Due to the great Lime Crisis of 2014, we are forced to re-evaluate options. In the past I have endorsed Nellie’s Key Lime juice as a back-up when fresh lime juice runs out. You know how it is. It’s 1AM and you’ve made Rum Barrels and a Demerara Dry Float and a Navy Grog for your guests and they want more, MORE! So your limes are all spent and you need to make people happy. You could use Nellie’s and cut it to maybe 3/4 strength and make a decent cocktail. Once I discovered the Santa Cruz Organic Lime Juice at the grocery store in the natural food section, I never touched the Nellie’s again. It is a spot on sub for lime juice. Only thing missing is pulp!
So, while limes have gone from robust and 25 cents each to puny and 90 cents each, or worse, disappeared, go to the healthy food section and grab a few bottles of this stuff while it is still reasonable.
Look for it at your grocery store in the health/natural foods section. Here it can be found at Kroger, Food City, etc. It is also likely at your more healthy/organic food grocery stores like Whole Foods.
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!
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.
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!
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
I brought up getting bags of crushed ice before in preparation for a luau. Crushed ice is as much a part of a proper tropical cocktail as fresh mint and rum. But when you are mixing for 40, it’s hard to get that much proper ice.
I found a new solution. Sonic Drive-Ins. They are not in all the country, but they are pretty widespread. And that fine ice they use for their drinks is available by the bag. That is a great solution.
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 got this little menu on Ebay a while ago. I thought it was maybe just a mini ordering menu, perhaps for a luau or small event. This weekend at Hukilau, I found out what it was.
The “Big Bamboo” is of interest to this story.
Having the “Cobra’s Kiss” and “Deep Sea Diver” marked out I thought meant it was just not available at the time the menu was passed out. Not so.
The real answer came during Beachbum Berry’s talk. He had introduced Mai-Kai original mixologist, Mariano Licudine’s son to the crowd and had him come up to answer questions. He had been around the Mai-Kai since it was being built when he was a lad of twelve. His Dad had supervised every minute detail of the building of the bar.
He told about one of the recipes on the menu today which was a weakened version of the “Big Bamboo” recipe. The “Big Bamboo” was a drink you only got after you had worked your way through the “Okole Maluna Club”. This little menu was for that club. You got a drink marked off as you tried it and when you had tried all the drinks, you got a big bamboo mug of your own and got the “Big Bamboo” drink as a member of that club. That is why there is a “Cobra’s Kiss” marked off on this menu! That is what it is for and the drink is right there on the back! The only way to get the “Big Bamboo” was to try all these drinks.
So many great things come from Hukilau. I want to know more and more! He also said the origianl doors to the Mai-Kai looked like this and the original drink menu with the tikis on one door and “Mai Kai ” on the other, carved in Mohogany. Where are those doors now Kern?
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!
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.
I would almost say this isn’t quite a tiki bar, but just tropical, but there are all of Don the Beachcomber’s recipes on the menu, so it must be part of the “family”. This site says it opened on November 27th 1935.
This is a pretty impressive menu. More of an advertizing mailer really. Sugie really seemed to have a way with the celebrities. Beachbum Berry talks a little about this place in his discussion of Ray Buhen, the famed bartender of the Tiki Ti. Ray worked at the Tropics and probably brought those recipes with him.
I was surprised to find nothing on Tiki Central about the place. Tiki Road Trip says that it later became The Luau, Steven Crane’s first tiki bar.
The menu is impressive when fully folded out. It has “quotes” from various celebrities about the drinks, including: Bob Hope, Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball and Bette Davis, among others.
Apparently many people blatantly ripped off Sugie’s Tropics. There are at least three places who use his images and phrases, in Denver, Dayton and Hollywood.
3D breasts on this matchbook too, a Sugie “signature” idea.
Also has raised boobs on the match cover
Dayton Ohio Tropics
withdrawing my support of Hukilau. Editing all the links to point to hukilau.org insteadPablus and The Crazed Mugs
One of the things I most look forward to at Hukilau and other East Coast Tiki Revival gatherings is the sounds of Pablus and his uke. He’s a good friend and drops by the Hideaway semi-regularly with his uke, and his company and playing are always a great pleasure.
There are a variety of people and groups out there playing Hapa Haole and island music, but when it comes to writing new songs, there are not that many doing that. And when you narrow the field to those folks who are into Polynesian Pop, it gets smaller. And then you think about who is active in the community and actually writing about the community of tiki lovers, it gets down to just Pablus.
Being the only one doing a particular thing isn’t really enough though. But, with Pablus you have all you could want. First, he is an excellent musician and surrounds himself with excellent musicians. Second, he owns one the best recording studios in Florida. Third, he really writes great songs, and forth, he really gets it.
What you end up with it an incredible sounding, well performed CD with a few standards done with feeling and some new songs that will bring a smile to the mug collectors and Beachbum Berry mixologists out there like nothing else.