The vets who were coming back from the Pacific Theater after World War II would stop in Hawaii on their way to the mainland. Don the Beachcomber decided to open a bar that would appeal to these vets. He used lots of rum, because it was the cheapest alcohol available after Prohibition.
Rum is the most versatile spirit in the world, because there are no rules for creating it. It’s distilled sugar. It can be made from sugar cane or molasses.
There are different kinds of rums to consider when crafting your own tiki cocktail. A light rum is unaged, right out of the still and watered down. (All liquor is watered down to reach the proof listed on the bottle.) Aged rum or dark rum gets color and flavor from the barrels it’s aged in, similar to wine and whiskey. Spiced rum came about by adding flavor to dull rum. Now, distillers are creating spiced rum on purpose.
Any craft cocktail requires the jigger. You need to measure all the ingredients like a chef. Tiki drinks are layered drinks.
The mai tai was invented in 1941 by Vic Bergeron of Trader Vic’s in Oakland, California. “Mai tai” is Tahitian for "the very best.” It’s not an overly sweet drink, much like a mojito.
- juice of one lime, about an ounce
- one ounce of Martinique rum (floral flavor)
- one ounce of Jamaican rum
- 1/2 ounce of orange curaçao
- 1/2 ounce of orgeat syrup
- 1/4 ounce simple syrup
Mix in shaker. Pour over crushed ice. Smack a mint sprig and use as garnish.
If you’re visiting a tiki bar for the first time, start with the mai tai. That tells you what rums they’re using and how they make their drinks. If the mai tai is too sweet, the rest of the drinks may follow suit.
Listen in as mixologist Dr. Shocker joins Dr. Mike to talk tiki cocktails.