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Tiki Central Forums General Tiki An Open Letter to Tiki Bars: Cocktail Flights
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An Open Letter to Tiki Bars: Cocktail Flights
Capt. R.H. Falernum
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 05, 2009
Posts: 264
From: Mar Vista (Los Angeles), CA
Posted: 2009-09-29 09:36 am   Permalink

As the only member of my social group with an active interest in tiki, I've spent the majority of my 'drinking years' dragging friends into tiki bars & introducing them to the (tasty) world of tiki drinks & Polynesian Pop.

Time & again, though, I've witnessed one of the greatest flaws in how tiki bars present their cocktail menus. While the graphically-alluring & exotically-written cocktail menu can immediately enchant a guest into trading in his/her "gin & tonic" for a "Chief Lapu Lapu," "Zombie" or "Missionary's Downfall;" a newcomer to the world of the tiki drink often takes only one chance to 'dip a toe' into the waters of these exotic cocktails.

Knowing the great range of flavors in the countless tiki drinks, it's as-likely-as-not that a newcomer will chance upon a perfect cocktail choice on his/her first go. A good selection means that they'll try another, a poor selection and they're probably back to their "gin & tonics" for the foreseeable future.

Of course, this issue does not only apply to newcomers. The (usually) higher cost of tiki drinks means that there is less chance of a drinker experimenting with a bar's custom tiki drinks or even with some of the more obscure (albeit classic) tiki cocktails.

To solve these issues (and more!), I propose a dead-simple idea: FLIGHTS.

Many of you are probably aware of flights of wine -- where a selection of 3-6 wines are served in smaller portions so that a taster may sample & compare a greater range of flavors & vintages.
This, obviously, allows a drinker to try (and discover) more wines than drinking glass-by-glass. The same would be true for tiki drinks with the added benefit of encouraging drinkers to try an entirely new (to them) class of drinks.

Introducing flights to a tiki bar can be relatively simple:

  • Focus on a select number of cocktails each night (3-5 is probably good to offer a range of tastes)
  • Pre-batch the cocktails en masse (making cocktails in 'party proportions' saves the time of having to continually mix the complicated recipes)
  • Forgo the garnishes & exotic glassware - this is just a tasting platter; not a full presentation
  • Supply some 'tasting notes' to inform the drinkers of what they are tasting & why it's a unique cocktail
  • Price it competitively to be a value & encourage customers to "drink outside of their comfort zone"


Flights of cocktails will encourage newcomers to try tiki drinks for the first time & experienced tiki drinkers to try some of the of more exotic and/or custom cocktails. More importantly, it will help me when I drag my friends to your bar with promises that they'll discover cocktails that will revolutionize their sense of drink enjoyment.

Cheers! (artist's representation of a flight of tiki drinks)

**On a completely unrelated note: I'm sure that somewhere in my storied past, I made a promise to myself to never title anything with "An open letter to..." But, I assure you, that I use this device for only two purposes: 1) jest 2) because it actually seems to define the nature of this post.


 
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ThreeTikis
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Jun 24, 2006
Posts: 65
From: Las Vegas, Nv
Posted: 2009-09-29 10:23 am   Permalink

I really think this is a good idea. The only thing I'm not sure about is that "smaller portions" thing.

 
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2009-09-29 11:57 am   Permalink


Flights?, I thought I read Fights. Rats, I wanted to read a post about some Tiki bar fights.



 
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palapala
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 15, 2006
Posts: 240
From: Hale'a'Kenmore, Wash
Posted: 2009-09-29 12:06 pm   Permalink

Great Idea!
As long as the booze and sugary mixes will not be too painfull in the morning!
Another Idea would be to have a companion pupu platter, that compliments each drink.
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tikibars
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Apr 11, 2002
Posts: 2026
From: Aku Hall, Chicago
Posted: 2009-09-29 2:47 pm   Permalink

This is a good idea in theory.
The problem is the execution.

The lament that I hear from bar owners and bartenders, time and time again, all over the world, and unchanging for the 18(!) years that I have been going to tiki bars, is that the drinks are too time intensive, too labor intensive, and too cost intensive.

This is why so many tiki bars make such vile drinks. It takes more time, more money, and more effort to make them well, and many places don't have the resources in one or all of these areas to do them properly.

So if we're having trouble getting a bartender to make one drink well, in a normal portion, I think the hurdle in doing a flight is convincing the people in charge that making *three* drinks, in scaled-down recipes (which brings certain challenges to the process) is a good idea...

Until, then, I suggest that you go out with two pals, each order something different, and sample each other's concoctions.




 
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croe67
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 05, 2003
Posts: 1197
From: Texas Tikiland
Posted: 2009-09-29 2:51 pm   Permalink

The Rendez'vous in Kenosha, WI is doing something a lot like this on a week night as a way to drive mid-week traffic & as a way to screen new drink recipes. They generally aren't old classics, like the Zombie, MaiTai, etc., but it can be an interesting cocktail experience when done by a good mixologist.

 
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rupe33
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Dec 08, 2004
Posts: 328
From: DC Metro Area (MD)
Posted: 2009-09-29 6:31 pm   Permalink

I have had the privilege of experiencing a flight of drinks -
a very kind bartender at Frankie's Tiki Room in Vegas set me up!
It was pretty slow at the time...and he liked my enthusiasm.

cheers,
Rupe


 
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Chip and Andy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 13, 2004
Posts: 2277
From: Corner table, Molokai Lounge, Mai-Kai.
Posted: 2009-09-29 7:02 pm   Permalink

there are two easy answers.... one has already been given.

answer 1 - go with friends and each order something different and ask for extra straws.

answer 2 - go to your local and/or favorite bar and talk to the general manager. If you are willing to do some of the work (promoting and what not) they will probably be willing to at least try it. And I would further suggest you plan for one of the slower nights to do it.


 
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Dustycajun
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Nov 16, 2007
Posts: 5126
From: Santa Barbara, CA
Posted: 2009-09-29 7:24 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2009-09-29 11:57, JOHN-O wrote:

Flights?, I thought I read Fights. Rats, I wanted to read a post about some Tiki bar fights.



John-O

I thought is was Tiki Bar fights too!

Damn, that sounded like fun.





DC


 
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Capt. R.H. Falernum
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 05, 2009
Posts: 264
From: Mar Vista (Los Angeles), CA
Posted: 2009-09-30 7:08 pm   Permalink

I had a feeling some people would read it as "Tiki Bar Fights" -- the only Tiki bar fight I've been part of was at Tiki Taix with Bill Tapia on-stage; which some of you may remember.

Quote:

On 2009-09-29 10:23, ThreeTikis wrote:
The only thing I'm not sure about is that "smaller portions" thing.



Well, the point of a flight is to offer several small portions for a price similar to one, regular-size cocktail. You get about the same amount of booze (or more) with the ability to test out a range of flavors.

Quote:

On 2009-09-29 14:47, tikibars wrote:
The lament that I hear from bar owners and bartenders ... is that the drinks are too time intensive, too labor intensive, and too cost intensive.
...
So if we're having trouble getting a bartender to make one drink well, in a normal portion, I think the hurdle in doing a flight is convincing the people in charge that making *three* drinks, in scaled-down recipes (which brings certain challenges to the process) is a good idea...



The idea to combat this issue is to limit the selection of drinks each night. If you limit the selection, you can pre-batch the handful of cocktails in "party proportions." This would actually make serving a flight of tiki drinks faster than serving an individual cocktail (since the bartender would simply be dolling out portions of the pre-made cocktails).


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Bongo Bungalow
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2007
Posts: 1295
From: Indiana
Posted: 2009-10-01 03:22 am   Permalink

Yeah, the "pre-batch" thing is a stumbling block. Great drinks are made to order and average drinks are premade, and held in jugs. Then, you're offering them without the corresponding glassware, (read Vic's books on what he thinks about that!), and even suggesting to drop the garnishes... I don't know if you'll sell more tiki drinks this way... too much is lost.

I love a great Mai Tai, but if my first introduction to it was three ounces in a Gilbralter rocks glass... I might be still drinking beer.

But I can appreciate the goal of getting more people into great tiki drinks.


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KeithH
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 15, 2009
Posts: 119
From: Portland, OR
Posted: 2009-10-01 10:39 am   Permalink

I have to agree here. The reason Wine and Tequila work for flights is because you just have to open the bottle and pour. Whatever is left over at the end of the night is just stored for the next night.

To do a mixed drink flight - even if it is just three different cocktails per night - you have to mix up each drink in a larger batch - guessing how much you'll go through in a given night. At the end of the night anything left over is just wasted.



 
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Unga Bunga
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 06, 2003
Posts: 5860
From: CaliTikifornia
Posted: 2009-10-01 10:48 am   Permalink

Being a bartender for twenty years (ya I know, get a life) this would not be a bar I would want to work at. Tiki bars are hard enough to tend in itself.
Though yes, it is a nice thought of your idea.


 
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JenTiki
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2006
Posts: 2346
From: Home of the best rum collection in NC
Posted: 2009-10-01 1:09 pm   Permalink

The assumption that I often encounter when a person says they don't like tiki drinks, is that they really don't like rum. Many people think they don't like rum because their only encounter with it has been bad Bacardi rum & coke (or something similar). Once a person learns to like rum, it's not that hard to get them to like tiki drinks. Therefore, I think rum flights are a great idea. Forbidden Island has several rum flights in their rum book. Some flights are based on the country of origin, another is all spiced rums, while one is simply "Exceptional Rums." Rum flights are as easy to produce as a wine or tequila flight because you just open the bottles and pour, wasting nothing. Once you've tought a person that he/she really likes rum and just didn't know it, graduating to tiki cocktails is a much smaller step.

 
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Digitiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 22, 2004
Posts: 756
From: L.A. baby!
Posted: 2009-10-01 3:06 pm   Permalink

I've often experienced people prompted to try an exotic when someone else orders it and they immediately start raving about how tasty it is. That and the visual appeal of watching a bartender pull out a surprising number of ingredients and pour them so delicately. It almost looks like watching someone cooking a meal. More often than not, you will hear "I'll try one of those" from at least one person.
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