Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tiki's Next Wave

F. Martin Ramin for The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas
Tiki Drinks, from left: Lunch Cart, Fog Cutter, A Day at the Races

Over the past few years, the craft cocktail world has reimmersed itself in the retro delights of the Tiki bar, bringing respect back to drinks that had been maligned as tacky. It's a broad genre, but as a general rule, they give off a summery vibe with flavored syrups, fruit juices and, of course, rum. Lots and lots of rum. 

Who says you need to stick to the playbook, though? With colder months approaching, shaking up Tiki-style cocktails with more heat-packing spirits like gin, bourbon and cognac can fortify you with a belt of winter-beating warmth while also transporting you to your favorite tropical island.
Since Tiki debuted in the 1930s, there have been some notable non-rum classics, like the bourbon-y Halekulani Cocktail, the gin-heavy Suffering Bastard and the tequila-based El Diablo. One of the most famous Tiki drinks, the Singapore Sling, is made with gin. 

Increasingly, modern bartenders are looking beyond rum when composing their own Tiki creations. It's not simply for experimentation's sake, however—it's about making sure a drink is balanced. While rum is an exceptionally diverse spirit, the one thing you can't change is that it's essentially sugar. If you've always found Tiki drinks too sweet, you might find these cocktails made with more cool-season spirits to be just what you've been looking for. 

A Day at the Races
The gin in this drink from Bill Codman of Storyville in Boston lets the classic Tiki flavors of falernum and grenadine come to the fore without competing with a similarly sweet rum. (You could make your own falernum, but the lime and clove notes in Velvet Falernum are pretty perfect.) The soft Beefeater 24 brings a hint of grapefruit to the mix.
1½ ounces Beefeater 24 Gin
1/2 ounce falernum
1/2 ounce grenadine
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Shake all ingredients except last with ice and strain over crushed ice. Top with Champagne. Garnish with an orange twist.

The Lunch Cart
Named after the portable bar Dean Martin would wheel on stage, this drink from Forbidden Island in Alameda, Calif., gets a nice spicy kick from the cinnamon vanilla syrup—try Rhum ClĂ©ment Sirop de Canne. The St. George Whiskey is unique for its honey notes, but any single malt will work.
1½ ounces St. George Single Malt Whiskey 1 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce cinnamon vanilla syrup

1/2 ounce Aperol

1 dash of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with cherries.

The Fog Cutter
This classic contains rum, but the inclusion of cognac, citrus and almond-flavored orgeat syrup (we like Trader Tiki's) makes it a subtly sweet introduction to Tiki. The flavors suggest summer, but the cognac will make the warmth a reality.
2 ounces silver rum
1 ounce cognac

1/2 ounce gin

2 ounces fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 ounce orange juice

1/2 ounce orgeat

1/4 ounce Sherry
Shake all ingredients except last with ice and strain into a tall, ice-filled glass. Top with Sherry float. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and a cherry.

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