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Tiki Central Forums Tiki Drinks and Food How does Trader Vic's do it?
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How does Trader Vic's do it?
TraderJonah
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 29, 2006
Posts: 18
Posted: 2007-01-03 10:26 pm   Permalink

Why are their drinks so good? I'm under the impression that they use the Trader Vic's brand rum for their tropical cocktails, which I tried in the Dark Variety and found to be pretty bad. At home I use the Grog Log, quality rum, fresh fruits and reputable mixers. While my drinks usually come out great they're never quite like the ones at Trader Vic's.

Is it just the pleasant "upmarket tiki" atmosphere of The Trader's and the beautiful presentation of their drinks that makes them so great? Are there special or exclusive ingredients that they use in their drinks that aren't available to the general public? Are their bartenders some sort of alchemists that can transform cheap Trader Vic's rum into sweet nectar of the island gods?


 
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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2208
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2007-01-04 04:45 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-01-03 22:26, TraderJonah wrote:
Why are their drinks so good? I'm under the impression that they use the Trader Vic's brand rum for their tropical cocktails, which I tried in the Dark Variety and found to be pretty bad. At home I use the Grog Log, quality rum, fresh fruits and reputable mixers. While my drinks usually come out great they're never quite like the ones at Trader Vic's.

Is it just the pleasant "upmarket tiki" atmosphere of The Trader's and the beautiful presentation of their drinks that makes them so great? Are there special or exclusive ingredients that they use in their drinks that aren't available to the general public? Are their bartenders some sort of alchemists that can transform cheap Trader Vic's rum into sweet nectar of the island gods?



Yes, and yes......

The bartenders at Trader Vics do posses some alchemy skills, and the atmosphere contributes heavily. Not to burst anyone's bubble.... The recipes in the Grog Log are not all "The" recipes. Some of them are exact recipes from the bars and minds of the greats, others are the best reverse-engineering from the finest team of mixers, and still others are the 'classic' recipes and most 'modern' bars have drifted away from the orignal for various reasons.

So, what does all that mean..... well it means that while you can probably make as good (or better) a drink at home as you could get in any bar, there is no substitute for have a Mai-Tai at Trader Vics, or a Rays Mistake at the Tiki-Ti or a Derby Daiquiri at the Mai-Kai.

AND, if you are trying to capture that atmosphere but aren't close to a Trader Vics..... turn the lights down low and invite a bunch of friends over. The addition of ohana always makes my drinks taste better.


 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1771
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-01-04 07:26 am   Permalink

Maybe what you're experiencing is that their drinks taste different, but not necessarily better. Trader Vic's uses a pre-made mix for their Mai Tais and it's not the same mix that they will sell to you. And it tastes different than if you mix a Mai Tai from scratch. But does it taste better? I watched the bartenders at TV Atlanta mixing loads of Mai Tais and I noticed they only gave each one a quick shake or two in the shaker and then it went in the glass. 10 seconds or so of shaking would make for a colder and better mixed drink. If I'm not mistaken, they also use pre-mixed rums.

The difference may also lie in the syrups and liqueurs. It's easy to get the same rums and juices that Vic's and the Mai-Kai use, but the syrups and liqueurs can be more difficult, especially if they have their own "secret recipe". I also wonder if the Mai Kai uses gum arabic in their simple syrup to give their drinks a more silky feel as it goes down the throat. I'd like to know if anyone here has tried that and what the results were. Otherwise, I'm going to seek it out and give it a whirl.


 
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Swanky
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Joined: Apr 03, 2002
Posts: 5051
From: Hapa Haole Hideaway, TN
Posted: 2007-01-04 07:39 am   Permalink

Chip is right. Expectation and attention makes a big difference. I'll take a middle of the road quality drink at the Mai Kai over my best home mix any day.

I had about a dozen over on NYE and served the standard Painkiller. It got rave reviews and people called later asking for the recipe. I bet they will be dissappointed a bit when they make it at home compared to the one I handed them. Same recipe, different environment.
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Chip and Andy
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Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2208
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2007-01-04 3:20 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-01-04 07:26, GatorRob wrote:
... especially if they have their own "secret recipe". I also wonder if the Mai Kai uses gum arabic in their simple syrup to give their drinks a more silky feel as it goes down the throat....



Secret recipes go in a different thread.......

And, yes, the Mai-Kai uses gum in several of their syrups (shhhhhh! Dont tell them I told you ). To make your own, search gomme or gomme syrup.


 
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GatorRob
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Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1771
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-01-05 09:29 am   Permalink

I suspected as much. I just need to see if any baking supply stores around me carry it. Time for dumb dumb to find some gum gum. (Sorry, lame movie reference.)


 
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Quince_at_Dannys
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Joined: Mar 29, 2004
Posts: 157
From: Command Records International HQ
Posted: 2007-01-05 3:38 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-01-04 15:20, Chip and Andy wrote:
Quote:

On 2007-01-04 07:26, GatorRob wrote:
... especially if they have their own "secret recipe". I also wonder if the Mai Kai uses gum arabic in their simple syrup to give their drinks a more silky feel as it goes down the throat....



Secret recipes go in a different thread.......

And, yes, the Mai-Kai uses gum in several of their syrups (shhhhhh! Dont tell them I told you ). To make your own, search gomme or gomme syrup.



Interesting! OK, so they use gomme syrup--does the gum arabic impart any kind of flavor to the syrup?

This is somewhat off topic, but do you know the secret of the RED SYRUP?--a couple years ago I had a conversation with one of the Mai Kai bartenders who said they use Trader Vic's Passion Fruit syrup, but they don't use it straight--they add something to make it sweeter (and presumably to match the flavor of Fassionola which apparently they can't get anymore). He showed me their custom PF mixture--it was RED, but not quite as red as grenadine, kind of orangey-red. He wouldn't tell me what it was. I tried grenadine, cherry syrup, hawaiian punch concentrate, guava syrup and orange juice concentrate, but none of those seemed quite right.


 
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GatorRob
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Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1771
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-01-05 4:00 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-01-05 15:38, Quince_at_Dannys wrote:
Interesting! OK, so they use gomme syrup--does the gum arabic impart any kind of flavor to the syrup?


No, I don't believe so. It should only change the texture of the drink. There is a good article on how to make your own gomme syrup
HERE. I love his "Good God" response to what it did to his drink. Sounds like just the thing to take your cocktails to the next level.

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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1771
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2007-01-06 11:43 am   Permalink

And, just FYI, if you can't find gum arabic locally (bakery supply store or health food store), it can also be purchased online.

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Koolau
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Joined: Sep 23, 2006
Posts: 323
From: Oahu, Hawaii
Posted: 2007-01-06 10:42 pm   Permalink

I had the pleasure of making my first visit to Trader Vic's just before Christmas - tasting that Mai Tai was a revelation. I'd read it many times, but now I understand that the predominate flavor of the drink is rum. My Mai Tais are good, but tend to be citrusy, even when I back off of the lime juice.

Kind of discouraging to hear I probably can't duplicate that flavor at home. Darn, guess I'll just have to keep experimenting, and drinking the failures.


 
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hiltiki
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Joined: Jun 10, 2004
Posts: 3120
From: Reseda, calif.
Posted: 2007-01-07 12:45 am   Permalink

Whenever I make Trader Vic's drinks I use Trader Vic's Rum, Beach bum Berry's recipes, and and everything seems to taste just right after that. Pretty close to the original I must say.

 
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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2208
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2007-01-07 08:27 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-01-06 22:42, Koolau wrote:... Darn, guess I'll just have to keep experimenting, and drinking the failures.



I'll help you with the ones that don't quite make it.....





And I'll take two of the ones that do make it!


 
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Ojaitimo
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 04, 2006
Posts: 1317
Posted: 2007-01-07 11:30 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2007-01-03 22:26, TraderJonah wrote:
Why are their drinks so good? I'm under the impression that they use the Trader Vic's brand rum for their tropical cocktails, which I tried in the Dark Variety and found to be pretty bad. At home I use the Grog Log, quality rum, fresh fruits and reputable mixers. While my drinks usually come out great they're never quite like the ones at Trader Vic's.

Is it just the pleasant "upmarket tiki" atmosphere of The Trader's and the beautiful presentation of their drinks that makes them so great? Are there special or exclusive ingredients that they use in their drinks that aren't available to the general public? Are their bartenders some sort of alchemists that can transform cheap Trader Vic's rum into sweet nectar of the island gods?


Perhaps this can explain why his drinks are so good, he was a master mixologist and studied other masters. Vic wrote this in 1947.



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telescopes
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 06, 2007
Posts: 567
From: Palm Springs
Posted: 2007-07-17 8:01 pm   Permalink

Something that I have been wondering about concerning the Trader versus Donn Beach is why does the Trader's drinks taste so much more more "palatable" to the modern senses. In fact, I am starting to believe that the Trader's drinks are perhaps an evolutionary step, a missing link between Donn's drinks and the modern Island drinks that we have today.

If Donn were alive today, how might he make his tropical drinks - using the materials available to today's drinker? Would his drinks be more similar to the Trader's or would they be more in line with what you find in a Margaritaville? Certainly, a Beachcomber drink from the 30's has a somewhat different DNA than the Beachcomber drinks designed in the 60's. (Look at the Zombie he designed in the 30's in "Dick's notebook" versus his Caberet Zombie in 1956. Perhaps Vic's drinks, the use of more lemon and less reliance on rare ingrediants such as Falarnum and Pernod or even the use of Anagostora explains why he is still in business today. What is it about a Pina Colada that makes it timeless and universally enjoyed? This is not to diminish Donn's drinks at all, in fact, they stand alone in thier unique wonderful qualities, but the modern drinker simply isn't attracted to a test pilot the way they are to a margarita and before we beat up on the modern drinker, remember, the modern drinkers of Donn's time made him millions. I think the Trader hooked on to something that allowed him to move from the drinking taste of the 30's and remain in business today.

Donnybrook!

[ This Message was edited by: telescopes 2007-07-17 21:05 ]


 
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arriano
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 13, 2006
Posts: 1289
From: Dog Patch - San Diego
Posted: 2007-07-18 2:43 pm   Permalink

I don't know that it's the drinks that have allowed Trader Vic's to continue -- although they certainly play a big part in what TV is. Instead I think it might be two other things:
1. International expansion
2. Family

It wasn't until very recently that Trader Vic's has been able to expand in the US again. Before that, it was pretty much on its last legs in this country with only SF and BH locations. Don the Beachcombers were never built outside of the US and as the tiki popularity waned, the restaurants closed up.

And having Vic Bergeron's family involved in the business kept the TV traditions alive long enough for the pendulum to swing back for the tiki resurgence. If TV had been sold to some big conglomerate, I'm sure the restaurants would have been turned into IHOPs long ago.
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