Captain Crafty's Tiki Gin Expedition
The rise of the Tiki bar culture in North America has an extremely interesting history and one that is full of many anecdotes and labels. While the first Tiki bars, with their palm leaves, bamboo décor, and idols of carved wood, started appearing in America in the 1930s, there was a sharp rise in the fascination with the culture of the South Pacific occurring in the first decades of the 20th century.
As travel to exotic locations for leisure expanded, so did the appetite for the cultural traditions of these places, making their way into the mainstream through books, advertising, and early movies. By the time Donn Beach opened what is argued to be the earliest Tiki bar in 1933 in Hollywood, the cultural appeal of the South Pacific had permeated the American consciousness. Add delicious cocktails with extravagant garnishes to an atmosphere of a tropical paradise and it is easy to see why this theme took the world of bars by storm. We at Crafty’s wanted to honor this wonderfully zany iteration of drinking establishments with a selection of Tiki style drinks that will put you in a tropical mood even if your house isn’t covered in jungle themed décor. Of course, we had to put our own twist on it, so instead of using rum, the universal Tiki spirit, we turned to Gin, which has its own special place in Tiki lore. Its wonderfully complex bouquet lends itself extremely well to the flavors found within this box.
The Gin Tai is a twist on the king of tiki cocktails, the Mai Tai. Featuring sweet orgeat, sour limes, and the herbal flavors of two different bitters, the drink is simple but out-of-this-world flavorful. It is the perfect introduction into the world of cocktails. The Sling-a-Ling plays on another classic, the Singapore Sling, with a tropical blend of pineapple, grenadine, and orange, all balanced with a zesty hit of angostura bitters. The Ka’ukama is the result of experimentation within the larger umbrella of Tiki-style cocktails. Leaning on the classic pairing of gin, cucumber, and juniper berry, a tropical twist of Hula Hula syrup brings the beach to the party, providing layers of passionfruit and guava. An additional touch of pineapple anise bitters provides the perfect background for and yet another layer of flavor. Classic and new-age at the same time, this drink will reshape your view of “Tiki”.
Immerse yourself into the storied history of Tiki culture with this month’s Crafty Cocktails box, Captain Crafty's Tiki Gin Expedition. Don’t just stop with this limited view of tiki history however, as there plenty of blogs, books, articles, and documentaries out there to keep you informed. So, while you’re mixing, read up on the lore behind these drinks. What you find might surprise you and give you a new appreciation for tiki culture and bar culture in general.
Although well known, the lore which surrounds the creation of the Mai-Tai is extremely complex. According to legend. One night in 1944, Vic Bergeron, the proprietor of Trader Vic’s, was creating cocktails for friends and stumbled onto a concoction that caused them to exclaim “Mai Tai Roa Ae!” which translates from Tahitian to “Out of this world!”. Over the next few decades, the popularity of this drink skyrocketed, to the point where nowadays it is synonymous with Tiki cocktails. The entire story is much more complex, interesting, and worth looking into (Poor Don the Beachcomber). Researching this drink inspired the Crafty team to create a drink in honor of this iconic beverage. While the original recipe has a base of rum, our version features gin, along with many other creative twists. The result is a drink anchored in the classic, but with many elements which are all its own. Sweet nutty orgeat clashes with a refreshing hit of lime, while a pairing of two bitters, pineapple/anise and classic angostura enhance the tiki vibe. A perfect summer libation, this drink has one foot in cocktail history and the other in modern mixology.
As much as Tiki style drinks have a long and well documented history, their eclectic style lends itself very well to new ideas and flavour combinations. Being packed with flavor and incorporating many different ingredients, balance is the name of the game. However, this can often prove to be a tall order. With perseverance, one can find that perfect equilibrium between intensity and balance and the result can be something novel and special, this is the case with the Ka’ukama, which in Hawaiian means cucumber. The name is extremely fitting as the drink sets tropical flavours such as passionfruit and guava against the regular companions of gin, cucumber, and juniper berries. A velvety and herbaceous background of pineapple anise bitters brings everything together and provides a finish that will leave you wanting more. Tiki cocktails have a way of defying logic, overloading drinks with flavours while somehow remaining layered and balanced, something the Ka’ukama delivers in spades. Reinvent your idea of what a Tiki cocktail can be with this unique offering.
Slings are among some of the oldest cocktails mentioned in the first bartender’s guides, appearing as early as 1883. However, they have undergone a dramatic evolution, progressing from a simple drink of gin, sugar and nutmeg, into the colorful, frothy, impeccably garnished cocktails ubiquitous with the sling of modern cocktail culture. This stems from the invention of the Singapore Sling, created by Ngiam Tong Boon, around 1915 in, of all places, a hotel in Singapore. The Crafty’s version of this wonderfully tropical drink features many of the elements found in the Singapore Sling; delicious pineapple, sweet rich grenadine, classic maraschino cherry, spicy angostura bitters with a touch of orange citrus. This wonderfully nostalgic drink packs in a lot of different flavors but all exist in perfect harmony with each other. Don’t be afraid to get creative and dress this one up with some crazy garnishes, after all, that’s half the fun of making Tiki-style cocktails.
Trust your Bartender
Everybody has their favorite spirit, but also have spirits they’re not so crazy about. These opinions are built over a lifetime of experiences; that bartender who made you the most amazing vodka cocktail you’ve ever tried, that one time you drank too much tequila… there are endless factors that may contribute to our own personal opinions towards particular types of alcohol. While these biases are completely understandable, a Crafty Cocktails box subscription is all about education in the world of cocktail creation, and it is very hard to learn new things if you don’t step outside your comfort zone. We strongly encourage you to make your cocktails with the recommended spirit for the month, even if you think you don’t like it. If a recipe is well balanced and acutely aware of the flavor profile of its given base spirit, the result can surprise even the most discerning of palettes. Conversely, an attempt to substitute the recommended alcohol for another simply because of personal preference can result in disaster, as flavor profiles tend to clash rather than compliment each other. The recipes in a Crafty’s curated box are just that, curated to suit a particular base spirit. Trust our bartenders, they know what they’re talking about; let them show how something you thought you disliked, can become something you absolutely love.