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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Drinks and Food » » Newspaper article, “Taking the tacky out of Tiki (drinks)”
Newspaper article, “Taking the tacky out of Tiki (drinks)”
TikiTomD
Grand Member (4 years)  

Joined: Sep 20, 2009
Posts: 675
From: Flagler Beach, FL
Posted: 2013-09-08 06:34 am   Permalink

A good friend in Minnesota sent this article about a new Tiki bar opening in Minneapolis, the Torpedo Bar. Jeff Berry is extensively quoted…

Minneapolis Star Tribune August 30, 2013





The caption states that the Torpedo Bar drink names in the news photo above are, starting from left and going clockwise, “The Sun Had a Name,” the “Corn Tiki,” the “Sri Lankan Sling,” and the “Royal Hawaiian.”


Here are the online photos for three of the four drinks…



The Sun Had a Name




The Corn Tiki




The Royal Hawaiian


The article is still available online
here. Since this will eventually be moved to the archives, here is the article text…

Historians say tiki drinks have cycled in and out of popularity since the 1930s. Now, some craft cocktailers are embracing the unpretentious fun of tropical concoctions.

On the surface, the tiki and so-called mixology movements seem to be on opposite ends of the cocktail continuum. If we judge them by their caricatures, tiki is like an irreverently tacky little brother trying to get you sloshed on artificially sweetened rum bombs. Conversely, the classic cocktail revival got a rap for being stuffy and elitist. Ten years ago asking your resident mustachioed “mixologist” for a Zombie was as sinful as shaking a Manhattan.

“At the beginning of the craft-cocktail renaissance, nobody wanted to touch tiki with a 10-foot pole,” said tiki historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. “They all thought of it as being syrupy, crappy drinks.”

But increasingly, craft cocktailers are loosening their ties and trading tinctures for umbrella garnishes. From San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove to New York’s fabled PKny or Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, some accomplished bartenders have moved from faux speakeasies to tropical-themed bars, applying their martini-honed skill set to rum punches.

On Tuesday, one of the Twin Cities’ most respected drink-mixing minds, Nick Kosevich, is unveiling a new tiki bar at Eat Street Social. While originally planned for the patio, the Torpedo Bar is instead taking over the side room off the main dining area, where Kosevich and his cocktailing crew will offer interpretations of traditional tiki drinks, a daily grog, an adult snow-cone menu as well as some Polynesian fare. One of the drinks Kosevich is proudest of is the Corn Tiki — a Midwestern take on a classic Painkiller, which substitutes sweet-corn milk and spiced apple cider for coconut, cream, pineapple and orange juice.

While temperately embracing elements of tiki decor — check the thatched-roof bar, 8-foot marlin and variety of tiki mugs — Kosevich says the Torpedo Bar is all about the cocktails. “We’re not opening up a kitschy tiki bar,” he said. “That’s not what this is. We’re taking these cocktails very seriously and we are making sure that the drinks we’re putting through that bar are the best tiki drinks anyone’s had — that’s our goal.”

It’s just as well, since one would be hard-pressed to outdo Psycho Suzi’s — the unparalleled northeast Minneapolis tiki palace — in the kitsch department (though owner Leslie Bock’s next Ferris-wheel-erecting project might do the trick). Kosevich, who crafted the cocktail menu with his Bittercube bitters partner Ira Koplowitz and Eat Street Social manager/bartender Marco Zappia, instead focused on making as many scratch-made ingredients as possible. Count a spiced rum using 20 different botanicals, an allspice dram, cherry liqueur, orgeat and falernum among some of the in-house ingredients in their toolbox.

So, why now are the tiki and craft-cocktail worlds colliding? Pip Hanson, cocktailer in chief at Marvel Bar — which tiptoed into tiki this summer during its Sunday improv nights and with its frozen “Blender Bar” menu — said it’s a predictable reaction to the “temple-of-the-cocktail bars” like New York’s Pegu Club and PDT. “Everything got a little bit precious, and that’s fine,” Hanson said. “Tiki is just a totally unpretentious thing. It’s a return to having fun with your drinks. A lot of people would argue it’s high time that happened again.”

Berry, who Imbibe Magazine dubbed one of the most influential cocktail personalities of the past century, said tiki represents a new frontier for many skilled bartenders. Where three-ingredient, pre-Prohibition cocktails are like a haiku, he says astutely balancing a dozen ingredients in a tiki drink is like composing an “epic poem.”

The author and cocktail creator has spent more than a decade researching tiki culture and deciphering coded recipes written by tiki godfather Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber) for several books. “Really, tiki was the first craft-cocktail movement after Prohibition,” Berry said, crediting Beach and rival Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron for pioneering tiki in the 1930s and 1940s. “They were doing farm-to-glass, culinary cocktails 70 years before those terms even existed. They were using fresh herbs and spices, and ingredients more familiar to the kitchen than to the bar.”

After 40 years of Mai Tais and luau motifs, Berry said, tiki died in the disco era. By 1970, images of the Vietnam War killed the idea of a Polynesian paradise, and cocktails in general lost their cachet, as the younger generation viewed them as their parents’ drinks. Berry said the bars left standing were cost-cutters that used low-quality ingredients, tainting tiki for decades to come.

The tiki aesthetic regained some cool in the ’90s as an “underground, alternative,” lifestyle trend, Berry said. After the cocktail revival of the early aughts, the quality of the drinks started improving.

Jimmy Buffett be damned, tiki is easing its way into the contemporary craft-cocktail scene like a vacationer into a beach chair. If it provides a more accessible avenue for people to enjoy well-made drinks, what’s not to like?

“It’s impossible to be pretentious, egomaniacal and all those things that people hate about quote-unquote mixologists if you’re making a drink in a scorpion bowl,” Berry said. “You just can’t be that guy.”


-Tom

_________________


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11154
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2013-09-08 08:21 am   Permalink

Yesss, Jeff Berry to the rescue! You know that if they interview him, the piece can't be ALL wrong

Yet...it is funny how everybody is trying to put their own spin on the subject:

"While temperately embracing elements of tiki decor — check the thatched-roof bar, 8-foot marlin and variety of tiki mugs — Kosevich says the Torpedo Bar is all about the cocktails. “We’re not opening up a kitschy tiki bar,” he said. “That’s not what this is. We’re taking these cocktails very seriously"

Yawn. How often have we heard that? "Non-tacky" being the excuse for lack-of-budget "Tiki-Lite"...But they lost me here:

"So, why now are the tiki and craft-cocktail worlds colliding? Pip Hanson, cocktailer in chief at Marvel Bar — which tiptoed into tiki this summer during its Sunday improv nights and with its frozen “Blender Bar” menu — said it’s a predictable reaction to the “temple-of-the-cocktail bars” like New York’s Pegu Club and PDT. “Everything got a little bit precious, and that’s fine,” Hanson said. “Tiki is just a totally unpretentious thing. It’s a return to having fun with your drinks. A lot of people would argue it’s high time that happened again.”

Okay: "...which tiptoed into tiki.... with its frozen “Blender Bar” menu..."
Hmmm...sounds like a contradiction in terms to me. And PDT being referred to as a "precious temple of the cocktail bars"?

Last time I looked, Tiki was all about pretending, and it was the new cocktailians who were bringing in the "classy" aspect. But now that that very craftiness-in-cocktails has lead to the term "Mixologist" being seen as possibly pretentious...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_id6i7OBj0
...one must define Tiki as an antidote? So if you take Tiki drinks serious (like the proprietors claim) it is fun, but with craft cocktails it is pretentious?
I say it is ALL good, it is far better to have too well done cocktails than lack-of-skill libations. If the mixologist has fun concocting them, it shall translate into fun imbibing them! And yes, Tiki can save the day, any day!

I do wonder what that opening Tiki rendering is portraying: The pretentious new cocktailian as a Tiki - or the "sloshed little brother" mentioned in the article?


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bigbrotiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 25, 2002
Posts: 11154
From: Tiki Island, above the Silverlake
Posted: 2013-09-08 08:26 am   Permalink

Thank you by the way, Tom, for the work of posting the whole article in its completeness, WITH the illustrations - a fine example of a post!

 
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TikiTomD
Grand Member (4 years)  

Joined: Sep 20, 2009
Posts: 675
From: Flagler Beach, FL
Posted: 2013-09-08 09:06 am   Permalink

Good question, Sven, on the article’s opening Tiki image… there are certainly mixed elements there: a tie and vest with formally folded hanky in the vest pocket versus rolled up jeans, leather shoes versus candy-striped socks, sartorially formal glasses versus sport hat and beard… the resulting mix suggests tacky, but maybe this is what you get when you cross Tiki with pretentiousness, something more tacky than Tiki alone.

There was one comment to the article by an individual who clearly isn’t a nuanced drinker, beyond the choice of a lager or stout…

This article has more b.s. in it than a Texas cattle ranch. My favorite: One guy says creating one of these drinks is like creating "an epic poem."

-Tom


 
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AdOrAdam
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 16, 2013
Posts: 419
From: Wolverhampton, UK
Posted: 2013-09-08 12:02 pm   Permalink

I wouldn't apply the 'pretentious = bad formula' like the article does.

IMO the approach of many of the pretentious bartenders is a good thing, it keeps standards high & means drink making traditions get followed. They give a f*ck about the what they're doing (when 'normal' bartenders don't necessarily).

Quote:

On 2013-09-08 06:34, TikiTomD wrote:
So, why now are the tiki and craft-cocktail worlds colliding? Pip Hanson, cocktailer in chief at Marvel Bar — which tiptoed into tiki this summer during its Sunday improv nights and with its frozen “Blender Bar” menu — said it’s a predictable reaction to the “temple-of-the-cocktail bars” like New York’s Pegu Club and PDT. “Everything got a little bit precious, and that’s fine,” Hanson said. “Tiki is just a totally unpretentious thing. It’s a return to having fun with your drinks. A lot of people would argue it’s high time that happened again.”


Yes tiki is about fun but I think tiki has a public image that doesn't represent how 'precious' it was in its heyday, I say that because:

- 30s / 40s tiki bars were the 'temple of the cocktails' of the day.
- Donn Beach coded his recipes so that no-one else could make them & staff had reduced bargaining power if they wanted to leave.
- Bars knocked off each others drinks like mad (Mai Tais, Zombies, Test Pilot, Jet Pilot, etc).
- Bar owners were incredibly jealous of each other
- Old tiki bartenders still wouldn't share recipes with Jeff Berry decades later.
- Current tiki bars still keep secret recipes & commission rum to get the unique tastes (The Mai Kai & Kohola Bay rum).

Maybe Im wrong, maybe Im right, who knows (?)

Anywhere serving good drinks is a plus.

However I might not be ordering that 'The Sun Had a Name' cocktail with bacon & olives, I'll stick to fruit juices


 
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wizzard419
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 10, 2013
Posts: 252
Posted: 2013-09-08 6:55 pm   Permalink

All of that probably led to individual establishments (not just corporations) filing lawsuits against one another for rip-offs of various recipes.

Establishments that pre-date tiki (such as Detroit Athletic Club, any gym with a bar is my kind of place) were equally protective of their formulas to the point that spirit/cordial bottles would have labels removed just so that no one could replicate them. This leads to the Oysters Rockefeller problem, being that if only the owner knows the components and they die, then the true recipe is lost.


 
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Hale Tiki
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 19, 2004
Posts: 1798
From: Pittsburgh
Posted: 2013-09-09 06:07 am   Permalink

I wonder if this was the guy who earlier this year was asking for advice under Tiki Food and Drink then never responded and disappeared...

 
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Quince_at_Dannys
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Mar 29, 2004
Posts: 156
From: Command Records International HQ
Posted: 2013-09-09 10:04 am   Permalink

This article takes the same amnesiac stance as many of its ilk--that the tiki revival is somehow anathema to the resurgence of "craft" cocktails when in fact the research of Jeff Berry (who is too modest) was a CATALYST of that revival. (That's how I remember my experience in the periphery of this whole thing in the 90s anyway.) I recall spending a lot of time seeking out good mixology bars so that we could enjoy a drinking experience comparable to the transcendant homemade drinks we were regularly making out of the then-brand-new Grog Log. My first visit to the Mai Kai was a revelation; and that was when the craft cocktail revival was in its infancy... and nonexistent in my Milwaukee/Chicago/Minneapolis travels.

"Not a kitschy tiki bar... we're taking these cocktails very seriously..." I wonder if he's heard of the Mai Kai (or Tiki Ti, or Smuggler's Cove, or Three Dots and a Dash, or the Tonga Hut, etc. etc. etc.)

By the way, that corn drink at Eat Street Social's Torpedo Room IS fantastic. They're doing some things right with the drinks, even if their cocktail-snootlyness sometimes gets in the way of the tiki goodness.



Quote:

On 2013-09-08 08:21, bigbrotiki wrote:

"While temperately embracing elements of tiki decor — check the thatched-roof bar, 8-foot marlin and variety of tiki mugs — Kosevich says the Torpedo Bar is all about the cocktails. “We’re not opening up a kitschy tiki bar,” he said. “That’s not what this is. We’re taking these cocktails very seriously"





 
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lunavideogames
Grand Member (2 years)  

Joined: May 09, 2012
Posts: 1140
From: San Diego
Posted: 2013-09-09 1:16 pm   Permalink

I had posted this article on this thread earlier.

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=44945&forum=1&start=30&32

I didn't post it live, because I didn't like the article. I didn't want to say that I hated it because I didn't want to influence others opinions, but it is good to know that others have the same opinion on the article that I have. I don't think they quite "get it" still.


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TikiTomD
Grand Member (4 years)  

Joined: Sep 20, 2009
Posts: 675
From: Flagler Beach, FL
Posted: 2013-09-09 1:48 pm   Permalink

Apologies, lunavideogames, for failing to acknowledge your earlier post. Before posting, I used the TC Search function with the article title and tried other key words, but failed to get a hit because your post was a web address.

-Tom


 
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lunavideogames
Grand Member (2 years)  

Joined: May 09, 2012
Posts: 1140
From: San Diego
Posted: 2013-09-09 1:58 pm   Permalink

No problem. You did a much better job with it than I did.

 
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GatorRob
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Aug 20, 2004
Posts: 1770
From: 3 hrs 33 mins to paradise
Posted: 2013-09-09 4:13 pm   Permalink

Frankly, I would be happy to see an article on Tiki or "Faux Polynesian" drinks without the work "tacky" in the title no matter how it is used. For years now, they just can't seem to resist! But regardless, I'm always happy to see our beloved Bum get good press. I don't personally subscribe to the opinion that bars such as Pegu Club are "pretentious" or that being referred to as a "mixologist" is anything but a complement. Bars like Pegu Club have raised the bar in the art of cocktail making. It's been enough years now that I think a lot of folks are forgetting what it was like before the cocktail resurgence. We are living in an era when there are high quality, creative cocktails to be found in many corners (even Orlando where I live), whether they are Tiki or not. I think some may be getting spoiled by the availability of it all and need to take a step back and realize how good we now have it.

And this statement: "trading tinctures for umbrella garnishes". Ugh, really? Why must we choose? It is not only possible, but a reality in many places to have both at the same time.


 
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thePorpoise
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jan 23, 2011
Posts: 1230
From: Tampa Bay
Posted: 2013-09-09 5:06 pm   Permalink

ah, Orlando, location of my first ever craft cocktails.

It was at Rosie O'Grady's, during a Zonie's festival. Best Shirley Temples I evah had...


 
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TikiHardBop
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 21, 2009
Posts: 413
From: Rockledge, FL
Posted: 2013-09-10 2:16 pm   Permalink

Hey, they've got some good cocktail bars down there now. Try Courtesy, The Woods or Hanson's Shoe Repair. As good as you'll get anywhere!

 
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