Holiday Drinks & Decor at Trader Sam’s – Disneyland Hotel

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Trader Sam’s might be more appropriately called Trader Santa’s this month. The new-ish tiki bar at the Disneyland Hotel has gotten in the Christmas spirit with Santa caps placed on the Enchanted Tiki Room drummers, poinsettias mixed among the tropical foliage, and stockings hung from the bamboo (with care).

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The “family tree” of shrunken heads was decked with silver tinsel, lights and snowman and snowbird ornaments. The Disney Parks Blog has far better pictures, and a close-up of Trader Sam’s Naughty and Nice list. (Apparently the bartenders have all been rather mischievous this year — no surprise there.)

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Draped over the mug display behind the bar were what appeared to be gift-wrapped coconut bras with tags from Trader Sam. I enquired about them to Skipper Jennifer, as one was addressed to her, and she insisted that surely they must be yarmulkes because they were far too small for any other use…

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Tucked into the first page of the menu was a sheet highlighting the two holiday drinks that are being served through the end of December (or so, no specific end date was mentioned). We’d skipped dessert at our dinner at Blue Bayou, so the Mele Kaliki-Mocha was an ideal after-dinner drink. It was like a coconut-infused Frappuccino with a kick.

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The Red-Nosed Zebra, a sweet and tart blend of rum, strawberry purée, lemon and lime juice, is whimsically garnished with minty antlers and cranberries for its eyes and nose. This one also elicits some theatrical touches — a skipper shouts about winter weather warnings and a snowstorm erupts from the volcano in the “window.” Also watch out for impromptu “hail” in the form of crushed ice thrown from behind the bar. (And I do mean “watch out” because I got hit in the face!)

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The good folks at the Disney Parks Blog also posted recipes for both cocktails. This Christmas Eve I’ll be whipping up some Mele Kaliki-Mochas for the family, and I’m looking forward to trying it with B.G. Reynold’s hazelnut orgeat for a bit of a twist.

Not sure if this is working (Flickr is being sort of fickle), but I also shot a short video of the snowflakes serenely falling on the tropical peaks. This effect was my favorite holiday touch at Trader Sam’s. Gotta love those Imagineers.

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Tiki Cocktail Menu at 1886 Bar – Pasadena, CA

Before embarking on our recent European fortnight, we had the pleasure of meeting up for drinks with the Gastronomer, G-ma’s Bakery and their respective others. We had already chosen 1886 at The Raymond in Pasadena as our destination, but I was even more psyched when I found out they had launched a tiki-influenced summer cocktail menu at the end of July.

The Los Angeles area was in the midst of a heat wave, so we snagged a table out on the patio of the Craftsman cottage. With all the tree branches tangled overhead like a roof, it felt like our own little hobbit hideout.

Each of the drinks on the menu is introduced with a brief background, such as this preface for the Zombie ($14): “This drink’s first version was created at Don the Beachcomber of Hollywood in 1934 by Donn Beach, creator of the ‘Tiki’ movement. Limit 2 per customer.” (I don’t know if that’s actually enforced or just a reference to Donn’s infamous edict, but it made me smile either way.) Their version, made with a blend of three rums, passion fruit, Demerara syrup, and lemon, lime & pineapple juice, was my favorite of the several libations we sampled that night.

I was also tempted by the Thai Iced Tea ($12), a house original dreamed up by Garrett McKechnie and made with Thai tea-infused cachaca, Demerara syrup and hand-whipped cream. With the Piña Colada ($12, white rum, Coco Lopez, bitters, pineapple & lime) I had expected a sophisticated interpretation of this quintessential boat drink, but the flavors turned out to be quite different.

Also featured is another Don the Beachcomber creation, the QB Cooler ($14), described thusly: “QB stands for Quiet Birdmen, a drinking fraternity of aviators founded by seven WWI pilots in 1921. However, this particular little drink was created by Donn Beach at his Hollywood bar in 1937, and was rumored to be the inspiration for a famous drink created by Tiki legend Trader Vic.” 1886 makes it with a three rum blend, falernum, honey & ginger syrups, lime & orange juice. However, for me the ginger was a bit too overpowering to notice much of a resemblance to the Mai Tai in this case.

These were just a few of their many intriguing cocktails. For more on 1886, check out ThirstyinLA’s recap of more of their summer tipples, plus the Gastronomer’s past post about this craft cocktail bar.

1886 Bar at The Raymond Restaurant
1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91105
626-441-3136

A Tiki Speakeasy: Curio at Gilt Bar in Chicago

Thanks in part to topnotch new(ish) tiki bars like Smuggler’s Cove and Painki…I mean PKNY, tiki drinks seem to have overtaken Prohibitian-era cocktails as the darling of current liquid culture. “Tiki nights” have popped up all over the country and bars with barely any thatch or bamboo are encouraging their patrons to put down the vodka-soda and rediscover rum.

The summer menu at The Terrace at Trump is one of the most recent examples in Chicago, and when we were there back in November we checked out another tiki cocktail program at Curio, which is hidden away under Gilt Bar by the Merchandise Mart. (Again I have to credit Tasting Table for bringing Curio to my attention in their Fifteen Best Cocktails in Chicago feature from last year.)

After entering the restaurant, you head down the stairs next to the bar. Keep going down the hallway and you’ll find Curio on the right, behind black velvet curtains.

As I’ve mentioned before, I adore the 1920s era so the speakeasy style will never get old for me. The room was very dimly lit, with candles on the tables and a chandelier above the bar at the opposite end of the space. There were leather banquettes for larger groups, but since it was just the two of us we shared an antique loveseat.

A different cocktail menu is offered down here. In addition to a special section featuring Chartreuse, there were five “Tiki Inspired” drinks each priced at $13. Prospective patrons should take note that Curio is cash only (I suppose that really brings the old-fashioned—or illicit—theme home).

Pago Pago (Matusalem rum, creme de cacao, green Chartreuse, lime and pineapple juice) took the top prize from Tasting Table, but I preferred The Mariposa Fizz (made with Flor de Cana rum, creme de cacao, egg whites and lemon). It was so light and delicious, sort of like a spiked egg cream. I’ve been meaning to try and reverse engineer it in my home bar.

UPDATE: Curio has been replaced by The Library, a new cocktail bar from Brendan Sodikoff that opened in March 2013.

Gilt Bar on Urbanspoon