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

First Foray into Mixing Cocktails – Trader Tiki’s Wailani

Happy New Year! One of my resolutions this year is to start mixing tiki drinks. I’ve had Beachbum Berry’s books for awhile, but I was always daunted by the logistics of where to begin. You can make or break a cocktail by not using the best ingredients or quality rums (which can also be frustrating to find, not to mention pricey).

I tried to make this as foolproof an endeavor as possible, so I started by tracking down Trader Tiki‘s mixing syrups at Barkeeper in Silverlake. These syrups just went on the market about a year ago, but they’ve already earned quite a reputation. (They’re also available online, but I was in an instant gratification kind of mood.)

The number of tiki drinks one can make is positively dizzying, so I just picked the recipe on the back of the orgeat bottle: Wailani. Of course, I then had to stop at BevMo for rum (Don Q Gold, $10) and the grocery store for limes, pineapple juice and ice.

Clearly I need to step it up in the garnish department, but I was pretty pleased with these first attempts. (This is a double, by the way.) Cheers!