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Archive for August, 2008

Tiki Legends

Posted by Reese On August - 13 - 2008

Ooga Booga!

Ooga Booga!

Every good story has its legendary heroes.  In the case of Tiki Culture these legends are Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic.  Their stories are similar in many ways and although they were competitors for many years it was always a pleasant rivalry.

Donn Beach AKA Don the Beachcomber

Donn Beach AKA Don the Beachcomber

Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt better known as Donn Beach AKA Don the Beachcomber started his cocktail career as a bootlegger during Prohibition.  Shortly after he moved to Hollywood and opened his first bar “Don’s Beachcomber”.  A mere three years later in 1937 he opened the bar and restaurant for which he would become famous “Don the Beachcomber”.  Following that he was called to service during World War II to create cocktails for military officers across the globe.  This was likely what spurred the Tiki craze that followed the war.  Donn went on to open a number of “Don the Beachcomber” restaurants including the one in the International Market in Honolulu, HI.

Victor Bergeron AKA Trader Vic

Victor Bergeron AKA Trader Vic

Starting at the same time in Oakland, CA Victor Jules Bergeron Jr, better known as Trader Vic, started his tiki career with a small bar and restaurant called “Hinky Dinks” which was located in his parent’s grocery store.  Popularity quickly grew and the restaurant moved more and more to a Polynesian theme.  With this move came a name change to “Trader Vics”.  Vic also experienced an explosion of popularity following World War II and his restaurants quickly spread around the world.

Both of these legends of Tiki have since passed away, but their story will not be forgotten.  Their legend lives on in the cocktails they left behind.  Both men are credited with the creation of the Mai Tai which Aaron briefly discussed in his earlier post.  Interestingly though, you’ll see recipes for the Mai Tai which in no way resemble this original recipe (as per Trader Vic’s).  Robert Hess gives a good history of why that is the case in his Cocktail Spirit video about the Mai Tai.  The same holds true for a number of classic Tiki cocktails.  One recipe is the original, other bartenders try to match the flavor, get relatively close and poof, new recipe for the same drink.

Cocktail Tools – Oxo Cocktail Strainer

Posted by Reese On August - 13 - 2008

Oxo Cocktail Strainer

So, we’ve covered a few essential tools so far, but none it would seem is more essential than a good strainer.  Arguably, the title could go to the shaker, but since the number of cocktails requiring straining outweighs those requiring shaking my money is on the strainer.  So, enough rambling.  What exactly do I look for in a strainer?

I look for some that will first strain well.  Second, the strainer should be easy to use, comfortable to hold and be usable without having to look at it.  Finally the strainer should look good.  So, how does the Oxo strainer fair?  Quite well in my opinion.  The spring strainer is not too loose as to allow large chunks of ice through, but not too small as to stop the flow of the beverage.  Oxo steers clear of the norm where ergonomics and handle design are concerned though.  The handle is a short “flap” of steel rather than the tubular handle found on most.  This is not at all a deterant though.  For one it makes the strainer more compact and easier to store and it also makes it much easier to clean.  Situated on top is a rubber finger rest that is nicely positioned to make holding the strainer on your mixing glass a breeze.

Finally, the looks.  I love ’em.  It’s sleek and modern, blends well with their other products, yet is immediately recognizable as a cocktail strainer.  The overall verdict?  Extremely favorable.  I would recommend this strainer to anyone looking for a great addition to their cocktail tool collection.  And for $6 the price is right.

Oxo SteeL Cocktail Strainer [Referrer Link]

Tiki Week!

Posted by Aaron On August - 9 - 2008

In honor of the Beijing Olympics we have decided to declare this week to be Tiki week at … Now, what exactly do high-octane, super-sweet cocktails have to do with the Beijing Olympics, I am not entirely sure, but the important thing to remember is that it is now officially Tiki week at

In honor of Tiki Week at, we will be mixing it up a little, instead of investigating one cocktail, we will post several different cocktail recipes, along with our tasting notes, and any modifications we might have made, throughout the week.

Tiki drink “culture” is dominated by two imposing figures, Trader Vic and his friendly competitor Donn “the Beachcomber” Beach.  The rivalry that existed between these two individual competitors lead to a great deal of secrecy, resulting in a wide variety of recipes for each cocktail.  We will discuss this rivalry further in the coming week.

To get the week rolling:

The Mai Tai:
1 oz Gold Rum
1 oz Dark Rum
1 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup
Garnish: Maraschino Cherry, Pineapple, Mint Sprig
1) Shake all the ingredients in a shaker with ice
2) Strain into an old fashioned glass over crushed ice
3) Garnish with fruits and mint
4) Serve with a straw

Or, try one of the many variations.

Yeah, I’m totally drinking with Michael!

The Sazerac Wrap Up

Posted by Aaron On August - 8 - 2008

After a long and, I must say, well deserved break from my regular Cocktail Hacker duties (of drinking heavily), I am now back, dear reader, back to provide you with final notes from our week with the Sazerac cocktail.

The Sazerac has been claimed, by some, to be the first American cocktail or, as claimed by others, to be the first cocktail ever.  (Though none of this is true.)  Originally a brandy based drink rumored to have been served in an egg cup, as all truly great cocktails must be, the Sazerac is now traditionally made with rye whiskey and served in a Sazerac glass or, on occasion, a simple old fashioned glass.

Never one to shy away from experimentation, my first instinct was to create and consume the “original” (perhaps legendary?) brandy based cocktail.  However, unable to procure an egg cup, or coqueteir (if you prefer), I was forced to follow a typical Sazerac recipe substituting Cognac for rye whiskey.  This is my failing, dear reader,  and I will not let it happen again!  It must be said, however, the brandy based Sazerac is one delicious cocktail.  Certainly worth a try and very different from the typical rye based drink.

Having said all of that, I don’t believe that Reese or myself ever strayed too far from the traditional Sazerac recipe, in our experimentation.  The recipe already being fairly lax as to the overall quantities of required ingredients.  Reese, simplified the recipe to the following steps:

1.) Soak sugar cube with Peychaud's add to glass
2.) Add 1 tsp water
3.) Add 1 dash of Absinthe
4.) Stir until sugar is dissolved
5.) Add 2 oz Rye
6.) Add 1 ice cube
7.) Stir until chilled
8.) Add a twist of lemon

The drink produced is complex and delicious.  And, Reese has declared it to be one of his favorite recipes so far, describing it as “nicely balanced, not overly sweet, not overly bitters-y”.

I must say that I agree.

Cocktail Hacking on the Road

Posted by Reese On August - 6 - 2008

So, I arrived in Columbus, GA earlier today and spent the rest of the day exploring the city and generally goofing off.  At some point mid-afternoon I decided I should make myself a cocktail in my hotel room tonight.  Being a simple recipe I decided on an Old Fashioned.  Now comes the interesting part.

I spent about an hour driving around the city looking for a liquor store so I could procure some bourbon for my creation.  Much easier said than done.  After driving for an hour I had only happened upon two stores, both of which looked too sketchy to warrant a stop.  I then headed to a grocery store to pick up the other necessary items.  After picking up Angostura Bitters, an orange and a waiter’s corkscrew (for the foil cutter/knife) I finally broke down and asked the locals.  One was able to direct me to an out of the way store a couple blocks away.  It was at the far end of a strip mall and appropriately titled “Hidden Lake Bottle Shop”.  There I was able to score a small (200ml) bottle of Bulleit Bourbon.

These items procured I was nearly to my goal.  I still needed sugar, easy enough “borrowed” from the restaurant at which we had dinner.  I also decided I needed a spoon to stir the concoction.  The spoons at the restaurant were about ten inches long so some reason unknown to me, so I opted to ask for one at the hotel.  The results of all my collection efforts was a quite nice cocktail.  I simply combined about two teaspoons of water with two packets of sugar and three dashes of the bitters.  I then stirred this until the sugar was fully dissolved.  Next I added about two ounces of the bourbon and some ice and stirred until nicely chilled.  Topped it all off with a strip of orange zest that I squeezed the oil out of and I was ready to enjoy.

The next time I travel I think I’ll prepare a travel cocktail kit to make things a little simpler.  Here’s what I’m thinking will be included:

  • Small Dropper Bottles of Bitters
  • Knife (Folding)
  • Spoon (Or Maybe a Titanium Spork for the Geek Points)
  • Spirits (For Areas Where Procurement May Be Difficult)
  • Sugar (Possibly, This is Pretty Easy to Come By)

Any other suggestions?