The Return of Tiki
He who laughs last...
The mere mention of "Tiki" cocktails, will usually obtain a roll of the eyes or guffaw of indignation. The reason from this is perhaps the result of far too many parodies on the classic cocktails of Trader Vic, Don the Beachcomber, or any one of the countless other "Polynesian" style restaurants. Served out of context, a cocktail in a ceramic coconut, with wild looking garnishes is a humorous, if not embarrassing concoction.
The reign of the Tiki bar was a long one. Spanning from just after prohibition, clear into the 1970's, these Polynesian theme restaurants were quite popular with their customers. And judging by the memories of most of these customers, it was not the restaurant that created the most lasting impression, but it was the bar. Today, there are a few remaining from this classic era, but more amazing is that there is actually a renewed appreciation for this style of dining entertainment. New restaurants are cropping up that recreate bits and pieces of this nostalgic performance.
The Technicolor Bartender
When you recount the stories that many tell of these days, and these drinks, you will encounter various aspects that stick in people's minds. Many strongly remember rum being part of virtually every drink, others remember the strange and unusual glasses they were served in, while for some it was the wild and colorful garnishes that seemed to accompany each libation. In truth, it was all of this, and more. While the Polynesians themselves probably were not much for fancy cocktails or wild garnishes, it was clearly in an attempt to play upon the exotic flavors and colors that these tropical locals were festooned with that brought about many of these unusual creations. But more then anything, they were a way to aid the customer in their escape from the common in order to immerse them in the sounds, colors and flavors that reflected this "Tiki" culture.
Rum, The Scoundrals Drink
It seems perhaps that the time is ripe for such cocktails to resurface again. People are once more learning to have fun, for the pure sake of having fun. Poking fun at yourself and your habits is again proper and enjoyable, and cocktails are regaining an appreciation that they've lacked for so long. And perhaps more importantly, is that Rum is making a comeback. Vodka, Scotch, and Tequila have all now gone through their period of discovery, and based on what I've been seeing lately, it appears that Rum is now the next big spirit on the horizon. It used to be that most bars only had three rums. The "house" rum, which was usually some barely palatable generic product; Bacardi, and Myers. Today, I am seeing more variety available in rums. In addition to the various flavored rums, such as Captain Morgan, and Mailbu, there will also be Goslings Black Seal, Appleton Estate Jamaican, and various other boutique rums with excellent flavor and character.
While many of the finer rums would perhaps be inappropriately used on some of the punch-like Tiki cocktails, the fact that people are beginning to reacquaint themselves with this wonderful spirit means that they will perhaps look more flavorfully on cocktails that employ it as an ingredient.
While a Martini, Manhattan or Sazerac might lend a person to think in contemplative terms, the Tiki cocktail represents the child in each of us and our ability to have fun. So every once in a while, allow yourself to have just a little bit of fun.