What’s your first thought when someone mentions Tiki drinks? Brightly coloured, tropical flowers on the rim and an extravagant presentation of the cocktail! And for a hot summer day, who wouldn’t like a tantalizing Tiki cocktail?
This cocktail is not merely about the ingredients, it’s also about the way it’s presented. The flamboyant appearance and the eye catching garnish adds an extra appeal to Tiki drinks.
When most people think of Tiki cocktails, a rum drenched drink is what comes to mind. However, a tiki cocktail is beyond juice, syrup and rum thrown together. Over time, cocktail creators have added their own spin to the quintessential tiki cocktails created by Don the Beachcomber. Bartenders have infused flavourful surprises in Tiki drinks by moving beyond rum based drinks and infusing other spirits in Tiki drinks.
The canvas of tiki cocktails is quite broad. There are a number of ways to add an innovative twist to tiki drinks. A masterful bartender must have the ability to incorporate offbeat flavours and ingredients that is outside of the traditional tiki palate while keeping the essence of the classic recipe intact. The right combinations of flavours in right proportions can be quite a pleaser for the modern palate.
Sid Old fashioned
From vodka to gin, brandy to whiskey, there are a number of complex and nuanced category of cocktails that can be created with these. The ‘suffering bastard’, for instance, made with both whisky and gin with addition of ginger ale has a distinctive, unusual and exotic taste. Though the drink does not fall under the conventional Tiki cocktailsphere, it has been a popular choice among those who like a tropical drink sans rum.
Similarly, ‘forbidden island’, a four-spirited blend of vodka, gin, brandy and white rum, packs quite a punch. The classic tiki drink ‘fog cutter’ is among the few tiki drinks that has a unique combination of three spirits – rum, whiskey and gin. Our newly introduced ‘Sid old fashioned’ is yet another tiki drink with whiskey. This artisanal drink with mint bitters, cinnamon and dark chocolate has a tropical flair to it.
Rum is no doubt the number one spirit found in tropical drinks, however a number of non-rum tiki drinks are making their way into tiki menus. So who introduced these non-rum outliers? While Don beach, the godfather of tropical drinks experimented with blending rums, Trader Vic Bergeron was the one who infused a variety of spirits in a tropical drink. He reworked on several classic drinks by adding a new spin to it.
There is much scope for the tiki canon to be broadened beyond rum. With a tiki drink, a bartender does not have to follow the academic approach. Different spirits can be layered together to create a classic tiki cocktail.
—The writer is founder and director of Three Dotsand a Dash