Potions of the Caribbean

Posted by TraderTiki on May 20th, 2008 — Posted in Don the Beachcomber, Events, Tales 2008, Trader Vic

Cross-posted from Talesblog.com, the official blog of the 2008 Tales of the Cocktail.

Tales of the Cocktail is only a two months away, even a bit less at this point. At this time, thoughts of drunkenly gallivanting about, discussing the business of the boozeness, and many handshakes and business card exchanges swirl about in my head. Between the lectures and the briefings, the tastings and the dealing, where can a guy just relax and get a drink?

Good thing someone thought to talk to a bum about this. A Beachbum, in fact, who, along with a few other panelists, will be providing a trip through the tropics on Saturday, July 19th, with their presentation “Potions of the Caribbean: Lost Cocktails from America’s Post War Playground“. Here, the crowd will be whisked away from the muggy Louisiana summer to a cool Caribbean isle (or at least a room with decent air conditioning), with tropical libations all around.

Along with featured presenter Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, the four panelists are all widely traveled personae with their own take on tropical libations and the Caribbean scene. These prestigious paragons of paneling are Wayne Curtis, author of the essential book And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails; Martin Cate, owner of the celebrated Forbidden Island Tiki bar by the San Francisco Bay; Brother Cleve, the Boston-based mixologist who kick-started the 1990s “Cocktail Nation” movement with his band Combustible Edison; and Steven Remsberg, owner of the world’s largest private rum collection. They’ll be backed up by some real firepower behind the TOC bar as well, since our sample drinks will be mixed by three of the Blogosphere’s premiere Tiki drink experts: Rick Stutz of Kaiser Penguin, Blair Reynolds, aka Trader Tiki, and Craig Hermann of Tiki Drinks & Indigo Firmaments.

The welcoming drink, as in the days when a bowl of punch was expected when dropping by a neighbor’s, will be the 17th-century Meeting House Punch. Contrary to popular belief, during the great age of piracy the buccaneers’ drink of choice was not a bottle of rum, but a bowl of rum punch. Punches were all the rage even among cut-throats like John Rackham. After all, what goes better with plunder than sugar and a few slices of lime?

The presentation will begin in the Caribbean after WWII, when Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico all developed their tourist industries to compete with Hawaii as the “other” exotic vacation paradise. They built lavish resorts, where they served inventive tropical cocktails inspired by the Tiki drinks served in America’s wildly popular Polynesian-themed bars. The bum and the other presenters will be talking about the people behind this era … a story which actually starts hundreds of years before, when the first visitors to the area also brought their own drink recipes with them.

Since the Spanish “discovered” the Caribbean, invading hordes have continually tried to turn it into something else. For the Conquistadors, the Caribbean was “New Spain”; for the Edwardian English, Jamaica was “The New Riviera”; for 1940s Americans, Havana was “The Las Vegas Of The Caribbean”; and for the multinational resort developers of the 1960s, the Caribbean was “Hawaii In The Atlantic.” And whatever the incarnation, there were always new drinks served.

La FloridaJeff “Beachbum” Berry will start the seminar off by tracing Caribbean drink history up to Cuba’s transformation into America’s playground during Prohibition, when famous bartenders like Constantine Ribailagua invented drinks like the La Florida Cocktail (the next drink sample). The bum will also take a look at Sloppy Joe Abeal, who created exotic cocktails for thirsty American celebrities like Ernest Hemingway.

Martin Cate will then take the floor to detail the native spirits, spices and fruits that are unique to the Caribbean, which Don The Beachcomber encountered on his travels to the region in the 1920s — and brought to Hollywood, using them as his inspiration for the first “Tiki Drinks.”

Rum PotAs the third sample is served, a Trader Vic concoction called the Rum Pot, Wayne will reveal how the Tiki cycle went full circle with the story of Trader Vic in the Caribbean: Like Don The Beachcomber, Vic learned how to make tropical drinks by travelling to Cuba. When his restaurant expanded into a chain, he opened a lavish Trader Vic’s in Havana — just in time for Castro’s revolutionaries to storm it.

In the next round, Brother Cleve will delve deeper into the post-WWII “Hawaii In The Atlantic” tourist pitch that led to Caribbean resorts creating their own Tiki-style Drinks, such as the oeuvre of St. Croix’s Weston Huggins and Puerto Rico’s Joe Scialom.

Jasper's JamaicanThe final drink sampled will be a Jasper’s Jamaican cocktail, served while Stephen Remsberg recounts the aftermath of “Atlantic Hawaii”: When the Tiki craze fizzled in the 1970s, Caribbean bartenders went back to their own kind of indigenous cocktails. Stephen, who sampled these bartenders’ wares back in the 1970s, will demo how to properly make a Jasper’s Jamaican, a drink developed by the most legendary of these bartenders, Jasper LeFranc.

Tickets for the session are available on the Tales of the Cocktail website. Hope to see you there!

(note - special thanks to the bum for providing such great information!)

May 20th, Tiki Tuesday menu

Posted by TraderTiki on May 15th, 2008 — Posted in Don the Beachcomber, Events, Teardrop Tiki Menu, Trader Vic

Hey folks, here’s a look at the menu for the May 20th Tiki Tuesday at Teardrop Lounge.

Hope to see you there!

Aku-Aku Gold CupAku-Aku Gold Cup
A spicy citrus and rum concoction from Don the Beachcomber’s Aku-Aku restaurant in the Stardust Hotel, Las Vegas.
Beachombers Rum BarrelBeachcomber’s Rum Barrel
A lovely libation of rum, tropical juices and exotic spices. This hails from Don the Beachcomber’s at the Sahara in Las Vegas. The drink is a doozey, and best shared with Ohana (close friends and family).
Chilled Coffee and tropical rum make up this libation developed by Don the Beachcomber in the early 1930s.
Jet PilotJet Pilot
A spicy sweet drink from The Luau in Beverly Hills. The Luau was owned by Steven Crane, who also owned the now defunct Kon-Tiki here in Portland.
Lei Lani VolcanoLei Lani Volcano
This drink hails from Disney’s Polynesian Village resort. A balanced sweet and sour combination of Guava, Lime, Coconut Rum and Pineapple juice is no Mickey Mouse cocktail.
Mai Tai
Trader Vic’s most famous creation, and easily the most recognized tiki drink in the world. This combination of aged Rum, Lime, Curacao and Orgeat put Trader Vic’s on the map.
Nui NuiNui Nui
Don the Beachcomber’s spicy classic, with Aged Rum, Orange and Lime juices, and Don’s Spices #2, a secret only recently unearthed by Jeff “BeachBum” Berry.
Pain KillerPainkiller
Pusser’s Rum is the feature in this coconut and pineapple drink. One of these to relive the pain of the work-a-day world, two to numb, a third and you might find yourself sailing the seven seas.
Queen's Road CocktailQueen’s Road Cocktail
Ginger, gold rum and citrus make the mix for this Don the Beachcomber classic. This was once served at his Colonel’s Plantation Steakhouse, featuring a private treehouse for two.
Trader Vic’s tangy mix of Orange, Lemon, Rum, Brandy and Orgeat. This drink is most famous as a bowl for four, but works quite well when served for one.
Suffering Bastard
From the Sheperd’s Hotel in Cairo, where a “poor, suffering barsteward” would put this together for the British officers who frequented the establishment. It’s a tart and rich combination of Gin, Bourbon, Lime and Teardrop Lounge’s own Ginger Beer.
Zombie Punch, 1934Zombie
The most infamous of all Don the Beachcomber’s creations, any more than two and you’ll be joining the living dead with this combination of tropical juices, passion fruit, and plenty of dark and light rums.

Mint Julep

Posted by TraderTiki on May 4th, 2008 — Posted in Bourbon, Rum, Trader Vic

April showers bring May flowers, and this weekend brings about that time honored tradition of horse racing, the Kentucky Derby, and its drinking counterpart, the Mint Julep.

There’s not much on this subject I can tell you about that hasn’t been written already. In fact, Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Mint Julep post has just about everything you need to know about it. There are a few further twists that can be picked up (if you can find it) in Stanley Clisby Arthur’s Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix Em. There’s a multitude of stories and julep recipes. Seems like everytime you cross a state, county, city, or even street in the south, someone’s got their own way to make a Mint Julep, and a cross-eye towards any variance in their time-honored tradition. I have to go with Stanley’s first recipe though, a nice in-between that serves damn nicely.


Mint Julep

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 dozen mint leaves
  • 1 jigger Bourbon whiskey
  • 1 pony rum

Put the mint leaves into a tall glass in which the julep is to be served. Add the sugar and crush in a little water. Pour in the Bourbon whiskey, then the rum, and fill the glass with shaved ice. Jiggle the mixture with a long-handled spoon (do not stir) until the outside of the glass or metal goblet is heavily frosted. Arrange a bouquet of several sprigs of mint on top just before handing to the recipient, who will ever after bless you.

I’ll have to admit to throwing in a few tricks from Chris McMillan’s Mint Julep video, as I tend to incorporate his authority in any New Orleans (or, well, just about any) drink I make. Ice first, then booze through the ice for that extra cooling effect. As well, being gentle with the mint, so as not to arouse any of the bitterness in the mint. Oh, and if using a 1:1 simple syrup instead of sugar, be sure to use a bit extra… there’s quite a bit of water in there.

You’ll notice a bit of a variation from the standard of an all-Bourbon drink above, which is, the inclusion of rum. After all, for an all-American (with European and Arabic influences) drink like the Mint Julep, which has been around since who knows when, Rum was once the American spirit, and bound to be in a few recipes. Even Jerry Thomas’ bon Vivant’s Companion lists a “dash of Jamaica Rum” as a component in a proper Mint Julep. Of course, even then there are variations with Peach Brandy and Brandy, and even Cognac. Long live the variations.

Trader Vic even has a recipe for a full Rum Julep in his Book of Food and Drink. Bourbon Juleps, as he says, can go “where the monkey put the peanuts”. I don’t agree with him entirely, but must agree that Rum and mint tend to go together as well as any Bourbon I’ve had. He recommends 3 ounces of light rum, prepped the same, and served with the mint sprigs and a slice of lemon.

Whichever style you have it, whether Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, or even Blue Bayou (sprite and mint syrup… for the kids), now’s the time to have one.

MxMo XXVI: Fruit Liqueur

Posted by TraderTiki on April 13th, 2008 — Posted in Brandy, MxMo, Trader Vic

MxMo round… twelve hundred at this point? No, just 26.  This time hosted by Anna at Morsels and Musings, an Australia-based Cuisine blog.  The theme this go-round is Fruit Liqueurs, which opens a helluva lot of doors and makes the cocktailians mind boggle with possibilities.

A lot of options are available with this round, and I chose to go a path I’m both ecstatic and not so pleased with.  I am ecstatic because I get to cover a favorite topic of mine, mainly, old-timey drinks.  I am not so pleased because, well, I feel I cheated a bit on the liqueur portion of it, seeing as Calvados isn’t technically a liqueur.  Well, I put my conscience at ease by exchanging the lemon juice for house-made Limoncello, which makes for one hell of a kick.

Daisies are one of those old-timey drink categories we don’t see much of on modern cocktail menus (though if you do, please let me know).  Imbibe! has a great description of the drink, even categorizing it into old-school (orange cordial) and new-school (grenadine).  Trader Vic’s early-edition bartender’s guide seems to streamline the daisy, from the early 1900s half-lime, half-lemon, powdered sugar and grenadine, to just the lemon juice and grenadine, which makes for a very tart drink.  I tried a bit of an experiment using Bundaberg Ginger Beer, and it worked fine and dandy for a damned delicious Daisy.


Star-Eyed Daisy (adapted from Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide)

  • 2 oz. Calvados
  • 1 tsp. Grenadine
  • 1/2 oz. Limoncello

Shake with cracked ice and strain into double-cocktail glass or old-fashioned. Top with Ginger Beer or tonic water and serve.

A bit tart, a bit sweet, and entirely refreshing.  My wife describe it as spicy apple-juice.  I think you’ll describe it as a great summer drink.

Next MxMo is going to be hosted right here!  The topic is… RUM!  I’ll put more details into a future post.  See you then!

Shingle Stain

Posted by TraderTiki on March 13th, 2008 — Posted in Rum, Trader Vic

Shingle Stain illustration

Trader Vic concocted a lot of good drinks, the Mai Tai, Honi Honi, Fog Cutter, and a few other here and theres. For all the flack he gets for setting up his bar following Don the Beachcomber’s lead (and, if some books are to be believed, with $8,000 of decor from Don himself), he really was one helluva mixologist. Other than the Japanese, there aren’t many cocktails I can think of with Orgeat that really stick out until Vic got his hands on the stuff.

This drink comes from Trader Vic’s Book of Food and Drink, one of his first books, and certainly the first to focus on “tropical” fare, including a nifty little icon on Trader Vic’s signature originals. This particular drink, a short hoist in a tall glass, doesn’t appear with the logo, but damned if I can find it anywhere else. A few other versions have appeared though, and I’d like to go over these variations here.

Shingle Stain (classic)

Shingle Stain (source Trader Vic’s Books of Food and Drink)

Now don’t take a shingle off the roof. This is really good. No fooling.

  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 ounce dark Jamaica rum (Red Heart or Myers’s)
  • 1/2 ounce St James Rhum
  • 1/4 ounce Pimento Dram
  • Dash of pomegranate syrup (grenadine)

Shake with cracked ice and pour over cracked ice in a 12-ounce Chimney Glass.

One thing you may notice about this drink, this sucker’s about two and half ounces at best, and sitting in one hell of a lot of ice! This brings up an upcoming post I’m planning on, regarding Ice and its part in Tiki Drinks. Basically, these suckers stand up to dilution a lot better than most cocktails, partly because of the strength and depth of the rum, partly because of the complexity of the juice, bitters and booze in most of these drinks. I’ll get into more detail in an upcoming post.

This is a pretty deep drink, and takes one hell of a balancing act, particularly with the dark Jamaican Rum, Pimento Dram, and Grenadine. For the Dark Jamaican, the Myers’s Dark really stands out, where usually I would use Coruba. This drink needs that extra molasses boost from the Myers, and it’s well worth using it. The Pimento Dram is best on the sweeter side, and the Grenadine should be rich, and not watery. Basically, make sure the ingredients you’re using are fully punched up and not watery in the slightest. Of course, that goes without saying for anything, but the delicacy of this drink really needs it. I finally had to toss out the stirrings grenadine and make my own again to make this just right (yet another upcoming post).

For reasons unknown, this drink changed after a few decades, hitting some very different notes, but still keeping its tawny-red color, which is where the name comes from.

Shing Stain (Modern)

Shingle Stain (from Trader Vic’s Tiki Party!)

  • 2 ounces Dark Rum
  • 1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 1/4 ounce grenadine
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Shake with ice and pour into double-rocks glass. Garnish with Mint Sprig.

Quite a lineup change here, hell, no Pimento Dram, no St James, and adding cranberry and pineapple juices and bitters. Nertz to that, it’s a whole different drink! Then again, a lot of Trader Vic’s drinks have morphed recipes. Still, that’s an awful lot of change from the original drink. It’s still a damned nice drink, with plenty of tang from the cranberry and a bit of sweet from the pineapple juice, sitting on top of dark rich Coruba. The times they change, for better or worse.

Word has it there’s another version in the Revised edition of Trader Vic’s bartender’s guide, but I’m going to have to leave that out until I find a copy.

Many thanks to Rupe33 on TikiCentral for the picture of the Shingle Stain illustration above, taken at Trader Vic’s Emeryville.

The classic version of this drink will be on the menu Mar. 18th at Teardrop Lounge. See you there!