Dark Isles Luau: The Karloff Kooler

With the sharks all exploded and the storm over a bolt of lightning gives new life to the monster of Frankenstein. Pushing me from my bar the monster works with a clumsy, fevered, pace to produce a sickly green potion of a punch. With great fear I take a hearty slug and pronounce it worthy of Tiki toasts. He suggests we raise a glass to Karloff. The man who made horror into a film category.


When we think of the early days of film and those very first monster movies to appear you must think of Boris Karloff. Though Bela Lugosi made the first talking horror epic with Dracula it was the runaway success of Frankenstein that not only created the horror category, but the horror sequel as well. Karloff played many amazing roles and had a long career. He was frightening in appearance and the tone of his voice. Astonishingly enough though, like Vincent Price, he was reported to be a very kind and agreeable man in real life. Like the Frankenstein monster there was a definite goodness in him.

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I had wanted to do a Frankenstein drink for a few years, and a hauntingly green one at that. Usually our drinks take a few weeks of testing, but this one was a hit on the first try at a gathering. It rarely happens, but it is a happy omen when it does. One need not use a seventy dollar bottle of tequila for this cocktail. We used Camarena tequila, and the drink turned out fine. Though bolder tequila like Lunazul, Milagro, Or Casa Noble would be fun if one has the dough. This drink leans on the sweeter side of the Planter’s Punch spectrum. Usually I like my punches more focused in sour, spice, or strong; but reaction was so favorable I was loathe to change a thing. Even after downing three I don’t find it to be cloying. With the season of candy overdose drawing so near, a little sweet for adults isn’t so bad.

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Karloff Kooler
1 oz Reposado Tequila
1 oz Cruzan Gold
½ oz Creole Shrubb
¾ oz Midori Melon Liqueur
¾ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz white grapefruit juice
¼ oz vanilla syrup

Shake together your ingredients with ice and pour unstrained into a chimney. Add crushed ice to fill and garnish with a lime wheel speared to a cherry.


Rich melon, grapefruit, and vanilla notes great the tongue with a mild tantalization. However the first sip is what really grabs the palate in a chokehold from beyond death. Vanilla and sharp citrus grips you at first then folds into motes of melon and spirit. The tequila and rum match with surprising ease to provide the drink a strong backbone. They give the drink boozy structure that allows themselves to play a supporting role to. Melon and orange bring up the rear with the flavors from Clement Creole Shrubb adding lovely spice to the finish. It’s worthwhile to note this drink does play on the sweeter side of things, however it avoids being unbalanced or cloying. This is a great drink to sip slowly, it improves even as it warms. If one wishes abit more spirit a quarter to a half ounce more of tequila does make for an interesting take. Or triple it and serve it in a big bowl for a real treat for two.

I’ve always been a big fan of the work of Boris Karloff. I’d like to imagine he’d enjoy our little tiki tribute, though I have no idea whether or not he favored a drink. We hope you’ll all join us in a rousing cheer to a long suffering horror master who put up with some very painful makeup. Until next time…


“You get Hammered America!” – JFL

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Dark Isle Luau: Sharknado Season

With our shadowy luau in full swing all that’s needed is some perfect weather. Now for your average person perfect weather means bright sun and a cool breeze. Monsters however greatly prefer a nice big Sharknado. Grab your chainsaws and gas cans guys and ghouls we have some sky sharks to slay.

Ah yes, the B movie that has taken a lot of us by storm for the past two years. It garners as much praise as it does critics. Yours truly is personally quite the fan, but why is that? Because of fun dear friends, fun plain and simple. No one will accuse the Sharknado movies of being masterpieces, but those who aren’t full of themselves can find the humor and visceral pleasure in them. B movies like this and more tie not only into Halloween, but in many ways Tiki as well. Afterall aren’t Tiki drinks the B movie cousin of that Oscar wining, gin sipping, vest wearing, Martini? It doesn’t mean they are inferior, in their own way they are just as much art as that perfect old fashioned. However Tiki drinks don’t take themselves so seriously. They are fun drinks for fun drunks. They both take a lot of skill and devotion to craft as well. A poorly measured, unbalanced Tiki drink is no fun. Likewise the difference between a cult classic B movie and a stinker destined for the ash heap is a fine line to walk.


Blue drinks are fun, B Movies are fun, you should try them before you pass judgement.

For out Sharknado tribute drink we get silly with the garnish. We encourage you to be equally playful in the decoration if you desire. I almost bought some small children’s water squirter bath toys I ran across instead to add as garnish. The drink itself was a process that took a lot of playing with. In the end we new we wanted a drink with big flavor and some power to boot. Wray and Nephew lends plenty of both.


If I had some Chainsaw swizzlesticks I would have skewered a gummy shark so fast

1 ½ oz Cruzan White
¾ oz Wray and Nephew
½ oz blue curacao
¾ oz fresh lime
¼ oz coconut cream
½ oz orgeat
½ oz fresh orange juice
dash Bittermen’s Elemakule bitters

Shake ingredients together well and pout into a hurricane glass. Add crushed ice to fill. Garnish with some shark themed kitsch and enjoy. A sprig of mint is always nice and tiki as well. To make the garnish you see merely skewer the gummy sharks behind the fin with steak knife. Then push down over a metal straw making sure to clean any candy out of the opening. This is most easily accomplished after leaving the gummies in the fridge for a day.



Delicious aromas of coconut, citrus peel, mint, and the grassy funk of Wray. The flavors is rich and full bodied with the coconut cream playing with the funky rubbery rum and orange peel up front. Light spices fold in quickly then fade to a light cleansing citrus with a very mild bitterness. The finish is lightly sweet and not at all cloying. Coconut cream ,though a tiny addition, really teams well with orgeat to create a rich mouthfeel and lasting finish to our cocktail. For a easy party tip we recommend getting some disposable hurricane glasses for your guests. Coconut and orgeat taste great together, but seem to leave a residue that demands hand polishing after washing.


Remember folks, real sharks are important parts of our ecosystem. They may be scary predators and great movie fodder. But you should never hurt a real one. Movies and reality must be kept separate.

Halloween is about fun, so break out some of those beloved B films. Let us know some of your favorites in the comments why don’t you? Until next time…


“You get Hammered America” - JFL

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Dark Isle Luau: Darkness Falls

“Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood”
-Vincent Price; excerpt from Thriller

Ah October, the glorious herald of Halloween and a month long party here on the Dark Isles. All the ghouls and grotesques have tied their skiffs to the dock and donned their colorful shirts. We gather round to first drink a toast to the season in honor of our hero, Vincent Price. In his honor this year we have concocted a special drink to toast the silken voiced master of fright. Who hasn’t felt a chill at his velvet tones once the lights went down and the screen came on. As we raise our glasses and ring out a toast at our shadowy luau we hope you will join us as well.

Vincent Price was an amazing man, he was very talented and intelligent but never full of himself. His career lasted far longer than many more awarded stars of his time because of his talent and his humility. His villains were never one dimensional, infact many of them were characters you could really empathize with particularly in The Mad Magician. His villainous roles from those in murder mysteries to horror classics kept him in the eyes of teenagers for 40 years and more. His movies have gone on to still delight us all today. Of course this isn’t our only tribute to the master of horror, but it wouldn’t be Halloween around here without a toast to him. You could use other dark jamaican rums, but we highly recommend Coruba.

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Darkness Falls
1 1/4 oz Coruba
1/2 oz Lemon Hart 151
1 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz orange juice (Preferably fresh-squeezed Cara Cara)
3/4 oz coffee/espresso syrup(equal parts stovetop espresso and sugar brought to a quick boil while stirred and cooled immediately.)
1/4 oz Solerno

Shake ingredients hard with ice then pour unstrained into a chimney glass add crushed ice to fill. For the smoking lime shell add a small piece of dry ice to a hollowed out lime half and top with a little very hot water. Try to choose a lime shell with no holes so the water doesn’t leak down and dilute the drink. For a less fussy garnish a orange wedge with a brandied cherry speared to it on the rim is also lovely.


A rich aroma of orange peel, brown sugar, coffee, and molasses waft to greet the senses. The drink may be dark but the flavor lifts you just like a Price performance to the bright heights of enjoyment. The first sip brings a tinge of sweet and bitter oranges melding into rich notes of brown sugar and sweet coffee. Lime dances playfully between acts to add a cleansing sour, then joins in a strong finish with the rich Lemon Hart.

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Stick with us all month guys and ghouls the party is just getting started. Until next sip let us know your favorite Vincent Price movie in the comments below. And until then…


“You Get Hammered America” - JFL

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Rated R Syrups: Orgeat

Orgeat, it’s delicious, it’s got great color, and these days it’s definitely tropical. Even though it was a cocktail ingredient well before the Tiki craze, still many people associate it with Trader Vic Bergeron. In reality orgeat appeared in American cocktails as far back as the “Japanese Cocktail” that appeared in one of the three books Jerry Thomas published. However after the Mai Tai that milky, mysterious and majestic flavor has come to be associated with Tiki. And why not it’s a big flavor that Trader Vic used to set himself apart from Donn Beach. It’s a mysterious aromatic mix that really only tastes faintly of almonds if made properly.

So why make it yourself? I often ask myself that when I make it. I’ll confess it’s not my favorite thing to do. Plenty of sites will lie to you professing it to be “OMG so easy and fun!”. Bullshit, sitting on your ass and watching TV is easy and fun. In contrast orgeat requires you getting sticky with sugar and it also needs multiple strainings, stirrings, and a roasting. So why the hell do I keep doing it? Homemade orgeat is fucking delicious. I’ve purchased many orgeats from cheap to chic, and they all fall short somehow. Some just don’t have much flavor, we bought one that tasted alright, but unfortunately it was brown which your orgeat should not be. Even with that visual flaw I still saved money making my own. When it came time to make my own I couldn’t decide who’s to use, a lot of people differ on the method. In the end I decided on a mash up of two recipes. (Please also enjoy Darcy and Liquid Culture’s recipes.) Please use only blanched almonds, brown orgeat is a bummer that will leave your Tiki drink looking lousy.

OrgeatJFL’s Orgeat
4 cups whole blanched almonds
3 cup water
2 1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp orange flower water
2 oz neutral grain spirit (unflavored vodka)

Crush the almonds then allow them to soak in the water for 30 minutes. Then strain them out saving the water and toast the almonds lightly in the oven. I put them under a broiler for about 3 minutes stirring halfway through. Return to the water and add sugar heating until dissolved about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 12 hours. Then strain and squeeze through cheesecloth and add the orange flower water and vodka before bottling.


Some people use xanthum gum to keep the syrup from separating. Your free to do this, but I never have because I can shake the damn syrup to recombine it. I always forget to buy cheesecloth and end up going out at 7 am for it so don’t be me. Also don’t expect any grocery store clerk to what cheesecloth is. So now you have your orgeat, what do you make with it? Well there’s always the classic Trader Vic Mai Tai (Remixed page 71), or Jeff Berry’s Aurora Bora Borealis (Remixed page 30). If your in the mood you can also try our Hula Ghoul or the Tree Viper. Whatever it is we hope you enjoy mixing with this Tiki treat. Until next time…

“You get Hammered America” - JFL

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An Insufferable Twit among the GQ

Ah competition, thrills in the air, the excitement of seeing just who is the best. Or in my case being a jackass and trying to show what Tiki can do to the public at large. Yes yours truly entered GQ’s “Most Imaginative Bartender” contest when it came to Birmingham in July. I wasn’t as fast or quite as polished as my fellow competitors who have a lot more bartending experience than myself. However I think the cocktail we presented was very fine even if it was a bit tongue and cheek.InsufferableTwit (1)Bartending contests, especially those with I.B.A rules, are rarely about who has the best drink or who is the most creative. This isn’t sour grapes on my part, I make drinks based on my own nerdy obsession not for contest rules. I never expected to win I only entered to put Tiki on stage, and make some tasty drinks for my friends and neighbors. However contests like this tend to focus on arcane rules, the use of forceps, and small technical flourishes that don’t really add to the flavor of the drink. Still if you don’t want to play by the rules you shouldn’t play the game should you? Everyone made delicious cocktails, and I learned a lot by watching the polished, experienced, bartenders competing around me. Jessica Wyrick -a former Birmingham bartender now working and living in Tennessee- won with a bang up presentation and a tasty cocktail. We wish her the best of luck in Vegas, she worked hard to win.


Photo Credit to Cameron Carnes

Originally I wasn’t going to enter, but I was going to play my way through the bottle of Bombay East they gave me at the USBG meeting. I began making Pink Gin’s and watching a Vincent Price in The Story of Mankind when I began reading something David Wondrich wrote about the Pink Gin. “To be a truly insufferable twit, step up to the bar and loudly order a Gin Pahit (“pa-heet,” that being the Malay word for “bitter”)”- Dave Wondrich. The line was a scream and made me think about Joe Scialom’s Suffering Bastard and how great a name it was. We use a lot of Gin in the recipe, comically this was because in a former contest someone complained they couldn’t taste enough of the sponsored whiskey. Other flavorings were added to complement the gin as well as make it truly pinkish instead of walnut brown. Funnier still I never used Sapphire in the cocktail until it was time to compete. Before that it had been all Sapphire East and Beefeater gin.InsufferableTwit (5)

Insufferable Twit
2 ½ oz Bombay East
¾ oz hibiscus grenadine
½ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz fresh pineapple juice
3-4 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake aggressively with ice and pour into a pilsner glass. Then use a nice bushy spring of mint to garnish the top.


Crisp notes of juniper, earth, and mint greet the nose and meld into aromas of pineapple, tea, and pomegranate. Let no one say you can’t taste the gin, though the drink is boozy it retains balance. Hibiscus and sweet grenadine marry with lemon for a welcome greeting and rush into a party of juniper and lime. Bitter notes of Angostura then jump into the car with pineapple and ride away into the sunset for a refreshingly crisp gin finish. This is a great hot day drink for lovers of that herbal booze not seen often enough in classic Tiki.

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Whelp that is my little entry, it got rave reviews for taste which is a win in my book. Moreso than that I got to spend the day with my USBG brothers and sisters learning and having a great time. I highly recommend giving competition a try. Win or lose you may still come up with a sip you can serve with a smile. Until next time…

“You get Hammered America!” – JFL

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MxMo 88: Coconut Roundup!

Well MxMo Coconut is in the books, and boy was it fun. I hope everyone had a good time experiencing and playing with this versatile tropical flavor. We got a lot of posts using coconut water and coconut milk, though I was a little sad no one reached for the Coco Lopez. Despite some bad press it’s really a great ingredient if used properly. Still the drinks we received all look very delicious, and the ones I’ve had a chance to try so far have been swell. I know you dear reader will feel the same. So I invite you to peruse the garden of delights below and select a coconut potion that will help you toast the waning days of summer.


Hainuweles-ginThe Gin is In kicks off with their Hainuwele’s Gin cocktail. They masterfully pair gin and coconut with cream, and root liqueur. They said they were challenged but we think they conquered that hill masterfully.

cocoonSwizzzlestick chimes in with the Cocoon. They use the daiquiri as a springboard to dive into a pool of coconut rum, falernum, and other modifiers. They get extra points for the negative photo making me spend ten minutes staring at the recipe trying to figure out what made it purple. Cheers ya’ll!

14828122570_52b54e84df_nCraig was brave enough to pull some Malibu rum out for the party. I’ll stand in his corner if eggs are thrown because trying to redeem trashy ingredients is one of my favorite things. With Cynar, ginger syrup, a healthy splash of lime, and some cayenne his Bodhicitta has a lot going on. We say a big mahalo to Craig for playing along.

greenisaac0215_zps254473d6Our MxMo Captain and all around great guy Fred Yarm of Cocktail Virgin/Slut came next. He shows off the Green Isaac’s Special, which I became taken with as well during a Hemingway presentation at San Antonio. It’s a tart afternoon sipper great on a boat or just a hot day, probably one of my favorites from “To Have and Have Another”.

persuasionBooze Nerds blog was up next with the Persuasion and Nothing to Declare. Their twin offerings both use some unsweetened coconut cream as well as robust spirits like unaged agricole and a barrel aged gin. Both drinks have unique elements from Aperol and cayenne to Yellow Chartreuse. One thing I have noted from their and others is the pairing of Chartreuse and coconut. This seems like a combo I’ll have to try.

lækkende kokosnødGinhound gave us the Leaky Coconut, poor thing suffered the same issue I did when making a coconut cup. She makes a delicious sounding coconut orgeat and uses rose hips to give her concoction more accent. I want to thank my Danish pal for working with us, It makes me sad there are no subarctic coconuts.

backstepChris from A Bar Above is up next. I had a blast getting to know him and his wife at Tales, and you’ll have a blast if you taste this cocktail. This Old Fashioned Style combo of rum, orange liqueur, and coconut water is the real deal. We’re a big fan of the bitters call as well.

shrubAlex of Feel like Making Shrub wins the award for my favorite blog name. His drink also introduced me to coconut vinegar which I had no Idea existed. His shrub also contains some Habanero and pineapple for some added zing. The cocktail it accompanies uses stately rye whiskey as well as some maraschino for added sweetness. He also gives us a second cocktail with a cacao shrub and a bit of coconut milk for body.

coco 9Whitney of The Tipicular Times joins those who just don’t like that old coconut. If she ever hosts MxMo Celery I’ll be equally ,if not more, paralyzed. She uses a product called Coco Dream and ginger syrup which I do love. She also adds gin, lime, and a dreamy looking garnish. Her cocktail looks amazing and it’s on my list to try.

photo-4Amanda from Mandible Blog comes up next with the El Ensueno or Daydream. She really goes above and beyond using fresh coconut to make her own coconut rum. She then combines it with orange to make a lovely looking take on a flip. Tasty looking work Amanda!

Coconut-Thai-Mar-TEA-NiJudy from I’m Bored, lets Go gave us a twist on delicious Thai Iced Tea. Her black tea is infused with anise and vanilla then sweetened with home sweetened coconut milk. She gets more respect from us for owning a martini glass that isn’t shattered in a billion pieces. I always break the flimsy devils.

wpid-20140824_161224-e1408912425816-768x1024Girl with a Flask chipped in with her Bangkok Lemonade. This coconut water, citrus, and white rum combination is a simple key to conquering the summer heat. The lemongrass adds a floral, herbal nose that is quite nice.

mxmo_coco1BARFLYSF makes us a creamy looking gin number with mint, and lime. It’s a very pretty looking cocktail and he even tells us how we can make our own coconut milk at home from the fresh devils. Bang up job.

pinaTartines to Tiki throws us a duo of agricole accented coconut cocktails. First up is their unique take on a Pina Colada followed by the Chien Chaud from PDT cocktail book. Another Yellow Chartreuse and coconut combo, that has us thinking. Tartines to Tiki is certainly putting their coconut water to good use.

Nilssons-FollyJoel from Southern Ash had the cards stacked against him this month as he sits among the coconut haters club. He made good with a coconut water fueled cross up between a daiquiri and a margarita. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

BikiniAtole_zps5f0bd450Muse from Feu de Vie blog is one of my favorite Twitter friends and is always inspiring to me. Her Bikini Atole is a hot drink in August sure, but crank up the AC baby cause this thing is no joke. Masa Harina gives it a lovely thickness accented by, coconut milk, Batavia Arrack and spices. I’m jealous I didn’t think of it, but I take off my straw hat to her.

an-isle-away-cocktail1Coconut and cardamom, Be careful Elana of Stir and Strain or I’ll think your a siren trying to tempt me toward the rocks. This tasty sip complete with mouth watering photos is accented with passion fruit, lime, coconut water, and rum. Thanks to Stir and Strain I’ll definitely be investing in some new hardware.

IMG_2258Sass and Gin provides us with something of an early morning pick me up. A way to drink your fernet and hydrate too by adding some coconut water/coffee/milk beverage from Vita Coco. Her toasted coconut syrup adds a bit more sweetness for that post hangover get up and go. I’m very sorry I missed her at Tales or was to drunk to firmly recall our meeting.

tea-infused-vodka-cocktail-1-680x806One Martini takes the time to infuse vodka with a fruit filled tea and add it to a coconut water filled Caipiroska or Cocoroska in her case. After you get your workout with that muddler you can hydrate in happiness.

NiuMele4Lastly I bring you my own Niu Mele or Coconut Song. A short full-bodied sipper for a bamboo hut near you. Even I took a break from my normal Coco Lopez to play with coconut milk. I think this month has proved it’s not just for soup and curry anymore.


Well It’s been a blast hosting. I wanna take time to thank everyone who took the time to visit the Dark Isles and make a drink to appease the Tiki. I hope we’ve given you tools to keep the coconut in your mind when it comes to cocktails. Until next time…


“You get Hammered America” -JFL

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MxMo 88: Hear the Coconut Song

Hey it’s been a swell month seeing the coconut get so much love. I’m your host for this shindig of course JFL of Rated R Cocktails. I’d like to start by thanking Fred for letting me take the wheel for Mixology Monday 88 which I steered toward the lovely coconut. Normally I’d reach for the coconut cream, but I had so much fun with one ingredient back in March I couldn’t resist giving it another whirl.

mxmologoOne aspect to me about this cocktail I enjoyed was how well I believe gin and coconut pair. It’s really a superb marriage that should be exploited more. Originally I’d used cognac as well, but I decided El Dorado really added more to the body and character of the drink. Personally I was surprised to find how well coconut milk went with honey. We’ll however let you be the judge below.


Niu Mele
1 oz London Dry Gin
½ oz El Dorado 12 year
¼ oz Absinthe (we like Lucid)
1 oz unsweetened coconut milk
1 oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz Honey Mix (1:1)
1 dash orange bitters (Angostura or Fee Brothers)

Combine the ingredients in a tin and shake hard. Alternatively flash blend in a top down milkshake style blender for 5 seconds with crushed ice if blending or cracked ice if shaking. Then strain into a coupe and garnish with orange peel and mint.


Notes of absinthe, orange, juniper and dry coconut waft under the palate. This drink has a lovely snap from the lime and improves as it warms. The finish is long and increasingly fruity and floral with a rich body made light by citrus, absinthe, and gin. The front has much of the lime and juniper which melts into honey, smokey sweet demerera rum, and coconut. The coconut is crucial here because aside from the body it really frames the flavors. For those who don’t care for the fennel and anise flavors of absinthe this is a perfect starter. It’s bold flavors are mellowed by coconut and honey becoming lovely inoffensive, yet noticeable, accents. The Niu Mele is like a lively song you hear in the background at the bar. It excites you and is over all to soon making you want another.


I want to thank everyone else who’s chipped in so far. We hope we’ve given you cause to drink your daily coconut milk. We’ll have a roundup for you soon, and until next time.


“You Get Hammered America” -JFL

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MxMo LXXXVIII (88): Coconuts!

Ah the Coconut, so round, so firm, so fully packed…with flavor. You know back in March I seem to remember going on a regular madcap romance with this tropical icon. Infact I think I used coconut in just about every form I could. After all that you’d think I’d have had enough, and you’d be dead wrong. Coconut is versatile, coconut is magical, not only is it edible but it can be made into scores of products. However this month you need only concern yourself with the liquid variety as I unveil MxMo Coconut.

Yes friends it is my sincere belief the coconut does not get the love, nay the respect it so richly deserves. Because this easy going tropical seed had it’s heyday in the Tiki era it’s happily associated with the same fun loving drinks. Infact this ingredient is well within the Tiki wheelhouse yours truly occupies. Despite all the great Tiki drinks coconut appear in most people are down on the humble seed because of the Pina Colada. Friends this need not be so, I say we take this delicious ingredient and show it can yield a tasty, well balanced cocktail. It doesn’t have to be tropical necessarily. I’d really love to see some of my friends more classically minded come up with a cocktail more befitting a pre-prohibition mindset.

Wanna join my Coco-Crusade? Well here’s the rules you have to play by class.

1. Make a cocktail recipe using some coconut! Explore a classic drink, Come up with your own, Show us how to make our own coconut cream at home if you want. Then write it up and slap it on your blog, website, or tumblr. Hell you can tattoo it to your grandma’s back and email me the photo. I’ll put that up to. Just get it done and post a link here or hit me with it on Twitter @RatedRCocktails.

2. Slap the MxMo logo on that puppy. Make sure to give Rated R Cocktails and Mixology Monday a link in your post.

3. Get it done and get it to me by midnight August 25th to be included in the roundup. I’m looking forward to seeing what your mind can crack open.

I see great potential in the coconut and I know our great blogger community can show me more new ways to use it. Coconut water, cream, milk, flavored rum, even tinctures and homemade infusions are all up for grabs. If you have a coconut product I haven’t listed that you can wedge in a drink it’s welcome to. Be creative, be wild, tap into your inner stranded sailor and make me a coconut delight. The Tiki Terrors of Rated R Cocktail’s Dark Isle await your tribute. Until then…

“You Get Hammered America!” - JFL

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MxMo: A Smashing Attempt

So they tell me it’s MxMo time again? Well with a theme like smashes we sadly can’t work our usual Tiki magic. Still we’ll give this the old college try for our host the Stacy Markow Blog. Smashes are by all accounts a julep in shot form. Having borrowed a copy of Imbibe from an esteemed bartender friend I realized two things. The first is that I really should own a copy of my own, and the second is that you can really plug and play a lot of flavors into the simple formula.

Well I originally wanted to use lavender, figs and tequila to make something really rather funky but my lavender plant decided to leave for the big herb garden in the sky. The sage looked really fresh though and I always loved the combination of sage and pineapple. Naturally I looked to my rums for support and I wasn’t let down. Using the proportions Mr. Wondrich listed in his book as a base I cobbled this together. It’s a little to sweet and simple for my tastes but it is a quick pleasant sip.


For some reason smashes remind me of a boozy snow cone.

Caribe Smash
2 oz Demerera rum (8 year El Dorado will work if your sane, but Lemon Hart 151 is toe curlingly delicious in this as well.)
1 oz Pineapple Syrup
5 leaves of sage
2 strips of lime peel
3 dashes Orange Bitters (Angostura or Fee Brothers Gin Barrel Aged)

Lightly muddle the leaves and peel in your tin before adding the other ingredients and ice. Shake like hell and then strain into a small rocks glass or small julep tin. Mound snow ice on top and garnish with pineapple fronds and a sprig of sage.

Sweet and pineappley with notes of dark smokey rum and sage. The lime peel adds some nice bitterness and manages to save it from being a cloying drink. The bitters play their part well and you gain a lot from using a tart orange bitter. This isn’t our normal complex layered Tiki fare but it is a nice light diversion.


Yes, you should probably try a smaller glass.

Well thanks again to Stacy for hosting the party this month. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how pretty everyone’s drinks came out. Maybe if I can get a lavender plant to live I’ll try that tequila smash sometime. Until next time…

“You Get Hammered America!” -JFL

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7 Tips from a Tales Virgin

If one is studious they may realize I haven’t produced quite as many cocktails this year as last. If the bar has been thin this year it’s because I’ve been saving my pennies to pay a visit to Tales of the Cocktail. Cocktail weeks seem to be popping up in many fine cities but Tales is one of the largest and highest regarded festivals. You find yourself turned out into the always interesting french quarter to face heat, torrential rain, and everyone from beggar to business trying to milk a tourist of their last dime. Yes Tales can be hectic at times, a festival so large is a challenge to coordinate. However Tales is something I believe every cocktail geek and bar professional should attend. Below I present you with seven essentials I learned from my first Tales.


Yeah, this photo is my best photo from Tales. I didn’t even fanboy out…I think.

1. Your going to be a little Starstruck
The seminars at Tales read like a who’s who in the cocktail word. The writers of your favorite books and tenders of your favorite bars will probably be at Tales in some capacity. Get a ticket to their class or make it a point to be in their tasting room. You must remember they are very busy, but if you wait politely you’ll be rewarded. I know the highlight of my trip was meeting Jeff Berry and Martin Cate. Without the Beachbum there would surely be no Rated R Cocktails. Also if you are a Spirits Professional in any capacity I encourage you to create and carry more business cards then you think you’ll need. I learned this in San Antonio and putting it in to practice served me well at Tales.


Photo credit to William Batson. He was paid a whole punch in the groin for posting in on Instagram.

2. Your going to get drunk faster than you expected

The above shot is a lovely portrait of me after hitting every tasting room and the Carousel Bar Wednesday afternoon. Texas Tiki Throwdown was delicious and I devoted myself to enjoying everyone’s entry. This would have been fine if I had paused there, or maybe even if I didn’t finish every sample or sip provided at every other room. Luckily I’m a quiet sleepy drunk who tends to stumble his way home to nap rather than cause trouble. Here’s the thing Tales is a marathon not a race. Every article about these festivals says that, but it’s easy to forget once your there and excited. Make an extra effort to remember to drink water, takes breaks to eat, and if you do drink a little to much a midday nap doesn’t hurt. Also a big city like New Orleans has a lot of taxi drivers. Put them to work to help keep you safe on the way from place to place.

When problems arise The Iron Tiki simply crushes them with his mighty grip.

When problems arise The Iron Tiki simply crushes them with his mighty grip.

3. No matter how well you plan problems will arise

Thats just a rule of life and vacations. Tales is a huge festival with a lot of moving parts and vendors having parties within the party. They have a hard job and do it well, but even if they do it perfectly acts of God and the city itself are out of their control. Plan to fly down? Nearly everyone I knew had a flight delayed. Oh you’ll be smart and drive huh? Even with a parking pass clearly displayed I was towed once and ticketed twice by an overzealous parking authority. Make it down and get squared away without a problem? Watch that weather. I spent Friday so drenched I fruitlessly went through three pairs of clean socks. By the end of the day I’d have taken some dry clothes and a bed over a Hawaiian vacation and a copy of don’s signed and uncoded notes. I was also told, despite the heat, how much cooler this Tales was than ever before. Also speaking of the rain if you’d gone to Pig and Punch hoping for a delicious meal and charity fundraiser in the park you’d have better luck trying to eat your ribs at the bottom of the Hotel pool thanks to the downpour. Also did you notice we didn’t have any posts last week? Yup, no wifi at the place we rented, and no internet cafes to rent a computer.

Long story short problems will happen, they are inevitable at such a large event and really on any trip to a new place. Yours will probably be entirely different. However that’s no reason not to go. Personally I find that some of the problems make for the funniest stories later. Plan ahead, but when plans go awry just grin and just realize some things are out of your hands.


Something cool we tried at tales that we’ll be buying in the future. You can spend a bundle on the bitters!

4. Watch your wallet.

Tales can be expensive. Spirited dinners, seminars, hotel rooms, transportation, guest bartenders, and the fine dining that abounds all around New Orleans. Add to this the fact that much of the festival takes place in the very touristy french quarter and you’ll soon find your bank account far lighter than when you came. I could have spent a years pay in the Books and Bitters store alone. You should take full advantage of Tales and loose the purse strings a little. Take time however to monitor your bank account and keep an eye on your spending. You want to make sure when you see that really must have item you can pounce. Just remember being thrifty shouldn’t apply when tipping. These bartenders and servers get their butts kicked during tales.


Calvados is awesome, we need to be sent some of the good stuff. Chop Chop!

5. Be open to new flavors and facts.

It’s easy to just go for the events that are in your wheelhouse, but if you do your not taking advantage of Tales. Now sure I went to plenty of Tiki and Rum seminars and rooms, however I also made time to look into things I was newer to as well. Calvados Unpeeled was an amazing look at a fun and refined spirit that I hope to be able to show you more of in cocktails this Fall. Both Camper and Darcy’s classes helped me understand why things taste the way they do and give me ideas on new ways to enhance and modify future Tiki Tipples. We never use Vermouth but that may change after I got to taste some amazing on tap Spanish vermouth from Vya. In short don’t be afraid to try something new even if your pretty sure it won’t be your favorite. An open mind and an open palate are necessary to fully experience a wide range of flavors.


The quarter may be pretty, but there’s alot more to New Orleans.

6. Get out of the Quarter!

There’s a lot of fun to be had in the quarter that’s true. Arnuad’s, Sobou, and Cane and Table are must visits in my book. However if you never leave the french quarter your really going to miss out. Bellocq which we visited back in January is a real treat in the business district. Cure is uptown and I have sadly still not been able to make it. The Old New Orleans distillery had buses running but both days they ran I had a seminar and couldn’t attend. Many of the late night parties are outside of the quarter as well. If I hadn’t left the french quarter I’d have never known that New Orleans has amazing Chinese Food to. Trust me folks get on by the Lucky Rooster and have some Bao. Tales is a great chance to experience more than just the quarter.



Your experience may not include neon trash can punches.

7. Make some new friends.

Probably some of the best times I had were with all the new friends I’d made. Chris and his amazing wife from A Bar Above were great company. Tiare from A Mountain of Crushed Ice, Trader Magnus himself, and Rum Scout Rob Burr became my new rum running crew. And I want to send them and their other friends I met a big Mahalo. Even the drunk smelly dude who kept accidentally spitting on me at tasting rooms was a blast. I also wanna thank the great bartenders who served us when we went out, and the CAPS who worked hard while we played. One of the best reasons I can tell you to go to tales is not only to network, but to really make new friends. To put a face to the name of the cocktail friends you’d only met so far on social media. Or just meet someone totally new.



Well every great trip has to come to an end sadly. There are times you wish would never end and times you think you’ll never live to see the end. But I’ll always have great memories of a fun time. We’ll be talking tales a few more times on the site this week before we return to regularly scheduled programming. Until next time…

“You Get Hammered America” - JFL

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