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JOHN-O's Zombie Road Trip...
JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2700
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-08-21 5:36 pm   Permalink

8 Zombies over 8 consecutive days in 8 different bars !!

Which was the best ?? Here's my non-scientific and totally opinionated review.

I wasn't sure if I should post under Drinks or Travel, so I split the difference and posted here in the General Forum.

Ok, let's get started. (FYI, when I note mixology quality and value it's based on the Zombie and not for the overall drink menu.)




1. Sun, 8/8 - Frankie's Tiki Room, Las Vegas

Real Zombies are supposed to be served in chimney glasses, not old-fashioned glasses like this one was. I'll forgive that since it's my favorite glassware. This was NOT a classic Don's-style Zombie as it only had two shots of rum. I'm pretty sure there was no 151. Also how they can rate this 5 (out of a 5-skull rating) is beyond me. It was a good deal at $8 and had a nice fruity taste which I enjoyed. This is one of my favorite cocktails at Frankie's but Zombie purists will cry NYET.

Mixology Quality - B-
Value - B+
Tiki Ambiance - A
Historical Significance - B+ (Not for the Tiki, but rather I believe this may be one of the oldest "dive" bars in LV.)




2. Mon, 8/9 - Don the Beachcomber's, Sunset Beach

A Don's Zombie in a DTBC? What can be better than that? This was definitely the old-school recipe with 3 shots of rum (one being 151 which I'm pretty sure was Lemon Hart). It was stiff yet balanced and flavorful.

Mixology Quality - A-
Value - A+ (only $6 during Happy Hour !!)
Tiki Ambiance - A
Historical Significance - B+ (If it was still called Sam's Seafood, it would have received a full A. This rewriting of Tiki history upsets me but I understand the need for the rebranding.)




3. Tue, 8/10 - Smuggler's Cove, San Francisco

Yes, it was the old-school recipe. Would we expect anything less from Martiki? 3 shots of rum, one being 151 Lemon Hart. The LH is a diminishing commodity but I think Martin may have stockpiled a warehouse full of it. This was a sublime cocktail beating out the Don's drink by half a length. It tasted just a little more balanced, a little more refined, yet unmistakably stiff. Could this possibly be the best classic Zombie that you can get in a bar? We'll see.

Also after the Zombie, I asked if there was anything truly unique I could try. My bartender recommended a shot of Black Tot rum. He said it was the last bottle of this British Naval (Demerara?) rum in the U.S. That one drink cost me $120 !! It's a good thing the dice were hot in Vegas. I asked how many people in San Francisco can afford to order a $120 shot of booze. He said "Oh, you're the 5th person tonight."

Mixology Quality - A+
Value - B (at $13)
Tiki Ambiance - N/A (Sorry it's a 18th-century Caribbean nautical bar not a mid-century Polynesian Tiki (Revival) bar. I stand by this.)
Historical Significance - N/A




4. Wed, 8/11 - Tonga Room, San Francisco

OK, I had low expectations for this one. It was served with 2 shots with one of them being Bacardi 151. I wouldn't say this was a good Zombie but it was drinkable. Also with my empty stomach I did pick up a nice buzz. I was shocked on how popular the place is. There was a waiting line to sit at the bar !! Go now before it's too late.

Mixology Quality - C-
Value - D (they charged $13 for this !!)
Tiki Ambiance - B (Due to some devolution from the glory days. Also to be honest I think the place was cooler when it looked like a boat (in the 1930's)).
Historical Significance - B+




5. Thu, 8/12 - Forbidden Island, Alameda

I expected this to be similar to Smuggler's Cove based on the Martiki legacy. I was shocked to taste a cocktail that was very different. Yes this had 3 shots of rum, including the 151 (pretty sure it was LH) but it had a more sour taste which masked the stiffness. If anyone is familiar with the Sunset Beach DTBC Dr. Funk, it reminded me of that only much stronger. I wouldn't say this was a classic Don's-style Zombie but it was a VERY good cocktail. Suzanne has made the FI mixology her own. I didn't pick up much of a buzz but I attribute that to the 1/2 pound Val's burger sitting in my stomach. Also if I knew they were going to use a mug, I would have asked for a glass. I need to see my beverage !! (and feel the condensation in my hand.)

Mixology Quality - B+ (if this wasn't supposed to be Zombie, I would rate it A)
Value - B (at $13)
Tiki Ambiance - A
Historical Significance - N/A (it's Revival)




6. Fri, 8/13 - Trader Vic's, Downtown LA

If you told me this was party punch, I would say it's great. For a Zombie, it was pretty pathetic. Only two shots of rum, no 151. To be honest, I could barely detect any booze. There might be decent Tropicals at this TV, but the Zombie isn't one of them. It's a shame because the presentation was really excellent. The bar food is really good though. The Ahi sandwich is one of the tastiest I've had. It had avocado in it which was a good complement.

Mixology Quality - D
Value - C- (at $10)
Tiki Ambiance - B-
Historical Significance - N/A
Ahi Sandwich - A




7. Sat, 8/14 - Tiki Ti, Los Angeles

We love the Ti since it's one of the few places to keep the Tiki torch burning (figuratively not literally) even through the bad old devolution days of the 1970's through the mid-1990's. Also it has family lineage straight back to the Pre-Tiki days of the 1930's. If any Tiki bar deserved to be declared a national monument, this is the place. The only problem is that the Tiki-Ti has become so mythic, you expect life changing cocktails. The fact is that with "New Cocktailian" establishments like Smuggler's Cove and people doing their own mixing using freshly squeezed juices and high-end rums, first-time visitors might be a little disappointed. That said, the Ti serves some pretty darn good (and strong) cocktails and their Zombie is no exception. It had 3 shots, one being Bacardi 151. Actually the best part of the Zombie was the Jim's Special I had afterward while rapping with Rasta Jim. It's a Mai Tai with tequila added to it.

Mixology Quality - B
Value - B+ (at $10)
Tiki Ambiance - A
Historical Significance - A+




8. Sun, 8/15 - Tonga Hut, North Hollywood

OK, this one was hard for me. If you've read some of my other posts, you know I worship at the mixology altar of Hiphipahula. Some have even told me it's been really annoying. Sorry (Boris ) but I call it like I see it. I wanted this to be the best Zombie on the planet but to be honest the one at Smuggler's Cove was better. I think the key reason is that the Tonga Hut is stretching out their Lemon Hart 151 reserves and Kelly is trying different substitutes. I think she said she used Cruzan 151 (or was it Goslings?). At any rate it lacked the signature Demerara smoke of the Lemon Hart.

Here's the kicker though. Kelly may have improved on the Zombie as a stiff yet flavorful Tropical. Her Shaka Hula Bossa Nova is as stiff (I think 3.5 shots) and yet has a more distinctive flavor. I tested this out on my two non-Tikiphiles friends. Hands down they agreed that the Shaka Hula Bossa Nova was a better drink.

The only issue I still have is that (owner) Jeremy isn't stocking the right glassware. Drinks like the Zombie need to be served in Chimney glasses not Pilsner or Hurricane glasses. Also how about some double Old-fashioned glasses ??

Mixology Quality (of the Zombie) - B+
Value - B+ (at $12)
Tiki Ambiance - A
Historical Significance - A


So the winner is Smuggler's Cove with DTBC and Tonga Hut about neck and neck for 2nd place. These are all classic Don's-style Zombies with 3 shots of rum, one being 151. Any Zombie purist would be happy with these cocktails. The only way to get it better is to make it yourself.

Honorable mention goes to the FI Zombie and the Kelly's Shaka Hula Bossa Nova as stiff yet flavorable cocktails.

I did want to try out the Zombie at the Mai Kai, but couldn't book the red-eye in time.

The End.

[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2013-11-18 09:45 ]


 
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Bora Boris
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2005
Posts: 2599
From: Boogie Wonderland
Posted: 2010-08-21 5:50 pm   Permalink

Well the Tonga Hut Fan Boy strikes again! You've rated the Tonga Hut's Historical Significance higher than the Tonga Room's? You're killing me.

 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2700
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-08-21 8:50 pm   Permalink

Boris, you forgot to qualify it as "Golly Gosh Tonga Hut Fanboy".

I'm touched that my posts have an effect on your Tiki well being. Yes, Tiki is fun but it's not worth dying over. Out of concern for your health I will amend my original historical significance grade for the Tonga Room to A+ and downgrade the Tonga Hut to B+.

Also I will be PM'ing you the starting location for my K-Town Crawl next Saturday. For someone who lives in the nabe, you can at least come out for 1 cocktail.



 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2700
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-08-22 3:10 pm   Permalink

OK, reviewing my Tiki history, I can see the Tonga Room originally was a banquet room dating back to 1907 when the Fairmont first opened. In 1929, it was remodeled into swimming pool. In 1946, it became the S.S. Tonga, decorated to look like the deck of a cruise ship (!!). By the 1950's it became the Tonga Room as we more or less know it today.

Based on this, arguably it's the most historically significant of Tiki establishments still operating in the West. My dissatisfaction with the cocktails and the creeping devolution clouded my historical judgment. Boris was correct in pointing this out.

Which raises the question, what do Tikiphiles cherish more in a Tiki establishment? Historical significance or the quality of the Tropical drinks?

Wait, don't answer that. I already know.


[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-08-23 07:53 ]


 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2700
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-08-22 9:20 pm   Permalink

OK, back to the cocktails….

Yikes, I forgot the Bahooka has a Zombie. Not part of my back-to-back Zombie Road Trip, but better late than never.



Bahooka has never had a rep for their mixology, but really the cocktails are kind of besides the point at this place.

Here's my reasons:

1. The one-of-a-kind environment. It's like you're eating/drinking inside a fish tank. The bar is a fish tank !!

2. The only true "Tiki" family restaurant. This is where you bring your kids to implant the same Tiki subliminal memories that late baby boomers have of original Tiki-style.

3. This is the birthplace of the Tiki Revival. Here's my logic. The Bigbro was inspired at the Bahooka to write the "The Book of Tiki". BOT then served as the blueprint for the Tiki Revival. The rest is history. Make sense?

That said, how was the Zombie? Well they use well rum, not even Bacardi. According to my bartender, Suzanne, they do a free pour with an equivalent of 4 shots of the stuff !! Sipping the drink, it was pleasant enough, not too sweet but really I couldn't detect the stiffness. 15 minutes later however, my head was spinning. I felt buzzed the whole night even after a full meal. Yes the drink was kind of crude but at $8.50, it was some kind of deal.

I love the Bahooka !!




[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-08-22 21:30 ]


 
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TikiSan
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 29, 2003
Posts: 253
From: O.C., SoCal
Posted: 2010-08-22 9:48 pm   Permalink

Excellent Zombie reviews, John-O! Keep up the hard work!

 
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Atomic Tiki Punk
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 19, 2009
Posts: 6295
From: Costa Misery
Posted: 2010-08-22 9:58 pm   Permalink

Nice Job John-O!

 
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Kon-Hemsby
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Sep 17, 2003
Posts: 1286
From: Andover, England
Posted: 2010-08-23 04:21 am   Permalink

Great idea. Excellent reviews. thanks for taking 1 (or for the team.
_________________


 
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cheekytiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 09, 2004
Posts: 1091
From: The Haole Hut, London, UK
Posted: 2010-08-23 05:44 am   Permalink

My only problem with this (and it is nothing to do with the reviews, which are good) but the value for money of the Zombies.
With the recipe going something like

3/4 OZ Lime Juice
1/2 OZ Grapefruit Juice
1/2 OZ Fallernum
1/2 OZ Simple Syrup
1-1/4 OZ Light Puerto Rican Rum
1 OZ Lemon Hart Demerara Rum
1 OZ Meyers's Dark
1 OZ Appleton Estate Rum
1 OZ Ron Zacapo Rum (or MT. Gay?)
2 dashes Pernod
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 Dash Absinthe, Pernod
3 dashes Grenadine
3/4 Marashino Liquor

It is impossible to make a real Zombie for $6 especially with bar/staff costs involved.
Either these bars are making them as a loss leader/no profit or something is missing.

A well made Zombie at £10+ is actually still good value


 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2700
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-08-23 07:45 am   Permalink

Is that what they call a "real" Zombie in England ?? If so I'm booking my ticket now.

There's no way any of the Zombies I had were that complex. I think they were based more on the "Zombie (the original)" or the "Zombie (mid-century version)" as documented by Beachbum Berry. Both those recipes call for (approx) 3 shots of rum: 1 gold Puerto Rican, 1 light Puerto Rican (or aged Jamaican), and 1 Lemon Hart 151.

Really to me if a Zombie has 3 shots of rum with one of them being 151 (even Bacardi), that's close enough to a Don's Zombie in spirit.


[ This Message was edited by: JOHN-O 2010-08-23 07:52 ]


 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1772
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2010-08-23 4:07 pm   Permalink

C'mon Boris, cut John-O a little slack. That was a fairly nifty post with a lot of boozy research to back it up. If you had lined those places up and asked me which would come on top, I'd say Smuggler's Cove. So, John-O, I reached the same conclusion and spent a lot less to get there! I'm kidding. Thanks for the post.

Quote:

On 2010-08-21 17:36, JOHN-O wrote:
This is the birthplace of the Tiki Revival.


Really? That's quite a stretch. (I'm from Florida, but I've been to Bahooka.) I think you're over thinking it. There isn't a "birthplace of the Tiki revival". The birthplace is a summation of a number of factors, one of which (and a MAJOR one) is the BOT.

Quote:

On 2010-08-21 17:36, JOHN-O wrote:
The Bigbro


Ha, Sven is our "Dude".


 
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Bora Boris
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2005
Posts: 2599
From: Boogie Wonderland
Posted: 2010-08-23 4:31 pm   Permalink

I was cutting him some slack,

Besides that one minor discrepancy it's an excellent post. The signage photos next to the drink photos is great.

Nicely done John-O.


 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2700
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2010-08-23 4:39 pm   Permalink

Quote:

Really? That's quite a stretch. (I'm from Florida, but I've been to Bahooka.) I think you're over thinking it. There isn't a "birthplace of the Tiki revival". The birthplace is a summation of a number of factors, one of which (and a MAJOR one) is the BOT.




"Welcome to Rosemead, the Birthplace of the Tiki Revival"

...and my childhood hometown !!



 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1772
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2010-08-23 7:20 pm   Permalink

Oh, and by the way... the Mai-Kai's Zombie, which you referred to, isn't their best drink. Just my opinion.

 
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atomictonytiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 14, 2002
Posts: 1279
From: Bangkok
Posted: 2010-08-24 1:04 pm   Permalink

In Michael Jackson's Bar & Cocktail Companion, he states that "the zombie is a joke drink in which rum is crammed into the glass like students in a phone booth", I don't personally hold with the late wine experts opinion but it does suggest that there should be a lot of rum in a zombie.

 
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