Real Tiki with Fur Friends

The Tiki Craft

Tiki cocktails are as valid in the craft cocktail world as a Martini or Manhattan. Cheap booze and fruit juice in showy glassware diminished the true heart of Tiki for years. With a few tools, some good rum, some citrus, some syrups, and a lot of experimentation, you can really make this craft your own and help preserve this kitschy little piece of American cocktail history.

Tiki style beverages all started with one man named Don the Beachcomber, who opened his bar in Los Angeles in 1934. Why is this important to us in crafting a drink? This man spent his college money on traveling to New Orleans and the Caribbean with his rum-running grandfather. As such all of the original drinks combined the flavors of where he had spent his youth, with the fresh citrus flavors of California. He brought all of these flavors together and started the Tiki craze of southern California, then across the US, and then the world.

First, let's talk tools. One of the first important items to have in your toolkit is a good quality citrus juicer. A citrus press is best. Next, you need a measuring device. It's important to have one that can accurately measure down to 1/4 ounce—don't just use a random shot glass. Achieving balance with some very strong flavors requires accuracy, so be sure to always measure everything. A proper cocktail shaker is the next on the required tool list. We've broken enough Boston shakers—glass and metal cups—and had Cobbler shakers—those with the built-in strainer—leak all over us enough to know that we prefer a French-style shaker with metal-and-metal cups. If you are a fan of drinks served in a coupe glass, then you'll need a cocktail strainer. Plenty more items exist to up your cocktail game. Tiki mugs, Mai Tai glasses, straws, umbrellas, and cocktail picks can all add exotic flair and fun to your drinks. A spindle—or "milkshake"—mixer makes a very frothy product, and really brings out the aromas of spices in your drink. A garnish tool, even just a peeler, lets you integrate citrus rind oils and scents. A grater is good for fresh nutmeg on your coconut-cream based drinks and for chocolate on others.

On to the actual steps in making a drink. First, look at the recipe. Do you have what you need to make this drink? A silly question maybe, but in a world of exotic ingredients, it's an important one. Second, what rums would work well in this? Do you want big and bold to work with strong flavors, or light for a more refreshing taste? Third, what glass and garnish do you want? Have it ready, so there's no delay once the drink is shaken. With that decided, into the mixing vessel goes cheap ingredients first. Follow the order: juices, syrups, liqueurs, bitters, and then rum and/or other spirits. Always measure everything all the time. Just before shaking, add the ice, shake until frosty on the outside, and get it in the glass. Take a taste with a straw—a "thief"—and see how you did. Then, immediately get it to the drinker, so they can enjoy it fresh and taste how it changes as the ice melts.