Archive for June, 2008

When The Weekly Dig‘s Christine Liu asked the LUPEC ladies to advise her readers on summertime drinks, we enthusiastically obliged by studying up and drinking our way through the books of Beachbum Berry and Trader Vic. Check out our story in this week’s Dig! But could it additionally be possible to get one’s tiki on in Boston?

Because of the Puritanical background of Massachusetts one may assume that our fine state was never a part of Tiki Nation. Not so, my dear friends. In fact the Boston area was a hotbed of tiki torch amusements. Those of you who have been in the Boston area for a while will remember Aku Aku, the Polynesian delight that used to occupy the space that now holds Jasper White’s Summer Shack near Alewife Station. Boasting sister locations in Worcester and Newton, Aku Aku offered up Polynesian fare and stand up comedy that one could wash down with delicious tiki libations. Heading back to mid-century, Boston hosted Kon-Tiki Ports in the Sheraton at the Prudential Center, Trader Vic’s in the Park Plaza Hotel, the Polynesian Village in the Somerset Hotel, Bob Lee’s Islander in Chinatown, and the Hawaiian on Boylston St.

And let us not forget the Aloha Lounge!
Talking about tiki of yore can make one thirsty. Fear not! We may not be able to sit in the Kona Hut of the Polynesian Village, but there are still options for those of us longing to have our engines revved by a Jet Pilot. On Beacon St in Newton we find South Pacific. This unassuming store front in a strip mall hides a secret tiki enclave featuring bamboo, tiki fixtures and murals.
Want to head someplace more accessible by T? Head on over to East Coast Grill in Inman Square and limbo on in to the Lava Lounge. This Cambridge institution is known for quality seafood and BBQ, but we heart East Coast Grill for it’s tribute to Polynesia. Order up a Pu Pu Platter, sip on your Erupting, Flaming Volcano (serves 2, limit two per couple) and enjoy the sites!
Next on our field trip of all things tiki we find ourselves in Medford at Tiki Island. Although it’s not as elaborately decorated as it’s tiki predecessors, Tiki Island happily boasts “Exotic Polynesian Tropical Drinks.” Who are we to say no?
On Route 1 in Saugus, we find the Kowloon. Established in 1950 by the Wong Family, the Kowloon is a New England Polynesian institution. After passing through the entrance guarded by a 15 foot tiki you have the choice of sitting in the Volcano Bay Room, the Thai Grill Room, the Luau Room, the Hong Kong Lounge or the Tiki Lagoon while you sample an eclectic menu of Szechuan, Cantonese and Thai food.
Heading to the Cape for a long weekend? Don’t forget to stop by Tiki Port in Hyannis! Since 1977 the Tiki Port has been serving a blend of Cantonese, Szechuan and Mandarin cuisine along with an extensive menu of Polynesian drinks.
Back from your long weekend and in need of something refreshing to erase the memories of bumper to bumper Cape traffic? Park your car, grab your friends, hop on the T and bang the gong at Pho Republique. Their Scorpion Bowl boasts mango, pineapple, passion fruit and an assortment of rums. Yum!

The post-war Golden Era of Tiki may have passed, but that doesn’t mean a new generation can’t live it up Island-style.  Also, when’s the last time you went to Saugus? Put a little rum in your summer by taking a pilgrimage to any of these Tiki spots.  Or mix up one of these bad boys in the comfort of your own home/Island Oasis.

.75 oz Campari
.5 oz fresh lime juice
.5 oz simple syrup
4 oz fresh unsweetened pineapple juice
1.5 oz dark Jamaican rum
Shake well with plenty of ice cubes and pour into a double old fashioned glass or a tiki mug.  Garnish with an orchid, plus a maraschino cherry speared to lemon and orange wheels.  Place a lei around your neck and enjoy.

From the Aviary Bar of the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, circa 1978.

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I never thought I would become attached to a kitchen tool. That is, until I met the Oxo angled measuring cup. The 2 oz measuring cup, shown on the right, allows one to accurately measure amounts as small as one quarter ounce. In addition to ounces, their are interior markings for tablespoons and the more traditional exterior markings for milliliters and cups. Mr. Jigger you have served me well, but from now on this detail oriented cocktail lover will be angling for Oxo. Let’s put that quarter ounce line to use.

2 oz Plymouth Gin
.75 oz Torani Amer (or Amer Picon)
.5 oz Maraschino Liqueur
.25 oz Cointreau
1 dash orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a flamed orange peel.


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Shaken or Stirred?

Which cocktails should be shaken and which ones should be stirred? If you’re a student of classic mixology, you might answer, “That’s easy. Drinks with eggs, dairy or fruit juices should be shaken, and ‘clear’ drinks made with only spirits, vermouth, etc. should be stirred.” OK, the first of those mandates is seldom disputed. Stirring an egg drink? Not gonna work. But shaking a Martini? James Bond has some surprising company here.

Take the respected Savoy Cocktail Book: its mixing instructions for clear drinks are all over the map; some recipes say “stir,” some say “shake.” New York Times restaurant critic William Grimes’ much-consulted Straight Up or on the Rocks: the Story of the American Cocktail instructs you to shake a Martini. Even the “Professor,” Jerry Thomas, “couldn’t make up his mind whether the Cocktail is shaken or stirred,” writes David Wondrich in Imbibe! “His brandy Cocktail calls for the spoon, his gin and whiskey ones the shaker. Nor are his professional colleagues much help … Judging by the numerous depictions of ‘tossing the foaming cocktail’ back and forth in a huge arc, in the 1860s and 1870s consensus favored this method — or perhaps it was just the more picturesque one and hence was noticed more often.”

That consensus still holds in, like, 99 percent of modern bars. Most drinkers like the theatricality of a shaken drink, and most bartenders are happy to oblige, especially since it’s easier for them to employ only one mixing technique. Sure, your Grey Goose with olives will be cloudy with air bubbles, but it’ll be drinkable.

Is “drinkable” good enough when you’re paying $10-$15 for a cocktail? If you gravitate toward clear mixtures, as the Ladies often do, the answer is probably “no.” There’s something about a Martini, a Manhattan, a Saratoga or a Gin and It that has been deftly swirled over ice for a good minute, then strained into a chilled cocktail glass without a trace of agitation. What you get is a shimmeringly transparent drink that looks and tastes that much more elegant than its shaken sibling. And consider this: a bartender who takes the time to stir a cocktail is likely going to get its proportions and temperature right, too. Time to re-think your drink, Bond.

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…compliments of Brother Cleve.

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by Pinky Gonzales
with Pink Gin

From the collection of Pinky Gonzales and uh… John Collins, we’ll call him

So much can be said about old glassware and drinking habits that this will be the first of hopefully a few more posts on the subject. We can probably all agree that the pleasure of drinking is only enhanced (or lessened) by the vessel from which it is drunk, whether that be a Julep, shot of whiskey, glass of champagne, pint of Guinness. All of these have their corresponding, appropriate glassware and for good reasons relating to sensory pleasure. But all that aside, what fun would it be to sip a Scorpion Bowl from say, a beer stein? This is not to say that drinking anything out of a beer stein or smelly old shoe for that matter is not okay either – it’s your perogative. You’re talking to someone who once drank a vintage Montrachet out of a Poland Springs bottle and loved it. In essence, what I and the ladies of LUPEC would like to say is: have some fun, and get yourself some vintage cocktailware.

Who knows who or what the Spatas were? Who cares! Let’s make Zombies.
at Buckaroo’s Mercantile, Cambridge

Restaurant economics and today’s bigger-is-better consumer culture dictate our glass choices in the public sphere. The ubiquitous, sturdy, plain “martini” glass, for instance, in which anything from a Manhattan to a Margarita can be served is the standard in bars and retail today. The best of these stock tasteful, “smaller” glasses, some “modern vintage”, roughly 5-8 oz., while the worst sell ginormous (12 oz.!) glasses on which you could prop a cheeseburger as a garnish.

Diminutive, more manageable-sized cocktails were the norm from the dawn of the cocktail in early nineteenth century America upwards through the sixties. Whether “taken” before a meal to stimulate the appetite or to simply loosen one up, a glass of chilled liquor needn’t have been supersized to do the trick. Take a closer look at those aperitifs in the hands of James Bond in Dr. No or Powell & Loy in The Thin Man and see for yourself. And what did they do when they felt they hadn’t had enough? Well duh, they had another.

David Embury, cocktail aficionado, back in 1948 wrote in his Fine Art of Mixing Drinks that when seeking glassware one should look for “the large ones – not less than 3 ounces.” He also added that a glass “should never be filled to the brim,” for overfilling places not only “too great a strain on the aplomb of the guest – especially with the second or third drink – but even the few drops of liquor which someone will inevitably spill will not improve either the guests’ clothing or the top of your grand piano on which the glass may be placed.”

Wouldn’t this look good atop your piano?

The place to start is of course not Crate & Barrel but your local thrifts, flea markets, specialty shops and online sites for some vintage stems – or better yet, your Grandma’s attic. You don’t have to spend a fortune. Check out the great Buckaroo’s Mercantile [link: http://www.buckmerc.com] for random and wonderfully weird tiki and party bits. The flea market Todd Farm [link: http://www.toddfarm.com] in Rowley on a Sunday for amazing finds, and sites like Rubylane.com for online thrift. Stir up an ice cold beverage and sip from what you found. Toast to your Grandpappy’s Meemaw. Toast to Noni, my Midwestern Great-grandflapper, or why not to Jerry Thomas?

“John Collins” serving up a pair of beautiful old silver-mugged mint juleps for lunch. Life is hard.

Whoa – what’s she?
Original Trader Vic’s
Pinky Gonzales mug.
Me gusta.

Don’t be a jackass. Not all the time, anyway.

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