Polynesian revival trades tired mojitos for a walk with a Zombie
Published: August 15, 2012
Garlic, silver bullets, crosses, wooden stakes, Kevlar armor … they're all part of your essential arsenal of antidotes to the undead. (The Kevlar guards against zombie bites, in case you weren't aware.) Yet more likely these days than a zombie invasion is a deadly encounter with any of the drinks inspired by the assorted creatures — yes, Virginia, there is a Vampiro, a Werewolf, a Zombie… The last is likely the most to be feared as it may come to you cunningly concealed in a ceramic mug and festively adorned with a paper umbrella or an orchid blossom.
There is no known defense against Tiki drinks.
For terrorizing us with Tikis we can blame Donn (yes, two "n"s) Beach, who opened the Polynesian-themed Don the Beachcomber's in Hollywood in 1934; the Zombie, a mixture of several rums with cherry brandy and both lemon and orange juices, was spawned here. The Mai Tai, often considered the quintessential Tiki drink, is claimed by both Beach and Trader Vik's, which opened in Oakland in 1937 and went on to become a worldwide chain. Like the Hawaiian shirts that seem to be essential Tiki attire, these fruity, mostly rum-based concoctions have cycled in and out of fashion in the years since. Inexplicably, we are in the throes of another revival.
Leave it to the ever-inventive boys at Bohanan's to be in the vanguard of this rear-guard movement. At a recent event celebrating Texas Tiki Week — and kicking off a summer of drinks served in Fu Manchu and Easter Island ceramics — some of the establishment's usually starchy-looking bartenders blended costume elements such as a piñata parrot and flowered shirts as they whipped up a list of tropical drinks headed by the must-have Mai Tai. If you're not already a fan of orgeat, you will surely soon be very familiar with almond syrup scented with orange water; it leaps out at you in the MT (and also in Joe's Volcano), as does a healthy lacing of Peychaud's bitters.
Another ingredient also likely to show up regularly is falernum, an almond-based concoction much like orgeat but also flavored with lime, ginger, and often allspice — and available in alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms. It's sometimes used in the MT; at Bohanan's it puts in an appearance in Gee Punch, a creation of bartender Matty Gee. For those who don't like the notion of heavily alcoholic and fruity drinks (or who tend to flee from Coco Lopez like a vampire dreading the dawn), this is a perfect training-wheels Tiki featuring light and dark rums, three citrus juices, two bitters, and the falernum. It's refreshingly light and less sweet than you might imagine.
Polynesia may have been the original inspiration for tiki drinks, but it was inevitable that anything coming out of the rum-producing crucible that is the Caribbean would come to be tarred by the same brush. We've already seen way too many Cuban mojitos, and with the increased availability (and quality) of Brazilian cachaça, the caipirinha can't be too far behind — though fans should feel free to indulge in these and more at places such as Azuca. Or to cruise specialty sites such as tikidrinks.com and blend up your own Mango Tango, Tahitian Tattoo, or that Elvis fave, the Blue Hawaiian. As for me, I think I'll investigate straight rums, emphasis on the sugar cane-based rhum agricoles instead. Either way an occasional rum-free Corpse Reviver might be in order; I'm especially partial to the CR #2.
Corpse Reviver #2
3/4 oz. gin
3/4 oz. lemon juice
3/4 oz. Cointreau or Combier
3/4 oz. Cocchi Americano
aperitivo (this is worth buying, though white
Lillet can be substituted)
Very scant bar spoon of absinthe or Pernod
Shake with ice, strain into cold coupe, return from the dead.