaican Rum
1 dash of Angostura Bitters per ounce in a part
So, armed with my new-found knowledge, I head to my small corner of my home bar. It is a small amount of real estate that my wife would allow me to own.
It is kinda sad compared to the mammoth sized basement size bars that some heavy weights I know have, but the little corner is mine so I love it. Anyhow, I start running down the list. Jamaican Rum, Check, Angostura Bitters, Check, Lemons, Check, unsweetened pineapple juice, Check even!! Passion Fruit Syrup??? This one stopped me in my tracks. SO reaching back out to my teacher, I wondered how I would acquire said syrup. Like the voice in field of dreams, he spoke to me. He said to make it yourself. I had my doubts, I would say that cooking would not be my strongest skill. Amazing enough, it is a simple task. First, you need to get your hands on Passion fruit puree. I found this little gem in the ethic frozen food section of my local Publix. I mixed equal parts by volume of sugar, water, and half the passion fruit. Bring this to a boil!! When it hits a boil add the second half of the fruit. When everything is nice and dissolved. There will be some pulp left. You will have to strain it. When it is all said and done you should have something that looks like this!!! Mix according to proportions listed above and enjoy!!. I made a large batch for my super bowl party. I had to make two large batches for everyone to get their fill. This is the second one I made. It was a hit to say the least. So to all the little grasshoppers out there, welcome to the big wild world of cocktails. To the Grandmasters, WATCH YOUR PEBBLES!!! Everyone else enjoy TIKI month!!!! Good thing it is a leap year, we all get to enjoy an extra day of tropical delights. So from Orlando, I am signing off. abc

Tiki Month 2012
Lime Juice

Tiki Drink: Dr. Funk

Phinneas and Dr. Funk
This is how my children view Tiki Month.
Since I'm on a run of Tiki Drinks with awesome names this Tiki Month, I thought it appropriate that I get down and boogie with one of the better names in music Tiki drinks, Dr. Funk. I love the name, and find it most appropriate for Tiki. Funk is a word I use a lot to describe Tiki drinks, good ones at least. It denotes a kind of entertainingly pleasant wrongness. The good Doctor was to be had all over the place in the golden days of Tiki. Both Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic claimed him, though he set up practice at Vic's joints much later than Don's, so which way the thieving went is pretty clear this time. Except it isn't. Unlike most "Polynesian" Tiki drinks, which were really Caribbean in inspiration, the Dr. Funk was actually a genuine South Pacific invention, one which predated the Tiki era by some 30-40 years. Not only that, but it was named after and created by a real Dr. Funk as well. Bernhard Funk was a German ex-patriot living in Samoa. He was a popular physician, as well as a renowned mental health practitioner. And by "mental health practitioner", I mean mixologist. Among his other claims to fame, Dr. Funk was the deathbed physician for Robert Louis Stevenson (of International Talk Like a Pirate Day Fame). The good Dr. Funk had passed away nearly twenty years before Don ever thought of Tiki. There are a lot of Dr. Funk recipes. Names this cool seemed to have often been appropriated during the Tiki era by one bar after another, without great regard to the (often secret) recipe of the source. When there are so many choices to be had, it is usually best to turn first to the Apostle Paul of the Tiki gods, Beachbum Berry. In Remixed, the Bum presents this version of Dr. Funk, gleaned from the Palm Springs location of Don the Beachcomber, circa 1953: Dr. Funk
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine
  • 1 tsp. absinthe
  • 1 1/2 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. soda
Combine all in shaker, save the soda. Shake well, then add soda and stir. Pour unstrained into pilsner glass, and top with fresh ice.
This is a pleasant little cooler, really. The flavors are light and the color an iced pink. The funk of the absinthe is kind of a background beat that underlies the main citrusy melody. This version is actually pretty delicious, with just a hint of a "what the Hell is that?" undertone to make it Tiki. Now in general, I prefer Vic's drinks to Don's, the Mai Tai being a notable example. So I also wanted to see what kind of medicine the good Doctor practiced when he hung his single in a Trader Vic's. Here is his recipe which I believe to be from Vic's 1948 Bartender's Guide: Doctor Funk
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. grenadine
  • 1 whole lime
  • 1/4 oz. absinthe
  • 2 1/2 oz. dark Jamaican rum
  • 1/4 tsp. simple syrup
Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with crushed ice. Juice lime into shaker, and add the spent shells. Shake well and "pour the whole mess" into a highball glass. Top with seltzer and garnish with a fresh geranium leaf.
I have no geraniums right now, so I used mint. In this case, Don beats Vic like a rented mule. Vic's version is overwhelmingly tart. I went back and added a ton more simple syrup, which made it drinkable and let some of the underlying flavors come out. You could then taste that there was rum in the drink. But the funk is practically dead here as you essentially cannot detect the absinthe at all. Indeed, Vic appeared to know this one wasn't his best, as he seems to have monkeyed with this recipe a lot. Later recipes show it without absinthe or Pernod at all. So as to the question of Don versus Vic, the Bum makes the right call, and silly me for doubting him! But neither of these cocktails, it's pretty clear, holds much resemblance to the real Dr. Funk's prescription. In this excellent thread at Tiki Central, much anthropology has been done on the Dr. Funk, and on its namesake. And while there is no written exact receipt for it even there, the various accounts of the original drink are at least primary sources. Consolidating all their hardwork, here is what I'm going with as the original recipe: Doctor Funk Cocktail
  • 1 1/2 oz. absinthe
  • 1/2 oz. grenadine
  • 2 small limes
  • 8 oz. soda water
Combine is a glass on the rocks. Consume to "restore self-respect and interest in one's surroundings".
I was hesitant to actually mix up this guess at the authentic Dr. Funk because:
  1. I'm not a huge absinthe fan.
  2. I already have a more than healthy share of self-respect.
  3. My current surroundings are Ohio in the Winter. Why should I want to take an interest in them?
But, birds gotta sing. Fish gotta swim. Bloggers gotta blog.... First off, that is a helluva lot of water up there. I'm not sure if ice was a precious commodity on Samoa and the surrounding isles in the late 19th Century. Perhaps it was, and this drink was meant to be made without it. In any case, I used lots of crushed ice myself, left the lime shells in, and used only a bit more than 2 ounces of actual soda. And damn if this isn't a much better drink than either Don or Vic's effort! Much better. It is perhaps not so approachable as theirs, because at 1.5 ounces there is no mistaking the fact that this is an absinthe cocktail. The character of that spirit is right up front. In most cocktails I make using the stuff, it is doled out in drops, so that much absinthe is a helluva lot for me. But the grenadine and lime and water do a beautiful job of changing the punch in the snoot of absinthe, transmuting it into a refreshing splash in the face. My immediate thought was to compare it to one of my favorite drinks, the Gin Rickey. Dr. Funk's concoction seems likely to be just as thirst-quenching as Colonel Rickey's. And while it may not be quite so easy drinking as the Rickey, for a man with a sour mouth or stomach from over-indulgence, post-indulgence, or just general tropical crud, this drink would likely be much more cleansing to the palate. Lastly, should you be wanting to initiate a hesitant guest into trying absinthe for the first time, this might be your drink. The cool name, and pleasant pink color, should get them to accept the drink in the first place, and the muted nature should get them to take the time to appreciate the depth of the absinthe without being assaulted by its usual brash nature.

Dr. Funk's Funky Trio of Funk
Don, Doctor, and Vic (L to R)
I'll leave you with two entertaining tidbits found in my Stanley-esque search for Dr. Funk. This first is the comforting news that there were snotty booze snobs long before there were hipster bars and cocktail blogs for them to spout off in. Apparently Robert Louis Stevenson himself was somewhat of one, and another occasional patient of Dr. Funk, Paul Gauguin (the guilt-free sex guy) was even more of a pissant about drinks. He (and Stevenson) are described fabulously so in this quote from Wanderings; A Book of Travel and Reminiscence.
Blow me! cried Pincher, the skipper of the Morning Star. 'E was a bleedin' ijit. I fetched 'im absinthe many a time in Atuona. 'E said Dr. Funk was a bloomin' ass for inventin' a drink that spoiled good Pernod with water. 'E was a rare un. 'E was like Stevenson 'at wrote 'Treasure Island.' Comes into my pub in Taiohae in the Marquesas Islands did Stevenson off'n his little Casco, and says he, Ave ye any whisky. 'e says, at 'asn't been watered? These South Seas appear to 'ave flooded every bloomin' gallon. 'e says. This painter Gauguin wan't such good company as Stevenson, because 'e parleyvoud, but 'e was a bloody worker with 'is brushes at Atouna. 'E was cuttin' wood or paintin' all the time.
I think this passage lends two valuable pieces of advice. First, if you are too much of a booze-snob, then old bartenders, especially crusty old sailor bartenders (Ed Hamilton, anyone?) will think you are a "bloomin' ass". Second, regardless of how you act, for God's sake don't be French.
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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