Archives » Cocktail Capers
I wanted to like the Peter Kern Library. I do like the space. I certainly like the idea of craft cocktails being served in Knoxville. Heck, I was going to open my own bar just a few doors down from there about 10 years ago. However, the drinks here just miss the mark.
On our first visit, we tried a few drinks. My first I could not finish and so we traded. I didn’t really love the other one either. Neither of us loved our second round. But we liked the place and the attempt and our server and recommended it to friends.
Our second visit was a shock. We heard the head bartender was there and we were excited to talk shop with someone who maybe knew more than the typical hi-ball server.
I was probably a little less enamored of the place and so I was realizing every recipe was on the sweet side. Muddled fruit, honey and Crème de Violette. The only tart drink we tried last time and even my tart loving wife didn’t care for it. I realized none of these drinks looked appealing.
Ah, there is a “Classics” section with an “Old Fashioned” and a “Sazerac”. I decide on an Old Fashioned, but having been served in the last few years in typical places, I asked if they muddled oranges in them and could I have mine without orange fruit. The classic recipe calls for lemon peel, though I was served a fantastic version at The Gin Joint in Charleston with orange peel and it was great. But this made our bartender angry and I could either have it her way, which would be the best one I ever had, or I could have it my way. I felt like I might have been asked to leave if I wasn’t sitting with her regular customers, who I had told to come there in the first place. I wanted it my way. Or, well, the right way. I wanted the classic. No fruit.
What I got was okay. Not a craft cocktail. Not bad, but nothing beyond what I could tell the bartender to make me at the bar at the Holiday Inn Express.
I sampled all the drinks ordered and found nothing to be very good. My wife’s two drinks were forced down and she likely would have not finished if we weren’t with friends and obliged to stay longer than we wanted.
The drink list is overly sweet, and those that are not sweet are super hot or overly weird and just too strong in their flavors. Nothing was balanced. Nothing was tart in a good way. And nothing much was bigger than about 3 ounces. It all seemed to be 3 ounce cocktails served up.
The attitude was unforgivable.
I suppose I should go easy on the home town place that is trying, but, how will they improve? I am not going to take my cocktail nerd friends there. We’ll just go to my house and have good drinks instead. Should the bartenders at PKL visit some of the other good bars around and revise their palette and recipes, I’ll give them another chance. For now, they need to start over. Leave the décor, toss the recipes.
I suppose this proves that Knoxville will support good cocktails. If they are filling this small space to capacity on weekend nights, a better option might do more business.
IMO, you can fit all you need to make many of the best Tiki drinks in a milk crate. Granted, these are for making Don the BEachcomber’s recipes…
- Light Rum
- Gold Rum
- Dark Rum
- 151 Lemon Hart
- 80 proof demerara (you may drop this and sub dark rum for space)
- Allspice dram
- Lime juice
- White Grapefruit juice
- Pineapple juice
- Orange juice
- Honey syrup
- Simple syrup
- Cinnamon syrup
- Passionfruit syrup
- Pernod or Herbsaint
- Soda water
Measuring devices (spoons and jigger, etc.)
Granted, the size of your containers will dictate whether it all fits in one crate.
Ice, glasses and a blender and you are set!
With this you can make:
- Navy Grog
- Jet Pilot
- Test Pilot (almost, Cointreau)
- Rum Barrel (almost, grenadine)
- 151 Swizzle
- Big Bamboo
- Cobra’s Fang
- Demerara Cocktail
- Derby Daiquiri
- Jasper’s Jamaican
- Nui Nui
- Q.B. Cooler
- Zombie Punch (almost, grenadine)
- Shark’s Tooth (almost, maraschino cherry juice)
- 2070 Swizzle
The drinks that may be missing a small ingredient are passable and your host may have what is needed or you can easily take it with.
So next time you are invited to a cocktail party, or a room party at an event, show up prepared!
After a few weeks on a strict low carb diet, I wanted to celebrate with a classic cocktail by Don the Beachcomber. I wasn’t about to blow the diet, so I did some research. I opened The Grogalizer and removed some high sugar ingredients and came up with a starting list of favorites. We found sugar free honey online and it mixes like honey syrup. Davinci sugar free syrup is good. These tools allowed me to make my own cinnamon syrup, falernum and allspice dram all sugar free!
I calculated some carb counts of favorites not using my home made syrups, just the SF honey and Davinci SF syrup:
Jasper’s Jamaican using SF syrup – 3 carbs
Navy Grog - 4 carbs
2070 Swizzle made my way with SF honey syrup – 6 carbs
Black Magic - 7 carbs
Nui Nui - 7 carbs
Outrigger – 8 carbs
1934 Zombie Punch - 8 carbs
Jet Pilot - 9 carbs
Test Pilot - 9.5 carbs
Rum Barrel - 11 carbs
Putting my other home made syrups to use can lower the carb counts even more!
You can’t go crazy, but you can certainly celebrate being good on your diet with a drink that won’t make you regret drinking it.
NOTE: Recent studies show that sugar free mixers mean higher blood alcohol levels. The same person drinking a Rum and Coke vs. a Rum and Diet Coke can expect their blood alcohol level to be 60% higher! So if you make sugar free drinks, be very careful. You can get much drunker than you expect. Be VERY careful!
If you don’t yet own the Mini Mai-Kai Mystery Bowl, well, go get one HERE. Follow along regardless.
To make the ice volcano that goes in the center of the Mystery Drink, here is my plan. If you have your own, great! This is how I tackled it.
First you need finely crushed ice. I have sworn by my vintage Oster Snoflake for years and it still is the champ as far as I know.
I have found them in antique, vintage and thrift stores, but they are also on Ebay.
The result is a tray full of fine crushed ice.
Perhaps the more difficult aspect is finding the best sized vessel to form the ice volcano. The inner ring in the mini bowl is 2 inches. So you need something that tapers and is smaller than 2 inches at the top of the volcano form. I went through the cabinet and picked some small juice glasses. I had pilsners, but they had too steep an angle and the top would have been too small for the fire container.
I lightly packed the ice into the glass with s spoon as scoop about 3 inches deep. The quicker you do this, the better. Any melting can make the bottom of the glass fill with water and become a very smooth slick surface.
Then put them in the freezer for maybe 15 minutes to freeze your forms.
When they come out they will be frozen to the glass. You can just set them on the counter for a minute or two until they thaw enough to slip out. I can’t wait, so I use my hands to try to warm the glass. Then carefully slip them out and set them in the inner ring of the bowl.
Pour in a nice Scorpion Bowl recipe.
For the final touch, and to do it like the Mai-Kai, cut the end off a lemon and mash it with a juicer to make a “bowl”. I also cut the tip off to make it flatter. Pour some 151 proof rum in it and set it on the volcano. Light, serve and enjoy!
As the drink begins to melt the volcano, it may tip. Just press it back down and you can make the base flat again.
They are on sale now at the Swank Pad Productions website and next week in the Mai-Kai gift shop!
6 years ago we last tasted this beverage. The bottle was found by friends who were cleaning out a relative’s home after they passed. They just happened to keep the bottle because it was pretty. What was inside was amazing. A flavor unlike anything else. I began trying to get more soon after. A fresh bottle came in the mail last week.
It was better than my memory! There is a curry flavor, cinnamon, anise is there and gives it an Absinthe/licorice flavor that is subtle. It finishes with that almost Vick’s Vap-o-rub feeling in the nose.
Some people take a sip and think you have poisoned them. Others are mezmerized.
Now, how do I make this bottle last 6 more years until I maybe get another???
Previously: Mazarine Cordial
Having been on the low carb diet many times, and enjoying a Margarita and just plane any cocktail when Friday afternoon rolls around, I have worked at making a low carb version. Most recipes are way too gross, as it seems the general idea of what they should taste like does not come from the true recipe, but the sweet junk served by most Mexican restaurants. And even those closer to the real thing meant you had to suffer through it. Now any more!
First, the real recipe is simple: 3 oz Tequila, 2 oz Triple Sec, 1 oz Lime juice, ice.
My version of that requires Da Vinci Sugar Free Syrup Sweetener, 750 ml It is made with Splenda and has the right thickness and no aftertaste. You can sub your favorite sugar substitute instead. Start with one packet and see how that suits you.
The Best Low Car Margarita Recipe
3 oz Gold Tequila
1 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
1 ounce 80 proof vodka
4 teaspoons Da Vinci syrup to taste, you can also use a sugar substitute packets
1/2 to 1 teaspoon orange extract or orange emulsion (to taste)
I prefer to mix up 2 at a time and add a lot of ice in the blender so that it really pours as more like 4 drinks. This recipe comes to about 2-2.5 carbs, due to the lime juice. You could sub lime crystals for the juice, but I doubt it would be very good and it isn’t that much carbs. Not worth the loss of a good tasting drink to me, and some say the glycemic index for lime juice renders it nearly no carbs.
This image is from the June 1959 issue of Esquire magazine. It says:
“The fabulous mixologist Mariano Licudine of the famed Mai-Kai Restaurant in Florida creates new ways with rum in his Derby Daiquiri. The secret: one ounce of fresh orange juice, one half ounce of fresh lime juice, one scant teaspoon of sugar, one andone half ounces of Puerto Rican white label rum, one cup of crushed ice; mix in a blender for 10 seconds or shake vigorously. The bee? Oh, he’s just buzzy. But this, designated the oficial drink of the Florida Derby, is the DERBY DAIQUIRI.”
This date seems to have confused people into thinking this was named the official drink of the Derby in 1959. The Derby Daiquiri has been on the Mai-Kai drink menu since the earliest printings. And it has always been pictured served in the special Jockey glass. So, I would assume it has been the drink of the Derby since 1957 at least, which is the copyright date on the oldest menus I have seen.
Here is Mai-Kai owner Bob Thornton holding the drink with the original coaster.
Here is my glass with the coaster.
UPDATE 8/10/2011: After extensive research, though the Derby Daiquiri was on the first Mai-Kai menu, it did not become the official drink of the Gulfstream Derby until probably 1959.
I have wanted to make it look up to date for a while and was very lucky to get Justin Bird, a Nashville artist and web designer, to completely revamp the site. His work is fantastic and what he did with the Grogalizer is revolutionary. It is nearing an iPhone app.
Check out the new design, and the new features. It has always been a fantastic tool, and now it contains the Bum’s newest recipes too!
The Ice Shell is one of those lost arts, or perhaps, lost little extras, that went away when cheap labor did. I know of only one place I can get a cocktail in an ice shell and that is the venerable Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, FL. If you are lucky, you’ll get your Shark Bite served in one.
I was sure to ask General Manager Kern Mattei just how one made this magical wonder on one of my first trips. Here I am 7 years later actually doing it.
Why did it take me so long? I needed the right glass. And I have not searched for it continually. Today Ms Swanky thought to look while we were at a Goodwill and we lucked upon a few perfect glasses.
The right glass must be round and have a short edge. That is, it can’t come up too far or you can’t make it work.
To make mine I used my go-to fine ice crusher, the Oster Sno-Flake. It makes good fine crushed ice and is detachable from its base so you can put it over an ice bicket and crush up tons at a time. Available for cheap on Ebay and your local antique dealer.
So now you have the proper glass and the fine crushed ice, using the back of a spoon, press the ice into a shallow shell around the inside of the glass. Keep building it up on the edges until the inside of the entire glass is covered. Put the glass in the freezer.
After it has time to freeze solid, take it out and go to the final step. I am not sure how the professionals do it. Maybe you can just let it cool on the counter for a while, but I heated the glass with my hands. You need a little warming to get the ice to seperate from the glass. A little push will tell you when it is ready. Too much and you will destroy your work.
Once the ice shell is loose from the glass, you push down one edge and back fill more ice with the spoon to get the glass covered again. Then put it back in the freezer until you are ready to serve.
After a few, it gets easier and yoru final product better. Back in th eearly days, there were many drinks served with ice sculpture and they had guys back there making the special sculptures all night long. I can count over a dozen with ice sculptures on the vintage Mai-Kai menu.
UPDATE: A small bit of advice to make it all easier. Crush your ice, but let it sit a little while. You want it to be melting a little. “Wet” ice, like wet snow will pack much better and when you freeze it, it will make a stronger block.
I suggest the “Shark Tooth” from Beachbum Berry’s “Grog Log”. It will also likely be in his new book coming out soon, Re-Mixed. Or join me at this little event I started called Hukilau in June and we’ll try one at the Mai-Kai.
If you make one of these, be sure to thank the Mai-Kai for keeping the knowledge alive.
Ms. Swanky got me this sealed vintage bottle for Christmas this year and I was eager to try it. Rums of today just don’t compare to those of 40 years ago I am told. The rums they used to mix with then, we would consider only for sipping on the rocks today.
And anyone who has spent much time mixing drinks knows that Bacardi 151 is essentially best served on fire. Lemon Hart 151 is the only thing out there with a good flavor for mixing. Want to test that? Try a “151 Swizzle” using each, side by side. Look at the ratings on the Grogalizer and you see clearly who used what as the grades for the drink are all 1′s and 10′s!
So, with that backdrop, I wanted to see where this 151 stood.
I started with the Lemon Hart as a baseline. It has an immediate and strong caramel flavor. Oo, and there’s the burn! Yep, that’s 151 proof! A hazardous material you can’t send via plane. But, compared with the Bacardi, it’s mighty tasty.
Now to the 40 year old bottle of Don Q. A much milder flavor. Yes, a flavor! And not moist socks. It’s light and nice. Sort of like a really smooth and yummy gold rum. Better than Appleton Gold. And then I swallowed. Ouch.
It’s in between the strong flavor of the Lemon Hart and the blech flavor of Bacardi. That is, it won’t give the powerful punch of Lemon Hart. But it is good. It’s nice. I may have to get out the aluminum cups and cinnamon sticks and mix us some “151 Swizzles” to get an even better idea.
After an unexpected need to move to a new server, I have been slowly getting all my sites and their parts back working. This blog is still not done. A newer version of Word Press has the feeds at a new address, so, if you subscribed to the feed before, you may have to do it again to get my blathers. I also need to reinstall the style here… Lots of work yet to do.
One thing I wanted to get back first, that was the most daunting wash the Grogalizer. Lots of custom made PHP code with a MySQL background. A few evenings work has gotten one piece after another back working. Tonight I think it is all back working.
Give it a try and let me know if you find any problems. I’ve even seen The Bum himself logging in, so, I am proud of my creation!
Just when you think you know what’s out there, something else comes along. Until about a month ago, I had never seen this menu. It is the “missing link” in a way. Oddly missing from the Mai Kai drink menu that we all have seen that is dated 1957, is the Mystery Drink. That led to wondering if the Mystery Drink was around in 1956 when they opened. This is perhaps the answer. On this menu, dated 1959, is the Mystery Drink. There was a seperate menu for the Molokai and that’s where the drink was ordered. It is dated 1959 and not 1957. We had this dated menu from 1958, so, this menu doesn’t get us closer to 1957 for the Mystery Drink, just firms up the evidence. One interesting thing from the mini menu is the image of the Mystery Drink. It is the kneeling girl bowl that was common among many bars.
That bowl is seen in this image from the Mai Kai which is surely Annie Campbell:
So, perhaps the Mystery Drink started in 1956 when the Mai Kai opened, and the Mai Kai Mystery Bowl appeared a little later…
More Mai Kai goodness pre-Hukilau
Many years ago at the World’s Longest Yardsale, an empty bottle of Leilani Hawaiian Rum turned up. Sven Kirsten said he has a display that held the bottle and was looking for a one to put in it. That put me on a search.
At the Tiki Ti you may have seen this. It’s an “adapted” display. A few years ago I happened upon the display in mint condition. Now I was in the spot Sven was. Until last week…
Behold the Leilani Hawaiian Rum display, with a vintage, unopened bottle of Leilani Hawaiian Rum!
Yes, that state tax seal is intact. Beach Bum Berry ranks it as one of his favorite white rums. I have tasted it via a few airline sized bottles over the years. I think I will keep this seal unbroken for a long time. I love having this perfect display in the bar!
So you have a bottle of simple syrup, also called sugar syrup, and it has a bottom covered in crystalized sugar. It happens. But must it happen? Or at least, as fast? No.
I was reading through the ingredients in something or other and saw “inverted sugar.” Being a curious sort, I went Googling. What I found was the recipe for inverted sugar. It is very similar to simple syrup. Where sugar has a sweetness rating of 100, simple syrup and inverted sugar have a rating of 130. And the process of making it is very similar. Both break the sugar apart in an effort to keep it in a liquid state, rather than a solid and a liquid. But, inverted sugar should last longer as a liquid than sugar syrup. To read it all, go here. To know the short simple answer, just keep reading.
Your normal simple syrup recipe is one part sugar to one part water, boiled and cooled and bottled.
Inverted sugar is basically, one cup of sugar, one cup of water, a few drops of lemon juice, boiled and then simmered (barely boiling) for 20 minutes, cooled and bottled. The lemon juice acts as a catalyst and will not effect the taste. This process should make your simple syrup, ahem, inverted sugar, not crystalize as quickly, if ever. Same taste, etc.
p.s. You can do the same thing with honey to make a honey syrup that is far, far easier to mix than normal honey. Two things to be careful of with this. A) Honey boils over very quickly. Do not step away from this process or it will boil over and be a big mess! and 2) Make this stuff in a 50/50 mix and when your recipe calls for 1/2 ouce of honey, add 1 ounce of your mix. The extra 1/2 ounce of water should not make much difference. This is the way they do it at the Mai Kai!
I meant to share these in chronological order, but somehow I messed up. So, now we start the 1963 Mai Kai calendar.
Donna is Miss January 1963. That Old Black Magic has had me in its spell many times…
I have always believed that the Mystery Drink was created at the Mai Kai and copied by the Kahiki. I had wondered why my early Mai Kai drink menu copyrighted 1957 did not have it in the list. I knew it came later. In fact, I was told this last weekend at Hukilau that it was first served in 1962.
The Kahiki opened in 1961. The oldest menu I have from there has the Mystery Drink on it. The bowl it shows on that menu is exceedingly rare. That bowl shows up in a few pictures of celebrities at the Kahiki from those early days. But for the Kahiki to copy the Mystery Drink, it would have to come at the very earliest, in 1962. More likely even later.
If there are images from their opening showing the Mystery Drink, dated 1961, then the invention of this classic height of Poly Pop is now in doubt. I will search out my own archives later for the photographic evidence. Post your pics if you have it already before you.
UPDATE: The Kahiki ran an insert in the newspaper on September 24th, 1961, with an image of the Msytery Bowl, and mentions the Mystery drink and where the Mystery Bowl was made. That stamps a clear date on the Kahiki Mystery Drink as 1961. If the Mai Kai served the first Msytery Drink in 1962, they were copying the Kahiki.
Does anyone have more proof on the Mai Kai doing a Msytery Drink before 1961?
UPDATE 7-23-07: Kern Mattei, GM of the Mai Kai says the Mystery Drink was announced in their “Happy Talk” newsletter. If you are in possession of a pre 1961 “Happy Talk,” please check it for mention of the drink and report the facts!
UPDATE 7-30-07: I asked Mimi Payne, who runs Arkiva Tropika to look through her collection for a Happy Talk to try to prove this mystery. No luck on the Happy Talk, but, she did find in her collection that the Okole Maluna Club menu had the Mystery Drink on it, and was dated 1958. Sure, that’s not 100% factual, but, nobody is going to make up a date on something like that. I consider this proven. The Mai Kai invented the Mystery Drink. Proof. And far earlier than was thought.
I have not gotten Basement Kahuna to post here yet, but he has agreed to let me be the first to publish his cocktail recipes. Besides his great carving skills, he has a great pallette and has recreated some recipes from tasting them, like the Mai Kai’s “Black Magic,” as well as created new ones of his own.
But here is the catch. You don’t just get to see the recipes. They are now integrated into the Grogalizer. So, when you use the Grogalizer to find recipes to make, you will find a few extras that come from BK’s private recipe book…
The Grogalizer is here. Enjoy.
UPDATE: I have also included the top three recipes from the Tiki Central Drink Contest in the Grogalizer.
It’s just a couple of weeks away. Last year was a crazy weekend. I hardly slept! It was the first year I have actually gotten to enjoy the weekend and talk to so many people. I think I talked more in a few days than the entire year. The hot tub made for memories we’ll all keep forever. Once again, thanks to Crazy Al. He has a way of inventing fun.
This year I am endeavoring to spend more time at the Mai Kai. It is my favorite place on Earth. I want to be there for Happy Hour a couple of times.
Beachbum Berry’s talk last year and then sipping with him at the Mai Kai was fantastic, and getting an all new book will be a huge plus. This book has more history rather than being just a recipe book. Lots of new recipes in it too though. Pre-Order it now and have it for him to sign at the event.
After years of anticipation, we are getting a little peak at The DVD of Tiki and a showing of footage from the Hukilau Hurricane of 2004. Many I talk to say that year was the best in many ways. For a lot of Floridians, it was the worst. Very much the worst for me. I never recovered really. But it is a powerful memory and I love to hear Pablus sing “Hukilau Hurricane.”
I look forward to seeing the Crazed Mugs perform at the Mai Kai again. When they took the stage last year, it all just stopped and we were transfixed. Otto was standing next to me and he whispered, “he’s our Bruddah Iz.” So right.
The Hukilau mug has some of my favorite imagery in Polynesian Pop this year, the cannibal trio. I have discussed them with Sven and Bob at Oceanic Arts. I think the concensus is that it started with Donn Beach, which is precisely why those tikis are so special.
The new version of Tiki Road Trip will be making its debut at Hukilau and we get to see all the places we never knew existed.
Robert Drasnin will perform his new work which was recorded earlier this year for a new release. Basement Kahuna says his record “Voodoo” is near perfection for the tiki bar soundtrack and now we’ll have a great follow up.
It’s always great to see my many friends I see only this one weekend a year in person. It’s great to be around so many people who are passionate about the same things I am. And this year my lovely fiance will join me, although she plans to spend more time tanning and exploring the area than doing the tiki-nerd stuff.
This event is central for us non-Californians. California may have an abundance of tiki locales, but we still have the best one of all by a mile down in Fort Lauderdale. We all come together to worship in a rum dazed fog for the weekend. We get to visit the Mother Ship of Tiki and be transported to that special place. That place that is slowly slipping away more and more. No other place holds that mystery better than the Mai Kai. And we right coasters are darned proud. Inside the Mai Kai, it is like stepping back in time. As close as any of us will get anyway…
Two weeks and I’ll be there, at the bar, soaking it all in for my yearly ration… It’s never enough…
Just your typical scene of Hawai in 1964. Men in suits and skinny ties and ladies in dresses. Waiting for dinner outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village Luau. Maybe Alfred Apaka tonight. But…
Basement Kahuna arrives here today and we depart for Tiki Eyeball in the morning.
I am in my office today, listening to my Exotica and islands music playlist and I am excited. It’s like when I was a kid and we were going to Disneyworld in the morning. I hear the music and I’m there, at the Aku Tiki Room, Navy Grog in hand. Dim lights, fish floats, Orchids of Hawaii and Witco decor… I just can’t wait! Giddy. Even though its a 9 hour drive for me. I am excited to get to go to that magic place again.
My attitude is a little different these days. I go there as a fan, but also as a researcher and a documenter too. I take my photography equipment to get the best pictures possible and plan to talk to anyone I can about the history and write it down. I want to share it as well as experience it.
I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting some new people. I am really looking forward to the rare treat of having someone else mix my tropical concoction, and it be really good. I’ll savor it.
This is the lot of most of us tikiphiles. The only tiki bar near us is our own. We get to visit the real deal just a few times a year, if at all. I ache for it.
I may not be able to sleep tonight!
Part one in a series that may or may not continue:
This is the Ren Clark’s Severed Head tribute mug by NOTCH. There are not many mugs out there cold painted like this. The vast majority are a single color due to cost. This is a fantastic mug, and an experiment in my photographic endeavors.
I am starting to get acclimated to the new house and having time for the things I neglected while renovating, and then getting to the things that are just sort of normal life again… This picture is a leftover. When we were moving, I snapped this picture after I had emptied all the bottles out of the bar. Sort of weird packing liquor up in liquor boxes. All the liquors, liqueurs, bitters, and sundries fit in 6 boxes. There is one more boxes with juices, and of course, the machines and utensils. This is not everything needed to work through The Bum’s books. I had scaled back buying as we went in to this house buying thing. Is this a lot of booze or a little? Seems like a tiny bit to me…
Check this out. I just picked up a Kahiki skull mug.
Believe it or not, this is the only skull mug I own.
Dig this very crisp mold. A very nice mug. And, how much was it?
25 cents! In yer face sukahs!
I had the good pleasure to meet Beachbum Berry at Hukilau. Heard his discussion on drinks and drink making. Talked drinks with him and even talked drinks at the Mai Kai. I also found out he was relocating just over the mountain from here in Asheville, NC. I was pleased to learn he knew of my efforts with the Grogalizer, and now I am very pleased that he has added the handy online tool to his website. I hear I get some sort of mention in his new book. I can’t wait to get my copy from him at Hukilau this year!
My definition of “collecting” has changed over the years. I have been humbled by the vast and cumpulsive collections by people I have met or seen online. I do have a few “collections,” but, nothing that is going to blow anyone away. I suppose I collect vintage lamps, radios, and stuff. But mostly I don’t “collect” those things, I just buy them when I find stuff I like at a price I like. I only really collect Mai Kai and Aku Aku Las Vegas stuff, and a little Don the Beachcomber. Otherwise, it’s just decor. It is not a “collection” and my home is not a museum.
Experiment 33 has posted his collection of vintage barware and started a Flickr group for more to add theirs. I do love the remnants of a lost culture of good drink making. And I have a few of the things pictured myself.
I have had many ice crushers. Hand crank types and motorized ones. These days I enjoy the luxury of crushed ice by way of the fridge door. But, the best other ice crusher is the Oster Snoflake. Not only does it do the job well, but, you can put the crusher over an ice bucket instead of the tray it comes with and make mountains of crushed ice for your party. It does throw out eye piercing shards of ice, like many, but, it’s not too scary. Get one cheap on Ebay.
Ms Swanky got me the larger cup version of this item for Christmas. It is made so that you can read the measurements from the top, rather than having to squat down and peek at it from the side. I later discovered they make a small version which is marked in 1/2 ounces. This is ideal for mixing drinks.
On Thursday, the father of Tiki, Donn Beach would have been 100. He created many of the great drink recipes that we all know now as “Tropical Drinks” or “Tiki Drinks.” He created what we call the tiki bar. Victor Bergeron copied him. They all copied him.
The motto for “Don the Beachcombers” is a good one: “Where good rum is immortalized and drinking is an art.”
Special night at Forbidden Island of course. Special drinks on the menu for one night only so you can toast Dad with a few of his inventions.
Thanks for the tiki! Thanks for the drinks!
UPDATE: I have been so freakin busy I didn’t get around to it unitl today, Saturday. My honey syrup was bad, so it limited my choices. I went for a Pablus favorite and made the Test Pilot. YUM! Two batches. Yes! Donnn will forgive the Trader Vic’s glass I hope…
That, and a gift card to the liquor store…
It was a goal to make every tiki drink recipe in that book. So I had long been going through and marking a grade in the corner of each page as I made it. The Grogalizer simplified all that. You just select the ingredients you have in your bar and it tells you which tropical drinks you can make. Then you can grade them and add your comments. You can see the average vote for the drink given by everyone and see their suggestions as well. A new feature allows you to see your graded recipes from best to worst.
I use the site all the time and as I find a need, I create a solution there.
I assumed everyone already knew about this site, but, just to be sure, I am sending out this post. If you are making the recipes in these book, you need to use the site. Or, one day when you catch the mixology bug, you’ll need it then.
If you are a denizen of the Knoxville dives, you know Opal’s Lounge. If you go by before 7PM these days, you can still hang out with Opal herself. She is a legend in Knoxville bars. She has been like a grandmother to me. One that smokes, drinks and cusses.
I have made it a point to go visit Miss Opal monthly if not weekly since she stopped working the late nights there. It’s always good to see her.
Word has come to me via Mark that she has sold the place. By what I hear, it must be to someone she knows and who will likely keep it much as it is. I am going to get over there soon and find out details. We simply must have a celebration of Miss Opal. Once I know more about the future plans, I will send out word as to when we shall congregate around our community leader.
Here is what they said of the place in 2002 when she got the “Best Real Dive in Knoxville” award:
Best Real Dive
Hey, Toddy’s is OK. It might be deserving of the “neighborhood bar” honor, but it ain’t much of a dive as dives go. The dive of dives is the runner-up, almost straight across Kingston Pike. It shares a gravel driveway with the condemned Biltmore Motor Court, a lodging place that was seedy in its heyday along the Dixie Lee Highway. Opal’s Lounge used to be much worse, 20 years ago in its poke-salad days as Dirty Gert’s, back when the carpet squished with stale beer and the devil knows what else underfoot, but it’s still a dive to be reckoned with. Consider the near-subterranean location, with its door and its parking at the rear (for those timid Baptist tipplers among us). Think of the steel girders overhead, every 30 inches, that hold up the low, gray concrete ceiling, bomb-shelter style. Look at the portraits of John Wayne and Willie Nelson on the side wall above the pool tables, and cast a long glance at the nubile, decidedly nude muchacha painted exquisitely on velvet, con sombrero, above the backbar. Check out the jewel of a juke box. Wonder how come Bubba ain’t shot it yet. Ignore the electronic dart board, there for the dartistes who can’t count. Thanks to Ms. Opal Sparks, prop., Opal’s is still the dive it always was, despite the fact that the pool hall-then-massage parlor upstairs is now an oriental rug shop, and the men’s room is actually clean and doesn’t smell any worse than the Swisher-brand air freshener on the wall. At least the mirror is cracked in two places. And, even though the bar now carries such pee-willy beverages as Guinness stout and Pete’s Wicked Ale, Opal’s is unquestionably a Bud-BudLight-MillerLite kind of joint.
Trust us. The votes Opal’s got came from the most discriminating of dive denizens. There wasn’t another real dive among the top 10. When the prominent throwback sign, lettered: “We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone” is taken into full account, one has to wonder who the hell that could ever be.
She also makes her own damn pickled eggs thank you very much!
Spread the word and get by there before 7PM and pay your respects to the lady.
UPDATE: Even at the time of this post, Opal’s was history. She sold it for a small amount really and we wish we had known. We would have bought it and kept it true to its roots and a shrine to Miss Opal. George Jones would always remain on the jukebox, with Patsy, the Killer, and Elvis.
As it turned out, I was there her last night. I was there with Mark on a Friday and Miss Opal was particularly nice and loving. She literally interupted our conversation several times to give me a hug and tell us she loved us. It seemed strange, and now I know why.
I asked around Metropulse to see if they would do a story on her. She is not fond of reporters. I offered to help and even to write it if needed. Opal would talk to me I am sure. I have not heard anything in a long time. I guess it isn’t happening.
Even Peyton Manning used to go to Opal’s to get away. He loved the place. That’s the way it used to be. A big star like Peyton could enjoy a night there without being hassled.
I spent a gazzilion nights at Opals over the years and saw it dead and crowded as hell. Never saw a fight ever. That says quite a lot for a dive like that. Met the best friend of a certain James Dean and heard the story of the day James took off to the big city and asked his friend to come with him. He didn’t. Met the psychiatrist for Sinatra’s drummer’s son. Sounds like a distant connection, but he told me about meeting Frank and him knowing just who he was and thanked him and offered to help in any way if it was needed. Let me know a little more about the man.
There was a certain magic to Opal’s. And it is now completely gone.
A friend of ours found this bottle while cleaning out a house in Indiana. He had no idea what it was, but brought it home. We opened this bottle and sampled one of the most incredible flavors ever. A search of the internet has shown nothing. We have no idea if it is still made or imported. I assume not imported for sure. I had tasted nothing so wonderful in my life until we opened up a vintage bottle of Okolehao recently. That flavor was very close. We finished off this bottle and hated to see it empty.
Calling Virani! Do you know anything about this amazing cordial made in Paris? Does anyone out there?
Update 7-21-2012: After searching for these last 6 years, and many dead ends, I just got another bottle of this magical elixir. It is far better than I recalled, and I must say that comparing it to okolehao is not accurate. It is far superior. Like nothing else. It has notes of curry, cinnamon, honey, licurice and an almost menthol, minty finish that is amazing.
For those who have ventured very deep into Beachbum Berry’s books, you know there are some pretty scarce ingredients in there. You can spend a lot of time and money tracking them down. Some are easy enough to find, but it is often hard to afford $40 for a bottle of liqueur that you will use to make one cocktail you may not even like. Over time, you gather everything you need to make every drink in those books. Even Pimento Liqueur! But, there is one elusive ingredient: okolehau. It’s elusive for one simple reason, it has not been made in about 30 years.
The Bum offers some substitutes in his books, so you can still make the recipes. But it has always nagged at me. I wanted to know just how this stuff tasted.
I came across a tiny airline bottle of the vintage brew a couple of months ago and set it aside for a special occasion. When Basement Kahuna came to town, that was the time. BK is a supreme mixologist and has a fine collection of vintage intoxicants. He had never tasted oke either.
I poured us all a sip. Man! I was shocked! There is nothing in my bar like it! It has an incredible flavor. Woody, spicey, but not overpowering, warm. I love it! And I have no idea what would really replace it in a drink. Maybe some Licor 43… I just don’t know. But I really want them to get to making it again. I will order a lot and keep it in my bar all the time as an aperitif!
I had not been there in a while, but wandered over looking for a recipe online. I noticed they have made nice additions to the look of the site, but a big new upgrade is the ability to scale a drink recipe. If you are making Mai Tais for 20, this is very handy. It’s smart because it not only tells you how many ounces of everything you need, but how many bottles. A great tool! Here is their Mai Tai page, which has Grenadine in it for some reason…
Thanks to Traitor Vic bringing me a bottle of Maraschino Liqueur, I have a new batch of drinks to try from Beachbun Berry’s books. I checked the Grogalizer and the big favorite of the bunch was the Demerara Dry Float. That was my first choice.
2.5 ounces of lime juice. Wow. That’s a lot. I squeezed my limes and looked at the recipe again. Wow. No freakin way I am making this by the book. I was making two of them for me and the missus to sample, so I put in just 3 ounces of lime juice, along with the Lemon Hart rums and other ingredients.
As I have said before, Ms. Swanky is a tart liker. She gave the drink a solid 8 out of 10 vote. Me, I am a sour hater, so I gave the drink a solid 2. Neither of us would have added in the extra ounce of lime per drink however.
I am surprised to see this on several Tiki Central Top 10 Drink Lists. Maybe when Pablus comes over again, he and Ms. Swanky can tweak the recipe into something great for them. I’ll just watch thanks.
Trader Vic’s has come out with a new concept called the Mai Tai bar. This is a very low cost start up compared to a Trader Vic’s restaurant, and it concentrates on the high margin stuff and keeping staffing small, along with the floor plan.
Hans Richter (President of Trader Vic’s International) personally helped make Hukilau 2002 happen. We had been in touch with Sven Koch (V.P. of Trader Vic’s) all along thanks in part to Sven Kirsten, and so, when Trader Vic’s Atlanta decided at the last minute to charge us $2,000 to hold Hukilau there, Hans, who was on vaction at the time, called the manager and said he would cover it and to make it happen. Trader Vic’s has been a sponsor of Hukilau ever since.
I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but, when I emailed Hans yesterday, Sven called me right away to talk about the franchise. Hans was unavailable until the 19th. It sounded very promising. I was further surprised when Hans called me about an hour later.
I started on the plans to open a tiki bar here in Knoxville in 2005. I spent time talking to James about his experience with the Kahiki Moon. I talked to Brad about Hale Tiki. I talked to tikiskip about the restaurant he owned and ran in Columbus. I learned all I could about the restaurant business and researched the Polynesian restaurant business.
We had started out thinking we wanted to do something very small like the Tiki Ti. That turned out to be impossible by the laws of Tennessee. What we ended up with was a very streamlined place, geared towards the drink menu. The menu would be such that a small kitchen staff could manage it and a small kitchen could prepare and cook it. The food would be there to compliment the drinks. The main thrust is the drink menu. Live music, fun events, special happy hours and regular all out luaus were in the plan. The general idea is to concentrate on the high margin stuff and lower operating costs while maintaining great quality and ambience.
So when I saw the Trader Vic’s Mai Tai bar concept, I saw what I had been working on for a year made better. Since the Mai Kai does not do franchises, the other option is Trader Vic’s. And this is perfect. The Trader Vic’s brand, their quality menu, thier great staff, their barware, etc. scaled into a lean, high margin bar with emphasis on fun and entertainment. It was all I had in mind to do, plus Trader Vic’s name.
I learned from Hans that the cost of the franchise and opening the bar was more than I was planning, but not out of line. I beleive there are costs to be cut here and there. Most people opening a place like this are not that worried about saving $20,000 on kitchen equipment, but I am. There are ways to do this cheaper. I can envision these opening up in smaller cities all over the US. It’s a great concept.
The first one to open will likely be the Hawaii location. The Spain location is set to open this summer. The image on the Spain site is actually the Hawaii location and it looks beautiful.
I don’t know that I can open a Mai Tai bar here, but I am looking into it. I really think this concept will work all over and I am excited to see it. There are even no restrictions on opening the Mai Tai bar in markets where the restaurant already exists.
A huge part of my luau preparations and planning has revolved around the cocktails to be served. I feel a calling to correct the decades of evil perpetrated by slack bartenders who serve tropical drinks, even being so ridiculous as to call them “Mai Tai,” that are nothing more than sickly sweet fruit juice slop.
The Aku Aku in Las Vegas has always been a sort of high point to me. Vegas and tiki. And knowing Bamboo Ben’s grandfather Eli Hedley put it all together makes it even better. Aku Aku ephemera is one of the few tiki things I collect.
The first page has some of the branded glassware and there is a tiki bowl. I am a fan of the ice shell drinks. To make an ice shell (Kern Matie, GM of the Mai Kai taught me this) you first need a pretty round glass, like a wine glass. You put crushed ice in the glass and using a spoon, press it around the glass so that it makes a shell around the interior maybe 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Put the glass in the freezer and let it set up. Then take the glass out and gently push the ice down on one side so that it comes up to make the shell and then press more crushed ice in the glass to line it again and refreeze.
Here in Knoxville is the place of death there near Bearden Hill, when the moonshine runner lost control. “Thunder Road” is a legend. There still (forgive the pun) is plenty of moonshine around these hills. But I have enlisted the aid of a buddy of mine, Traitor Vic, to run rum over the Appalachian mountains for me.
For whatever reason, you can’t ship liquor to Tennessee for personal use. And for other reasons, you can’t get Demerara rum anywhere in Tennessee I have ever found with the exception of the pricey Plantation rum. My normal mule in Florida may not be up here before my luau at the end of the month, and you can’t ship it to Georgia either. So, it’s my luck that Vic is coming over the mountain for the luau. And he is bringing a bottle of Marischino Liqueur with him that he had managed to get his local store to carry. That fills a hole in my liquor cabinet. We had found a bottle of the stuff in Indiana on a buying trip for Hale Tiki decor and let it go to their bar. I made one round of cocktails with it for us on the return trip. It turns out Basement Kahuna could use a bottle of Demerara as well.
We’ll load that mule up for the trek over the hills and have him avoid Bearden Hill. I’m pretty sure this is semi-legal…
I bought this menu for obvious reasons. The drink prices tell me it’s pretty old. I love the graphics and I love the imagery of the Tonga Room.
When the menu arrived I was in for a surprise. I looked at the little description next to the drink, and it was the recipe. They were all the recipes! Indeed, as I actually looked at what was in my hands it does say “Tonga Room Tropical Drink Recipes.”
Straight from the Grog Log, these were the recipes I had made before, handed to me by Beachbum Berry. Here is the “Tonga Room Zombie” I had made not too long ago. I recall it’s stiff punch. I had 3 or 4 and was well lit.
The Tonga Room is still in San Fransico and everyone says it is worth seeing, but not so well worth staying, even for a drink.
Give it a visit when in the area.
And what’s “Pinky” in the Honolulu Cocktail?
UPDATE 7-12: I just noticed in the illustrations they use the cherry as a sort of anchor for the garnish. They are wedging the the rim of the glass between the cherry and orange slice to keep it in place. The cherry also seems to be speared a little off-center to give more meat to hold it in place. I’ll have to remember that.
Here I am in the Hapa Haole Hideaway, enjoying a “Sven Tiki,” page 83 of Intoxica. That’s hot webcam action! I finally have the all important orange juice to complete this recipe. My first thought looking at the recipe is, an ounce of grenadine can’t be good. But, I trust the Bum, so I pushed onward. I eased up on the lime a bit. Maybe 3/4 ounce. It was fine and would have been fine with a full ounce of lime juice. I ended up giving it a 7. I liked it. I’d drink it again. I liked the club soda tingle in it. But, it didn’t have a certain depth and rich rum aroma that I need to give it a higher score.
Personally, I’d take a tip from Sven’s German roots and find a recipe with the appropriate sounding Van der Hum in it. Cheers to Big Bro and the world of tiki he has fostered! I can’t wait to give him a big ol’ hug at Hukilau in October. Can’t wait for the new book on Witco either! Get it while it’s “cheap.”
Dr. Cocktail exorts those who make their own versions of cocktail elixirs this month. In October, Hukilau will have a mixology seminar headed by Beachbum Berry. At his side will be a few friends of mine whose drinks I have imbibed with pleasure: Pablus, Kuku Ahu and Basement Kahuna. Thes guys have the drive for perfection that has caused them to make their own liqueurs when the original stock has dried up.
Basement Kahuna is a drink detective. Months after being at the Mai Kai last, he hands me a drink at Coon Tiki and asks how it compared to their “Black Magic.” He had been deducing the formula in his lab and thought he found the correct concoction. I think he is right. He’s reproduced a few of their recipes and made some great ones of his own.
Pablus tends to make his drinks in gallons. Crates of fresh fruit from the groves and it all comes together. He is a great soldier in the quest for perfect Falernum, and has indeed made his own! It was he who put together the great Falernum tasting of Hukilau 2004. He even sings songs he has written about Falernum and cocktails with his band The Crazed Mugs.
In my bar I have a bottle of Pimento Liqueur made by JTD and have sampled that made by Ahu. He has made his own Passionfruit Syrup, Grenadine, Pimento Liqueur, and tried his hand at Falernum and any number of mixers. Ahu has a background as a chef and brings that huge knowledge to bare on the drink making.
These guys have a great wealth of mixing knowledge, talent and taste. There are only a handfull of us who spend the hours and dollars to make our way through all the recipes in Berry’s books. These guys are some of the best.
And besides the seminar, you can check out their work in my room at Hukilau on Thursday night as the Fraternal Order of Moai host their bar there. Look for the guys in the blue Fezes.
In the mean time you can catch me and Ahu enjoying the Kahiki’s head bartender’s drinks at the Hot Rod Hula Hop 2 this August in Columbus. If you live near me in Tennessee, you can maybe get invited to my luau this month where I and Basement Kahuna will make a lot of classic and new tiki cocktails for my guests. And as always, visit your local tiki bar and encourage the classics!
Target has a line of outdoor and garden stuff this year called “Mai Tiki.” I’m sure Wayne Coombs is furious! Thay sell a couple of styles of 3 foot plastic tikis for your yard.
It seems the people who design the new items are not looking to Polynesian cultures for their inspiration as much as they are looking at old tiki mugs and vintage bastardized Polynesian Pop culture.
There is plenty of room to complain about true Polynesian culture being usurped by Americanized Polynesian culture. But I am glad to see vintage Poly Pop being promoted and 1950′s and 1960′s Hawaiian icons coming back in style, rather than the very bland American culture that washed away the traces of uniqueness that used to define Hawaii. At least bastardized Polyneisan culture has some roots in the original.
Now if they will just get the Coco Palms back open as it was when Elvis was filming there…
Monday, our avid junkin’ friend brought us two vintage mugs from thrift stores. They are both green mugs from the “Luau Hut” in Silver Spring
The first is a Ku, OMC mug, which is the same design used by the “Hawaiian Inn” in Daytona and others.
This is the second and third mug found in Knoxville thrift stores from Maryland tiki bars. The other was from the Emerson Hotel’s “Hawaiian Room.” Makes me wonder if they all came from the same person.
If you have ever enjoyed a Mystery Bowl at the Mai Kai, or Volcano Bowl at other tiki establishments, you know that you must have a really long straw to both participate and not catch your hair on fire. In preparing for the luau at the Swank Pad next month, I began searching for extra long straws online. I found some at Dynasty Wholesale, but their website left me wondering if I could order or not. I searched around and found other places, but they had minimum order amounts and everything else they sold was crap. Then I thought “Ebay!” Yes, the source of everything had a seller of 500 20 inch straws for $9.99! Good deal!
Now my guests won’t have to worry about catching on fire and we can drink of a communal bowl. The lushes can even steal sips of their neighbor’s cocktails.
This menu came up on Ebay and it is a glimpse at why tiki collecting is so intriguing for me. The restaurant is simply named “The Polynesian” in Torrance. Here is why serious collectors collect drink menus. Inside this menu are images of the bowls and mugs used to serve their rum soaked cocktails. Note the Gardenia floating in the left hand bowl. Classic. With the menu you can match a mug to its original locale and maybe pour the correct mixture into it if you dare.
The images on this menu are phenomenal! These mugs kick major tiki butt. If you have one of these treasures in your collection, please share. The menu auction ends Sunday.
Last night I went to the Grogalizer to fetch a new cocktail to concoct. I like concocting. Sounds like something dirty and fun. I started with the “Sven Tiki” and then found someone in the house drank all the orange juice! Kids. So, I switched gears and went for the “Tonga Planter’s”, page 86 of Intoxica.
Planter’s Punchs have never been a favorite. Always too sour for me. But, I got out the crank juicer and limes and lemons and went at it. Pushing every bit of juice out of those little balls of citrus. An ounce of lime and an ounce of lemon juice per drink. Did not look promising.
I served it up to Ms. Swanky and I drank mine. As I expected. Sour. I scored it a 1 because all I tasted was sour juices. But, Ms Swanky gave it a 6. A 6! She referred to it as “tart.” She likes “tart.”
Now I know. I am living with a “tart” liker. That’s how you know. I say “sour”, she says “tart.” Should I open a tiki bar, I will describe drinks as “tart,” not “sour.”
I let her have the remaining 6 ounces of the batch.
A few years ago, Ms. Floratina traded me a bunch of music for this incredible bottle of Trader Vic’s Flaming Rum. She found it as old stock on a shelf in a California liquor store. Brand new … er old. Has the old style tax label across the top.
Don’t tell her I broke the seal and have actually used it to fire up some volcano bowls…
I assume any rum specifically made for burning is specifically not much for drinking. I have not dared taste it.
Last night we decided to take another step on the march to make every drink in Beachbum Berry’s books. So, we pulled up the Grogalizer and see what we could make. A little searching found I was out of light rum of all things, but a fresh supply of Saint James Royal Ambre Martinique rum. A favorite. So I chose to make page 64 of the Grog Log, Polynesian Paralysis.
This is to be served in a tiki bowl, and I chose my Aku Aku Las Vegas Surfer Girl bowl. It’s a very easy and straightforward recipe when you double it, as I usually do.
We sipped on the first bowl (6 ounces of rum) and worked on the invitations and web site for our luau coming up in a month. It was pretty good and went down easy, so I made a second. This time it was a little harder as I drank more than my fair share. You can lose count of your pours if you’re not careful!
So we knocked back a second bowl as we started watching “Wedding Crashers.”
It was not as good at this point. It sure started well, but that much citrus just got to be too much. I think Ms. Swanky may be citrus intolerant as well as lactose.
So, I ended up giving it a grade of 8. This is a good one to serve to newbies and at a bar, but, it holds no depth and gets old.