COCKTAIL NATION VS. CARRIE NATION

Starting this Sunday, PBS airs a new three-part documentary by Ken Burns (The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz).  Apparently not all the Beachbum’s friends are in low places, because he was recently sent a preview copy.

This time Burns co-directed with Lynn Novick, but all the usual Burns trademarks are there:  compelling archival footage, equally compelling photos, and an epic narrative personalized with stories of famous, infamous, and anonymous people caught in the undertow of American history.

In this case the history is of American drinking, and what happened to it when the decades-long crusade of temperance activists resulted in the Volstead Act.  Prohibition makes an admirable companion piece to what is still the best book on the subject, Herbert Asbury’s 1950 The Great Illusion.  The film serves up some delicious ironies, such as that temperance groups were segregated by both race and gender, and that one bootlegger’s biggest weekly delivery was to the chambers of the U.S. Senate; we also learn that drinking was so pervasive in the early years of the Republic that instead of coffee breaks, American workers took “grog breaks.”

Prohibition clocks in at around 6 hours.  That makes it a short subject for Burns, who spent 18 hours on baseball and almost 19 on jazz.  Which brings us to our sole quibble:  like baseball and jazz, the cocktail was an American cultural phenomenon.  While long on the political, economic, and sociological consequences of Prohibition, nowhere in Prohibition’s 346 minutes do Burns and Novick find time to discuss Prohibition’s effect on the cocktail itself:  how making alcohol illegal between 1920 and 1933 almost destroyed the American mixed drink as a culinary art form.

We could have used a little less about Al Capone (a History Channel perennial) and a little something about the diaspora of America’s mixologists to Havana, London, and Paris — which, coupled with the ghastly drink recipes concocted in speakeasies to mask the taste of bootleg liquor, drastically set back cocktail culture in the country where the cocktail first gained prominence.

On the other hand, as spirits journalist Camper English has pointed out, the vacuum created by Prohibition was filled by Don The Beachcomber and his Tiki drinks — which may never have happened at all if U.S. cocktail bars had continued purring along without the rude interruption of Andrew Volstead and company.

For screening times and DVD info:

“PROHIBITION” ON PBS

Posted in History, Movies | Comments closed

KÖLN TIKI

Köln’s biggest tourist attraction is its cathedral.  But cathedrals hold no interest for the Beachbum:  while it is indeed impressive that Jesus turned water into wine, we prefer rum, and we’d heard that Köln’s bartenders do interesting things with it.  So our first tourist stop in Köln was a bar.  So was our second.  Come to think of it, so was our third.  By the fourth, we felt right at home:  more than any other German city we’ve stumbled our way through, Köln has a thirst for the exotic.

At Onamor, a “cocktail creatorium” run by Alessandro Romano and his wife Conny, the offerings include drinks named after Donn Beach and Trader Vic.  We sampled an Alessandro original called the Rapa Nui Nui (with a name like that, how could we not?), artfully flavored with rosewater, coconut, cardamon, and allspice.  In his Empire Collins, Alessandro crowns cachaca, passion fruit, and lemon with fiery Düwwelaarsch (“Devil’s Ass”) Bitters, hand-crafted by Onamor regular Andreas Rauer.

At Shepheard (pictured above), a bar inspired by the storied Shepheard’s Hotel of Cairo, Stephan Hinz and Attila Kiziltas mix equally intriguing exotic originals.  Every one we tried was sterling, but it was hard not to keep ordering Shepheard’s house specialty, the Suffering Bastard — which one of our personal heroes, Joe Scialom, invented at the original Shepheard’s in 1942.

At Al Salam Orient Lounge, you get the flipside of Shepheard’s Hotel, which catered to British Colonials in Cairo.  Al Salam gives you the Middle Eastern version of the Middle East, both in decor and in your glass:  the talented and wildly creative (the two do not always go hand in hand) bar manager, Mohammad Nazzal, teases his cocktails with jasmine tea, pickled figs, jallab syrup, saffron, and chestnut honey.  Lazeez!

Mohammed won Germany’s Havana Club Academia Del Ron cocktail competition last year, and successfully defended his title this year with a tonka bean-accented Maori Punch (pictured above).  The Bum co-judged the contest, which proved that Köln is not the only German city gone Tiki:  50 contestants from all over Deutschland brought their exotic A-game, deploying everything from caraway-infused rum to a shrunken head garnish made of dried mango.

Eyck Thormann brewed his bespoke falernum a la minute by passing the ingredients through a Mr. Coffee machine, while Bastian Drews went full-tilt vintage by wearing a 1960s tapa-print suit jacket, mixing his drink in a rare 1940s hand-cranked “Rumba” cocktail shaker, and pouring it into 1950s Don The Beachcomber’s coconut mugs.  Indica Silva opted for a real coconut, into which he poured homemade traditional sugarless Sri Lankan coconut cream, vanilla-cardamom syrup, apricot puree, lime, and a blend of two different Havana Cub rums.

Axel Klubescheidt, from the heavily industrial Ruhr Valley, churned his drink with an industrial-strength swizzle stick that he’d welded out of rebar.  Not to be outdone, Sebastian Stamm sat the judges on the floor and guided them through a communal Fiji kava bowl ceremony.

Come to think of it, maybe we should have gone to that cathedral after all — to pray that all these guys keep thinking Tiki.  They’re the best thing to happen to Germany since Sven Kirsten.

ONAMOR

SHEPHEARD BAR

AL SALAM ORIENT LOUNGE

Posted in Bars, Events, Places | Comments closed

BUM STEERS

The Beachbum may not be in the chips, but at least he’s in the news.

For the current issue of Saveur magazine, he wrote a five-page spread about his favorite subject:  rum.  The article also features seven cocktail recipes, both classic and contemporary, plus brand recommendations.  You can read it all here (minus the recommendations, which the online edition omits).

Also, Jason Horn hits us up for some blender drink tips over at liquor.com.

Also also, Judy Walker provides a summary judgement our recent Mai Tai seminar in New Orleans at nola.com.

Speaking of Mai Tais, Jen Russo recounts the “Battle For The World’s Best Mai Tai,” a cocktail competition which the Bum co-judged in Hawaii two weeks ago, at mauidish.com.

Imbibe magazine features our new Tiki-Ti 5-0 recipe in the current “Summer of Tiki” cover story (pictured above).  It’s not available online, but Ian Lauer reprints the recipe in his estimable home-bartending blog Tempered Spirits.

And if you’d rather hear lyrics about Tiki drinks than read articles about them, the NYC-based band Rock ‘N’ Roll Monkey And The Robots has a song for you on their new CD, “Spooky Kooky Attic Static” (pictured above).  Their track “Sippin’ Safari” is an homage to the Bum’s eponymous fourth book; somehow they even managed to find a word that rhymes with “Safari.”  Can “orange” be far behind?

 

Posted in Music, Press, Recipes, Rum | Comments closed

SUMMER RECIPE ROUNDUP

Tikiphiles wear many hats, not all of them straw.  These new tropical drink recipes came to us courtesy of a novelist, a web designer, a retailer and a resaler.

Joe Riley is Fine Spirits Manager at Ace Beverage, Washington D.C.’s oldest liquor store.  He’s also a regular at the downtown D.C. bar The Passenger, where one night he asked resident mixologist Alexandra Bookless “to make me her test monkey for any new drinks she was trying out.  She grabbed the Cruzan Black Strap Navy Rum.  Suddenly I remembered reading that Don the Beachcomber used to mix rums, so I suggested adding Smith & Cross Navy Proof Rum, and lime juice, and … that hit the limits of my inspiration.  Fortunately, Alex decided to add St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, falernum, and pineapple juice.  Bingo!  Now, this drink needed a name, and it suddenly hit me:  ‘Navy Cross,’ because It’s a ‘crossing’ of two ‘Navy’ rums.  It also has a personal meaning for me because my late father was a recipient of the Navy Cross in World War II, in the Pacific.”  Alex’s Navy Cross:   1 1/2 ounces Smith & Cross rum, 3/4 ounce Cruzan Black Strap rum, 1/4 ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, and 1/2 ounce each fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, and Velvet Falernum.  Shake with ice, strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice, and garnish with a lime wedge.

Dave “Basement Kahuna” Wolfe owns the Athens, Georgia, vintage clothing store Minx.  He spent a restless night “screwing around looking for a spicy, creamy alternative to the Deep Sea Diver or the Painkiller.”  By daybreak he had The Ghost Ship:  1 ounce Smith & Cross rum, 3/4 ounce Trader Tiki Don’s Mix, 1/4 ounce Barenjager, and 1/2 ounce each fresh lime juice, orange juice, Licor 43, half & half cream, and Stirring’s Blood Orange Bitters.  Put it all in a blender with with 3/4 cup (6 ounces) crushed ice, blend, and serve in a double old fashioned glass garnished with a “ghost ship” fashioned from a lime hull and orange-peel sails (pictured above).

In addition to creating the indispensable global Tiki bar review site Critiki, San Francisco’s Michele “Humu Humu” Trott creates exotic cocktails.  Humu’s latest is the Agrabana Grog:   1 1/4 ounces Cruzan white rum, 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, and 3/4 ounce each Appleton V/X rum, grapefruit juice, and garam masala syrup (premixed by adding 2 teaspoons garam masala to a 2:1 simple syrup; let steep, and shake before using).  Shake everything with ice, pour into a tall glass, top with 3/4 ounce club soda, and garnish with a mint sprig (drink pictured below).

Harry Squires writes horror novels under the pen name H.R. Knight, and makes tropical cocktails under the Tiki name Castaway Harry.  “I was on a quest for the perfect daiquiri for many years, getting close to it in a bar in Cabo San Lucas,” says Harry, who “watched the bartender carefully and saw how much of what went into it.”  Once he had the proportions, Harry enlisted his neighbors to try the drink with different rums.  Everyone agreed that Matusalem was the winner.  Here’s the final draft of Harry’s daiquiri:  3 ounces Matusalem 7 Year rum, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, and 1/2 ounce each simple syrup and triple sec (Harry prefers La Paz).  Shake with crushed ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

THE PASSENGER

 

Posted in Bars, Recipes | Comments closed

GIN & SONIC

Tiki drinks and Tiki tunes are colliding all over the map these days.

In Swansea, Wales, Alastair Jenkins and his surf band The Hangmen name half the tracks on their new CD after Tiki drinks, including “Singapore Slingers,”  “Shrunken Skull Stomp,” and our personal favorite, “Zombie Surf Party.”

Sweden’s The Archers, another surf band that never has to worry about getting a sunburn, opt to name their songs not after Tiki drinks, but after your humble Bum and his books.  They’ve got a single called “Beach Bum Bonanza” (pictured above), and another in the pipeline called “Sippin’ Safari.”

The ukulele combo Crazed Mugs, who hail from Florida’s Tampa Bay area, pay homage to two of the Bum’s favorite Tiki bars, the Mai-Kai and Smuggler’s Cove, in their upcoming CD Finding Forbidden Island; Southern California’s Ding Dong Devils, who sound like a sort of B-52s lite (The B-26s?), serenade two iconic Tiki drinks in their luau anthems “Sufferin’ Bastard” and “Mai Tais in the Moonlight.”

And then there’s Sven Kirsten’s vintage Polynesian Pop collection, The Sound Of Tiki.  Sven’s 2000 tome The Book of Tiki kick-started today’s retro Tiki revival.  A music CD was originally to be included with the book, but the publisher nixed it as too expensive.  “I was also supposed to lower printing costs by cutting pages from each chapter of the book,” Sven told us, “so I decided just to lop off the whole last chapter about Exotica music, in order to leave the other ones intact.”  Over a decade later, the CD has finally seen the light of day, along with a lavishly illustrated 47-page booklet including the text of Book Of Tiki’s missing music chapter.

The whole package is lovingly curated, with cherry-picked tracks running the gamut from hapa-haole and surf to the classic midcentury Exotica now referenced by revivalists like Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, a Boston-based, jazz-inflected outfit that plays addictive instrumental throwbacks to the work of past masters like Esquivel and Les Baxter.

When it comes to obscure Poly Pop references, Mr. Ho out-tikis them all with his new CD, Third River Rangoon.  Track Ten, “Lonesome Aku of Alewife,” laments the desecration of the 20-foot-tall tiki that fronted Cambridge’s defunct Aku-Aku restaurant, which is now a generic seafood eatery; the tiki still stands, but it’s been repurposed as a Gloucester fisherman.

Third River Rangoon also has its own drink, created by the CD’s producer, Boston bar fixture Brother Cleve.  Recipe: In a wine goblet, combine 1 ounce each fresh lime juice, falernum, and Mandarin Napoleon liqueur; add 1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup, stir with ice, top with 2 ounces of Mekhong Thai rum, and garnish with an orchid.

Posted in Music, Recipes | Comments closed