Blair Reynolds is a Portland-based tiki fiend and proprietor of Reynoles Galley. He documents these obsessions at Trader Tiki.
When in New Orleans, it’s hard to turn one way or the other without seeing a Hawaiian shirted tourist headed towards the Cafe du Monde or Pat O’ Brien’s. But the most prominent placement of the brightly colored vestments this week has been inside the Hotel Monteleone elevators, as Tiki fans and aficianados make their way through the various panels and presentations with a big emphasis on Tiki.
It seems there’s not a panel this week where Donn Beach or Trader Vic hasn’t been mentioned in some way shape or form. Hell, these guys ruled the roost for 40 years of the American restaurant and drinking scene, their influence on modern mixology should be (and really is now) well recognized. For awhile, Tiki seemed to be the illegitimate stepchild of the up and coming cocktail renaissance, until the likes of Jeff Berry and Martin Cate (The books and the bar) made the scene. The resurgence of fresh ingredients, a wide selection of rums, and an emphasis on making them as they would have been originally has brought the Tiki cocktail culture back into the spotlight, though there is still a lot of work to be done. A Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane served at Pat O’Brien’s today is, sadly, horrific. A Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane made according to the original recipe is a wonder of nature.
During the Jerry’s Kids panel, led by Ted Haigh, David Wondrich, and Brian Rea (a national treasure, I should mention), they couldn’t help, once rum was brought up, to discuss Trader Vic, Donn Beach, and a few of the cocktails developed by them. Rum, once upon a time a cheap commodity that bar managers had to buy in order to get their whiskey, bourbon, etc. was elevated to the status of exotic elixir once Donn Beach got his hands on the stuff (with a little lime, mint, and pastis/bitters). Here’s a short clip of the panel discussing rum and the fellas that brought it into the limelight.
In a much more related panel, Rum, Ron, Rhum, Angus Winchester, who is a dynamic public speaker if ever there was one, brought up the subject with all the due respect and swagger. No wonder he had to bring it up right, as Jeff “Beachbum” Berry and Martin Cate of Forbidden Island were in the audience… as well as Wayne Curtis (Tale of the world in 10 cocktails) next to him on the panel. Here’s a short clip from Angus’ speech. Oh, and Angus, if you’re ever looking to get rid of that swizzle stick (or a drop of the 17 year old J. Wray & Nephew), I’ll gladly hold onto either, preferably both.
Of course, there was also the Tiki Dinner, with drinks by Jeff Berry and food by Chris DeBarr. I think Seamus and Rick have already said quite enough about it, but I’ve got a few pictures in the Tales of the Cocktail gallery to share. Oh what a night.
Today marks Tiki’s true time to shine at Tales. Starting this morning with the Potions of the Caribbean session, led by Jeff Berry, then moving onto Martin Cate’s Garnish panel, and ending off with the Tiki block party. I’ll be writing up a few notes once these are done with… I’m sure there will be pictures, memories, and a brutal hangover.