*LUPEC Boston’s latest ruminations, in case you missed ‘em in this week’s Dig.
by Pink Lady
Ever tried a Zombie or a Suffering Bastard, or any drink served in a scorpion bowl or skull mug? With out-there names and kitschy vessels, tiki drinks are apt to inspire a giggle among cocktail neophytes. In their original incarnation, these were balanced, palatable drinks built upon rum, fresh juices and flavorful syrups—legitimate cocktails that would make modern bar snobs swoon.
The tiki craze has roots that reach all the way back to Prohibition, when thirsty Americans took to the Caribbean seas (where rum flowed freely) for rum cruises. They developed a taste for exotic island cocktails, meaning the market was ripe by the time Ernest Beaumont-Gantt opened his “Don the Beachcomber” bar in Hollywood in 1934, just after repeal. Victor Bergeron soon followed suit, revamping his Oakland eatery into “Trader Vic’s,” complete with South Seas décor. Post-World War II, the tiki phenomenon blossomed into a true craze that lasted well into the 1950s.
If Ernest Beaumont-Gantt, aka “Don the Beachcomber” and Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron were the emperors of American tiki, a cornerstone of their empire was the mai tai—a drink they both take credit for inventing. Trader Vic alleges he innovated the drink as a simple way to make use of a bottle of 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew rum from Jamaica in 1944. He served it to Ham and Carrie Guild, two friends visiting from Tahiti, and after one sip, Carrie pronounced it: “Mai tai—roa aé,” Tahitian for, “Out of this world—the best.” And the mai tai was born.
Don Beach’s last wife, Phoebe, purports to have written proof Don invented the drink, in the form of a letter from a journalist describing a 1972 incident where Victor confesses that Don was the drink’s true progenitor. Some say both accounts are false, and the drink originated somewhere in Tahiti. Debate rages on, even after the movement and its founders are long gone.
When properly made, a mai tai is a revelatory cocktail; it’s no wonder Americans clamored for this delightful beverage and its tiki cousins for decades. Start your own tiki craze at home with one of these as you get in the mood for the LUPEC fall fundraiser this November: It will be a tiki bash of epic proportions.
2 oz aged Jamaican rum
0.75 oz fresh lime juice
0.75 oz orange curaçao
1 tsp orgeat syrup
Shake well with ice and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lime wheel, a mint sprig and, if possible, an exotic orchid
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR THE LUPEC TIKI BASH SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14TH! CHECK BACK SOON FOR DETAILS!