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!

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More Tiki on Tasting Table

The accolades just keep accumulating for Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. Bon Appétit named it one of the Top 10 New Cocktail Bars, then a month or so ago it nabbed a spot on GQ’s Best Spirit-Specific Cocktail Bars in America, and now it’s included on Tasting Table San Francisco’s guide to The Best Cocktails & Where to Drink Them. (I had already guessed it would be on there, as soon as I saw the headline.)

Tasting Table chose 15 Bay area bars and restaurants and posted a representative recipe for each one. Here’s what they had to say about Smuggler’s Cove and the drink The Dead Reckoning:

“The tiki bar trend began after American Prohibition in Los Angeles at Don the Beachbomber and at Trader Vic’s in Oakland. The elaborate kitsch palaces then spread around the country and the world until the movement’s decline in the 1980s. Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove, has helped restore tiki cocktails to their former glory, offering the original versions of classics like the Mai Tai and the Zombie, along with new cocktails like this one.

2 ounces premium aged rum (such as Cruzan Single Barrel, Mount Gay Sugar Cane or Appleton Estate Reserve)
½ ounce Navan vanilla liqueur
½ ounce pure maple syrup
½ ounce tawny port
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce pineapple juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
Cracked ice
1 ounce soda water
Mint sprig and lemon zest spiral, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine the rum, vanilla liqueur, maple syrup, port, lemon juice, pineapple juice and bitters. Add the cracked ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a highball glass filled with fresh cracked ice. Top with the soda water, garnish with the mint sprig and lemon zest, and serve immediately.”

— Reprinted from Tasting Table San Francisco

The New York version of the Best Cocktails of 2010 also had some touches of tiki in it. Newcomer bar Painkiller was included, though they skipped over all the rum drinks and instead featured the Negroni Swizzle. Also meriting a mention was the Witchy Woman from the Lani Kai, a Hawaiian-inspired cocktail lounge that’s also fresh on the scene (but lacking in actual tikis, so says the word on the street).

GQ Names 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America

Photo copyright: Eastern Standard in Boston

A cocktail craze has been going on around the country and I don’t think it’s by complete coincidence that there’s another tiki revival going on too.

GQ magazine just published a list of the 25 Best Cocktail Bars in America, and while the majority of them seem to be of the nouveau speakeasy type where you might find bartenders in jaunty vests, they also included the Tiki-Ti in Los Angeles at #11. (Only three selections were from Southern California—the others were Cole’s/Varnish and The Edison—so that’s significant in itself.)

Kevin Sintumuang writes: “The menu lists fifty-two rum drinks, most of them potent and delicious. The best include mysterious homemade syrups far better than the high-fructose nonsense that gave tiki drinks a bad name. There are also two beers available. Literally two cans—one cold, one warm. They cost $20 each.”

Kudos to the Tiki-Ti, a much more fitting honor than last year’s spot on Details magazine’s Best Dive Bars in America round-up.

Another shout-out goes to Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, which topped their auxiliary list of the Best Spirit-Specific Cocktail Bars for having “the country’s best rum selection.”