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Tiki Central Forums » » Tiki Drinks and Food » » Alex Stergios cocktails - Does anyone have recipes for them?
Alex Stergios cocktails - Does anyone have recipes for them?
Club Nouméa
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2017-01-09 02:03 am   Permalink

I have drawn a blank on the Internet, so I am calling out to Tiki Central's cocktail experts: Do any of you have any recipes by Alex Stergios?

http://thumbs.ebaystatic.com/images/g/PscAAOSwB09YK5ZS/s-l225.jpg

Some background: Alex Stergios was the barman at the Tahiti Yacht Club in the 1920s and 1930s. His most famous drink there was called Alex's Rainbow Cocktail, although he had a whole bevy of original recipes.

He later turned up in San Francisco, where he opened Stergios' Original Tahiti Club, and Stergios' Rendezvous, both on Grant and Francisco.

I am very interested in trying out this guy's recipes, as he is a South Seas mixologist who predates Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber, and he actually developed his tropical drinks skills in Tahiti rather than in Oakland or Hollywood...

Any info or recipes you may have will be gratefully received.
_________________


The earliest known tiki mug: "Ruru and Weku", designed by Harry Hargreaves of Crown Lynn, New Zealand, 1949.


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HopeChest
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 19, 2015
Posts: 268
From: East Bay, CA
Posted: 2017-01-10 4:41 pm   Permalink

Wow……this is utterly fascinating. Just when you think nothing else could turn up in your backyard. Interesting info and tantalising gaps…

So far I have seen both Alec and Alex used as his first name, with Alexander being the full first name. I can place him and his wife in San Francisco in 1915, which obviously pre-dates his time in Papeete. His wife was named Leticia (or Laetitia, I have seen both) and they had at least one daughter and son, who were raised in Tahiti. I do not know when he would have left the States for Tahiti.

Now, back in this era there were two social clubs in Papeete: the Cercle Militaire and the Cercle Bougainville, touched on briefly in the thread about Dr. Funk:

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=29020&forum=10

The Cercle Militaire was snobbish and exclusive to government employees and those of a similar import. The Cercle Bougainville, however, was enjoyed by gamblers, hedonists, smugglers, and adventurers – the bourgeois, the commoners. If the Militaire was a reminder of the bespoke yet stuffy English gentleman’s club, the Bougainville was more reminiscent of the Barbary Coast. Stergios worked at the Cercle Bougainville. I have no idea if the Cercle Bougainville and the Tahiti Yacht Club are connected in any way (they could be the one and the same, for all I know).

I am unable to find exactly when he returned to San Francisco with his family but it was the early to mid-1930s. The address of the two businesses that Club Nouméa mentions was 142 Francisco St., on the corner of Grant. The edifice is long gone.

Now, I have no idea on the date of this but would you take a look at this utter beauty:



I can barely find any info whatsoever on the Tahiti Club. In a 1936 San Francisco publication there is a listing for:

GArfield-9334 DOuglas-0576

Featuring “Rainbow Cocktail”

Alex Stergios Rendevouz
Francisco at Grant

Nino Brambilla Alex Stergios


In addition, that same year I find a separate commercial listing for an Iris “Brambrilla” at 142 Francisco, which is probably Nino’s wife. Nino Brambilla was a world traveller who was very well connected to the SF restaurant / nightlife scene and a fixture for years at several well-known places, either as a host or as an owner. It appears that Brambilla and Stergios met in Papeete, then went into business in San Francisco. The men and their families must have grown quite close, as Nino would go on to name a son Anthony Stergios Brambilla. The next generation of the Brambilla and Stergios families would follow their fathers into the SF restaurant business.

There’s also a tiny connection to the Tahitian Hut:

http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?topic=37329&forum=2

…in that the Goupil family owned the Tahitian Hut and Augie Goupil & His Royal Tahitians (aka The Royal Tahitians) performed at Stergios’ Rendezvous Club.

By 1938 Brambilla was out, Stergios was now working with two new partners in Nelson Hawks and Dennis Murphy, and the business had been renamed The Beachcomber Café. Dinner was available and there were floor shows on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

I need to keep digging and see what else shakes loose.

Cheers!


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Club Nouméa
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2017-01-10 5:39 pm   Permalink

Hello Hope Chest!

Thanks for all that background info and what a great image!

Alex Stergios definitely worked at the Yacht Club. I have two references placing him there: The first is George Farwell in his book "Last Days In Paradise", who lived in Tahiti in the 1930s and says that the Yacht Club was around the corner from the Cercle Bougainville, and that the Yacht Club was where he met Alex Stergios "in crisp white jacket, dispensing his mysterious rainbow cocktails" (p.29).

This collection of ephemera on-line also specifically links him to the Tahiti Yacht Club in 1930:
https://www.rabelaisbooks.com/pages/books/4894/alex-stergios-dick-gump/small-archive-of-items-related-to-classic-tiki-bartender-alex-stergios

(Interesting that Rabelais Books described him as a "classic tiki bartender", although he predates that whole scene...)

I look forward to seeing what else you can uncover about this fascinating guy.


_________________


The earliest known tiki mug: "Ruru and Weku", designed by Harry Hargreaves of Crown Lynn, New Zealand, 1949.

[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2017-01-10 20:53 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2017-01-10 20:54 ]


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Club Nouméa
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2017-01-10 9:03 pm   Permalink

It looks like he later worked at the Cercle Bougainville: This caption to this Picasa pic says he was working there in 1932:

http://picclick.ca/1932-Press-Photo-Alex-Stergios-Inventor-of-Rainbow-351871850537.html

_________________


The earliest known tiki mug: "Ruru and Weku", designed by Harry Hargreaves of Crown Lynn, New Zealand, 1949.

[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2017-01-10 21:03 ]


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HopeChest
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 19, 2015
Posts: 268
From: East Bay, CA
Posted: 2017-01-10 11:15 pm   Permalink

Yep, I have seen that! Only thing is, I believe I have seen another mention of him at Cercle Bougainville that would appear to be earlier, in the late 1920s. Since they were apparently so close to each other I wonder if he may have worked at both at the same time at one point, though this would seem unlikely.

Though his daughter arrived back in SF in early 1934, Alex was still creating new cocktails in Tahiti in late 1934.


 
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Club Nouméa
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2017-01-11 04:45 am   Permalink

He may have got a job at the Yacht Club for a while and then have moved back around the corner to the Cercle Bougainville. Bartending is not the most stable of professions.

So he was still in Tahiti in 1934... I am curious to know when he returned to San Francisco and opened his first establishment there. Possibly 1935? (since you found that 1936 reference to his Rendezvous Club...)

There is a Rainbow Cocktail in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), which I made tonight - it is a subtle and not particularly brightly coloured thing though, and I have my doubts about whether he would have been able to procure that English book whilst living in Papeete, so I am guessing that Alex's Rainbow Cocktail was a different recipe.

It's so odd that this guy has been overlooked - he's not in the pantheon at all, and yet there he was, from San Francisco, mixing tropical cocktails in Tahiti from the 1920s through to 1934, at which point Vic Bergeron had yet to become a "Trader" and had only just opened his rustic American-style Hinky Dink's bar in Oakland.

So Stergios' Beachcomber Café happened in 1938, one year after Vic Bergeron went tropical and switched his shingle to Trader Vic's...

But he was definitely specialised in tropical cocktails before either Vic Bergeron or Donn Beach. Little wonder he decided to make his own move.

_________________


The earliest known tiki mug: "Ruru and Weku", designed by Harry Hargreaves of Crown Lynn, New Zealand, 1949.



[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2017-01-11 04:52 ]

[ This Message was edited by: Club Nouméa 2017-01-11 05:07 ]


 
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HopeChest
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Oct 19, 2015
Posts: 268
From: East Bay, CA
Posted: 2017-01-11 5:27 pm   Permalink

Funny, I was looking at the exact same thing - the Rainbow Cocktail in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book – the other night and my (thus far completely unproven) hunch is that you have that backwards: I think the recipe in the Savoy is either Harry Craddock's attempt at reverse engineering Stergios' Rainbow Cocktail or merely putting the idea and layering method into play with whatever he had available so that he could make one of these famous cocktails when asked.



 
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Club Nouméa
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2017-01-11 5:44 pm   Permalink

The Rainbow is a fairly obvious concept for a cocktail, so I'm not convinced there is any link, but the only way we'll ever know is if the recipe turns up.

His son ran a French restaurant called Place Pigalle, so it may have turned up on the menu there in later years...
_________________


The earliest known tiki mug: "Ruru and Weku", designed by Harry Hargreaves of Crown Lynn, New Zealand, 1949.


 
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Sunny&Rummy
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jun 13, 2013
Posts: 601
From: Melbourne, FL
Posted: 2017-01-17 05:29 am   Permalink

This is a really intriguing partial history and I hope you all can dig up some more -- including of course some of the original recipes. This story seems very much to mirror the Prohibition era Harry Craddock story, except that Alex whent to Tahiti during Probibition while Harry went (back) to the UK. It would be interesting to know if Alex was a barman in the US before Prohibition.

A big question for me is, how "tropical" would the Rainbow Cocktail or any of Alex's other signature cocktails actually have been? As mentioned above, the Savoy's Rainbow Cocktail was a pousse cafe style layered drink with no rum or juice or anything tropical/faux tropical about it. Regardless of the specifics, I wonder if Alex's Tahiti creations wouldn't have been more along those lines -- more like the classic cicktails of that era and not bearing much similarity to Donn's rum rhapsodies or Vic's spin on same.

Happy hunting and please share what you turn up!


 
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Club Nouméa
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 03, 2010
Posts: 450
From: Wanganui
Posted: 2017-01-23 5:26 pm   Permalink

Hello Sunny&Rummy

I would be surprised if Alex Stergios's cocktails were not tropical. Tahiti was known for its tropical cocktails long before Don The Beachcomber and Trader Vic came along in the 1930s. For example, the Doctor Funk came to fame largely because of its popularity in Papeete's clubs in the early 20th century, and tropical cocktails were standard fare even in Papeete's ordinary bars. Just to give one example, Robert Dean Frisbie, in "My Tahitian Village" tells about how, on the day of his arrival in Tahiti in 1920, a ship's captain offered him a rum punch. Martinique rum and fresh tropical fruits were (and are) in ready supply in Tahiti...

Still, we need to find the recipes to find out...



_________________


The earliest known tiki mug: "Ruru and Weku", designed by Harry Hargreaves of Crown Lynn, New Zealand, 1949.


 
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